Monday, May 20, 2013


Sweatshops are run entirely on a clock in order to improve maximum profit for the share holders. The concept of a sweatshop was first introduced between 1830 and 1850 in order to adopt the method of subcontracting piecework specifically in the industry of garment making.  In 1850 Charles Kingsley, a minister of the Church of England, university professor, historian and novelist, wrote a book called "Cheap Clothes and Nasty" which described the sweatshop conditions in London England. 

"And now comes the question - What is to be done with these poor tailors, to the number of between fifteen and twenty thousand? Their condition, as it stands, is simply one of ever-increasing darkness and despair. The system which is ruining them is daily spreading, deepening. While we write, fresh victims are being driven by penury into the slop-working trade, fresh depreciations of labour are taking place... What can be done?"

First - this can be done. That no man who calls himself a Christian - no man who calls himself a man shall ever disgrace himself by dealing at any show shop or slop shop. It is easy enough to know them. The ticketed garments, the impudent puffs, the trumpery decorations, - proclaim them, - every one knows them at first sight. He who pretends not to do so is simply either a fool or a liar. Let no man enter them - they are the temples of Moloch - their thresholds are rank with human blood. God's curse is on them, and on those who, by supporting them, are partakers of their sins. 

But it is so hard to deprive the public of the luxury of cheap clothes! Then let the public look out for some other means of procuring that priceless blessing. If that, on experiment, be found impossible - if the comfort of the few be for ever to be bought by the misery of the many - if civilization is to benefit every one except the producing class - then this world is truly the devil's world, and the sooner so ill-constructed and infernal a machine is destroyed by that personage, the better."

Sound familiar?  

The most notable difference between 1850 England and 2013 America is that our slaves work on the other side of the globe. Talk about "out of sight, out of mind". When we consider the issue of cheaply made clothing, it is clear to see its roots within the very foundation of our culture: Capitalism.

And that brings us back the concept of Time. Time is money! What could be more American than that? We value people in terms how how much money they earn per hour. We teach our children that they must learn to function in the world by the clock. Bells ring in their heads daily to signal that is time for their brains to shift gears and move on to the next subject or else they might fall behind their peers and be considered a "F"ailure. It doesn't matter if they were just about to make a breakthrough in a particular subject, the bell rings and they march on. There are wonderful schools that work against this model like Montessori and Waldorf but most of us can't afford those schools unless we shop at Walmart (if at all). We grow up learning how to segment our lives in order to earn the maximum profit. Captains of Industry learned very early during the Industrial Revolution to crack the whip to turn out more product in order to sell that product at the best (lowest) price as quickly as possible. Accounting reports break earnings into brackets of time so that profits can be graphed and analyzed so that factory workers can be told exactly how many shirts to complete in a specified amount of time. Today we accept that quality might suffer in this process but who cares, we will just throw it away or give it to Goodwill and then buy two more.

This is a sickness in our culture, deeply rooted in sacred memories of "girl time" and our insatiable need to qualify for the "cool" click of life. A wise friend of mine, Alexander Baretich, refers to this sickness as the "hungry ghost":

"Greed and addiction to consumption was and is seen in some cultures as an illness associated with spirits. In Buddhism the term "hungry ghosts" is used. Many Indigenous People were alarmed by the European greed for gold, land and material things that they diagnosed those infected with such cravings as having "cannibal disease" and among the Algonquian People this was called "Wendigo." Even the ancients of Europe knew of this disease for it is told that Demeter cursed Erysikhthon with insatiable hunger until he ate his own limbs after he killed her sacred trees."

We all have the "hungry ghost" within us. It is the voice that I hear every time I enter a mall or a Target. It has almost succeeded in devouring my soul. I know, dramatic much? But truly, it has. Right now as I type I am falling behind in my work and thus losing money. The time it takes me to write a blog post, edit it and promote it online costs me $50-$150 an hour. That is time I will make up by extending my work day into the evening as I tell my children to "fend for themselves" for dinner. I do not enjoy breaking down the time I spend trying to be a good citizen in terms of dollars, but unfortunately I live pay check to pay check and time really IS money. I do not want to sound like a martyr, I am most certainly not. I put myself in this position when I charged my way through my twenties and thirties. I am grateful that I have a job to pay for it all. I am a thousand times better off than many Americans.

Time remains a major factor in Bangladesh right now. The bodies are rotting, many unidentified. The death toll surpassed 1100 when they stopped looking. 

"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust."

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