In today’s globalized world, our interconnections hold us accountable for our actions, most of which have an impact elsewhere in the world. Everyday actions such as eating, shopping and throwing away waste have a global reach.
This article highlights, once again, that large transnational corporations need to act to protect those caught in their commodity chains. When corporations such as Wal-Mart, Macy’s and Target continue selling products that have been made and manufactured in developing countries where labour laws and regulations are not enforced, they are bluntly putting profit over people. Inevitably the consequences of this is felt by those who are already weakened due to systemic discrimination; women.
Consumers must take action. We must demand ethical products that do not put profit over people. This however, is easier said than done. We have created a capitalist culture where our happiness lies in how much we consume and how little we pay for it. As culture is difficult to change without unforeseen consequences, many would feel that it’s risky to provide an alternative. But I argue, the key is to remember that WE created this culture of capitalism therefore WE can change it. What makes this change difficult is the fact that our “culture” is derived from our economic system. The two are connected in a way that change in either seems impossible without social or economic collapse. As collapse does not seem like a good idea, I propose a gradual shift: gradually shifting from globalization to localization.
As we outsource our labour market, we also outsource our social and environmental issues. What happens to women working in the factories in Jordan, or rivers in the Niger Delta are problems that we don’t see and only perhaps hear about for 80 seconds on the evening news. Our disconnect from these issues make it difficult for us to sympathize with others or even understand the impact of our actions in other parts of the world. Some say this is the result of human apathy and greed, I say, “seeing is believing.” We are socialized to be analytical. We believe and respond to what we can see. By localizing our industries, when we see injustice we will act, because we will know it is happening. In our local economies, we will know the garment factory workers, we will swim in our rivers, our action will directly effect us.
Localizing may sound like taking steps back, but I don’t suggest we return to hunting and gathering and giving up chocolate. I suggest economic shifts in two areas; first, localizing secondary and tertiary industries and second, moving from free trade to fair trade. These shifts are possible. We must take action, not only as consumers but also as active political citizens. We must demand economic change from our government.
If I asked the consumer in you to help end the injustice that is caused by globalization, you would be betraying yourself. So I ask the political activist in you to join others and me to demand justice on all systemic levels.