Saturday, April 27, 2013

On the Cheap

Trey Smith

Terrorism, as we all know, occurs when Muslims attack the US or her allies in an effort to kill and maim as many people as possible to further their own "warped" religious and political objectives. At least, that's the definition that so many Americans go by. As I've mentioned before, a group or person's economic agenda doesn't factor into this definition. I think the primary reason that economics is shielded from inclusion is because it generally is employed by us, not "them," and America is not a terrorist organization.

Try telling that to the people of the Dhaka suburb of Savar, Bangladesh! On Thursday, hundreds of them lost their lives when the sweatshop they were working in collapsed. This certainly isn't the first such "accident" to occur in this region. In fact, these sorts of "accidents" happen more frequently than you might guess.

While the immediate responsibility for this incident lies with a sub-contractor, the tentacles reach back to the United States. You see, these sub-contractors work for western retail giants like Walmart. As Vijay Prashad reports,
The big garment producers no longer wanted to invest in factories – they turned to sub-contractors, offering them very narrow margins for profit and thereby forcing them to run their factories like prison-houses of labor. The sub-contracting regime allowed these firms to deny any culpability for what was done by the actual owners of these small factories, allowing them to enjoy the benefits of the cheap products without having their consciences stained with the sweat and blood of the workers. It also allowed the consumers in the Atlantic world to buy vast amount of commodities, often with debt-financed consumption, without concern for the methods of production.
It could easily be argued that requiring workers to ply their trade in a dilapidated structure that is an "accident" waiting to happen is a form of terrorism. Imagine going to work each day with the terror of not knowing whether or not you will make it out of the building alive after the end of your marathon shift for measly wages. You think these workers didn't know that the building they worked in was a candidate for collapse?

Terror comes in many forms. We tend to focus on the more explicit and graphic examples, while ignoring the implicit and structural varieties. We ignore the latter because we believe it is less prevalent and less deadly, but I'd bet the workers in places like Bangladesh would disagree.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are unmoderated, so you can write whatever you want.