Friday, 21 May 2010


I'm a Barbie Girl in a Barbie world. I'm all plastic.It's fantastic.

The words are ringing around in my head at the minute. Why ? Because I live in a plastic world. Can't get away from it. I live in a world that is cushioned and padded and far removed from the world others inhabit. I was watching a series of programmes on TV called Blood Sweat and Luxuries which follows a group of young adults who find out how their consumer goods are produced. They have travelled the world taking on jobs in the industries that manufacture our merchandise, working alongside their foreign counterparts. They experience the third world lifestyle which produces the cheap goods we are all enjoying. Things like cheap trainers, gold and jewelry, computers,etc. A large part of the cost of our affordable luxuries is paid for by these workers who are on minimal wages living in squalid conditions. We are unaware of their living conditions because they live half way around the world. Out of sight, out of mind. We have passed laws to prevent our own people being abused by industry. We have raised the nations standard of living. We have health care for all, a benefits system that ensures the weak and frail and unfortunate can enjoy a dignified life, and laws that ensure more than fair working conditions for all., with a legal system to enforce it. Industry it seems has not so much taken this on board and adapted to it, as simply moved on - moved further afield. I used to lament that we had lost our manufacturing industry. Gone were the jobs and opportunities ! Where was all our engineering expertise ! Where were our textiles. But industry is alive and well - just look at the staggering stuff in the shops ! It's just moved abroad to where there are less ( if any ) safeguards and rights afforded the workers. Wages are cheap. Life is cheap. The industrial revolution's human cost is still being paid , just not in our own backyard.

I have taught my daughter to think about these things. I've pointed out that shops hide the true cost of their goods in the homes of workers abroad who can't possibly be paid enough when you consider the cost of the finished clothes on display. I sew, but I can't make anything for the prices they charge for the completed goods which have been shipped halfway round the world and passed through many many hands. How can so many things that were luxuries when I was young have suddenly become so cheap to produce ? Why have we become a throw-away society ? It isn't good for us. We are creating mountains of rubbish which will not break down. What's more we're shipping some of our garbage abroad ! ( I know, I know - we take in other people's garbage as well . Nuclear radioactive stuff !!! Stuff I don't want to know about or think about because my brain is too small - and that's why it's happening. There's not enough people to complain. ) There are children in foreign lands smashing up old computers and electrical goods, trying to get tiny components out to sell. Fibres of wire, tiny dots of something on a computer thingummy ( circuit board ? ) are worth the price of children running barefoot through broken glass and sharp fragments of plastic and goodness knows what else. These mountains of garbage are in places where the people have no knowledge of their potential hazards, and they don't have a say in whether the stuff gets dumped there or not. These countries are poor and are dependant on us for jobs and I dare say we pay them to take our garbage. But it means it's out of our sight.

It means we are not fully aware of the consequences of our actions or the actions of big businesses. I think it's important to start being more aware of the consequences of our purchases on the world. And this is happening. This programme has gone a long way towards making people more aware - anyone who watched it, anyway. Now we just need to have the message repeated every so often. Perhaps we are waking up. But we all have to vote with our wallets. That is the only message big companies and businesses hear.

I was looking on the Huffington Post site and an interview of Thich Nhat Hanh by Marianne Schnall caught my attention. (posted 21 May 2010 )

When we take time for relaxation and meditation, and turn off the constant drumbeat of advertising we've been inviting into our home, we find we actually need very little to be happy. We already have so many conditions for happiness that cost us nothing at all. Just take our eyes, for example. Our eyes are miraculous, they are like a pair of jewels. We only need to open them to see the blue sky, fluffy white clouds, beautiful flowers, the faces of our loved ones. Or our ears; anytime we like we can take in the sound of inspiring music, of bird songs, of a burbling stream, of the wind whistling through the pine trees. These are wonders of life, accessible to us at any moment through our eyes and ears. Our body's still healthy, our legs are healthy, and these are wonders in our very own body.

Well said indeed !

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