Consumerism, Exploitation and Greed

One lunch time while we were on holiday, my little brother presented me with a topic of conversation which I had been battling with myself for a few weeks. I’d written a couple of things about it, but for once in my life I had thought far more than I had spoken. 

So just to paint a picture for you, I’m sitting there eating noodles minding my own business and probably worrying about the fact that I have to move out of my house in a month and currently have nowhere to live oops, and he pipes up with "I’m just having a proper deep debate in my head."

Naturally I couldn’t let that go and carry on in my Chinese cuisine oblivion. 

“About exploitation of workers” 

Okay Matt, cool, as long as you’re not about to say something ridiculously controversial about Donald Trump just for the sake of it, I can totally get on board with this conversation. Also bro, did you read my mind? 

We discussed some things, agreed a lot, and then asked ourselves what we were going to do about it. 

It’s not all about Primark. 

I used to be of the opinion that yes, Primark were probably not treating their workers well or paying them enough, but what is there to say that Topshop were? If Topshop just had a higher profit margin, then to me that was the moral injustice; Topshop were ripping us off and I was going to shop in Primark. There was absolutely no thought on my part that maybe I could just buy less. I guess I’ll give myself a bit of a break; this epiphany probably happened at about 14. The minute I said the word ‘Primark’, Matthew jumped in with ‘How do you know that Jack Wills are any better?’; to which I had to concede that I do not. I assume in fact, that nobody on the high street is any better than anyone else. We cannot assume that anywhere which is cheap or what we see as affordable is infinitely more immoral or unfair than any brand which charges a horrific amount for their garments or products. 

My research has in fact, highlighted that there are very few places on the high street in London which are exemplary. 

People blame the greed of companies. 

And yet, the greed of companies wouldn’t exist without the greed of the consumer. 'Companies just want more money, they're so greedy' - but they wouldn't be able to make any money at all if we, the consumer didn't buy their products. Or at least, didn't have the view that we 'needed' certain things. 

It’s amazing that there are people who are Vegan and yet post ‘Haul’ videos on youtube, or even just live a life like that. 

Okay this one gets my back right up - how can you be SO CONCERNED FOR THE TREATMENT OF ANIMALS, and yet not even a little bit concerned for the treatment of human beings. 

Ensuring fair working conditions costs us. 

We don’t want to spend more money. There are vest tops in Primark for £1 and if you want to use People Tree to ensure that it was made fairly and sustainably, you need to pay around £35. The problem here really though, is that we think we need 4 vest tops, when we probably really don't. 

We just want more things. 

And yet aren't a lot of us holding wardrobes full of clothes we never wear? 

It all comes down to self importance.  

If we thought that our need for clothes and actually, anything which is made by badly treated workers was less of a need than the daily, genuine needs of those who make said garments; we just wouldn't purchase them. So either, we don't care, or we don't think. I'd guess a mixture of both. 

Awareness only goes so far.

When I mentioned my friends, he pointed out that university students in London probably weren’t representative of the whole population. When he realised my point was about the fact that my friends are culprits as much as anyone else - we concluded that actually, 21 year olds all over London, regardless of their level of education, are doing a really good job of kicking up a fuss about some really important things. So they must, and from what I can gather in my own conversations, they do know about the unfair exploitation of workers. Yet for as long as we value our appearance, material items and money as much as we do; awareness can't change our characters.