More questions than answers

“It is not permissible to add to one’s possessions if these things can only be done at the cost of other men. Such development has only one true name, and that is exploitation.”

~ Alan Paton. (Cry, The Beloved Country. 1948)

I’ve been thinking about poverty a lot lately, and it’s becoming clearer to me that the way I live has an impact on people in a greater way that I thought before. You see…what I do doesn’t just affect my and my family, or even just my city. The way I live along with all the rest of us affects people everywhere.

I’m becoming aware of greed. You see….our culture makes us want Stuff. By that I mean all sorts of items non-essential to life. And we want more and more of this Stuff, and because we are greedy we want it cheaply. We get it cheaply on the most part, but why? When I buy my son a little pair of shoes that cost less than $10 from The Warehouse…do I really think that in that $10 price that is enough to pay retailers costs, profit for the retailer, transport costs from China, profit for the manufacturer, the cost of materials AND a decent wage for the person making them?

This has raised a lot of questions for me. I have to ask myself:

  • Why are they so cheap? Is it cheap labour?
  • Why is the labour cheap?
  • Because in China people are willing to work for less?
  • Why are they willing to work for less?
  • Do they have a choice about working for less?
  • Are we greedy?
  • What are the people in these factories paid?
  • What are their conditions like?
  • If I stop buying cheap goods churned out to satisfy the west’s insatiable appetite for Stuff will it help the cause of the people who are currently making them?
  • Is there that much difference between this and the boycott of sugar by the abolitionists who refused to eat sugar produced under slave conditions?
  • What about Fair Trade?
  • What should I do about it?

(I wrote this post months ago and just cleaning out my drafts folder. Mostly the questions remain unanswered, but I am developing an inner rage about injustice so you might just hear more about this someday soon)

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