I’d finally found the perfect pair of black trousers. The fit was great, even though it wasn’t on sale. (The large sale signs were what drew me into the fast fashion store in the first place).
I was standing in line to buy it but couldn’t ignore the gnawing sensation in my tummy.
Just weeks before, I was surprised by the low prices for decent items at a different fast fashion store. I bought a gift for my friend’s birthday (she’s a lawyer) and was confused when I saw her visibly wince when she saw the label, even refusing to try it on.
When I pressed her for the reason a few days later, she told me how that retailer, among many others, was notorious for their use of sweat shops (and child labour in particular).
I didn’t want to believe it.
And then I Googled. And yes, she was right. It was my first real glimpse into the hidden evils of our convenient, affordable fashion. I remember seeing the list of fast fashion labels and the store that I was now standing in was one of them.
The trousers were made in a particular country and I was horrified to read that workers from that country had sewn messages into the clothes to let consumers know that they were not being paid for their work.
I vacillated for a few more seconds.
And then, I indignantly left the line, put the pants back on the rack (but in a hidden spot in case I changed my mind and came back) and left the store.
I make a monthly contribution to A21, an organisation committed to freeing sex slaves around the world. I want to give more than I currently do — and eventually I will.
What made me sad in that moment — and decidedly remorseful a few days later after I watched The True Cost Netflix documentary — was how my own addictions and compulsions can be stealing life from people in other parts of the world.
As a fourth generation South African Indian, I have been eternally grateful to my great great grandfather who got on that boat and risked his life to find a new one.
I know struggle. I know pain.
So it is inconceivable that I should close my eyes and swipe my card to get a good deal. As a recovering shopaholic, I’ve bought into the systematic machinations of consumerism. Trying to buy something to fix what’s missing on the inside.
And this is why I think the world’s gone mad. Why do people give themselves over to barbaric consumerism, choosing to be oblivious to the real cost and feigning innocence with the statement: “Isn’t that the way all clothes are made?”
Our digital, interconnected world ensures that we have no excuses for mindless behaviour. We can’t feign ignorance. The source of the things we buy is available at our fingertips. So a quick Google search confirmed my intuition. Knowing what I knew, I needed to make an informed choice while standing in that line.
If I bought that pair of trousers, I was saying that greed is ok. Abuse, discrimination, a disregard for basic humanity, is ok. That some people are just better off than others and that’s just the way things are.
It’s just a little tiny hop, skip and jump to the ideology driving the growing number of pedophiles scoring the dark net, wreaking havoc on entire communities.
Exploiting the disenfranchised to achieve selfish ends is never ok.
I am carrying this sadness around with me. It feels like not enough people care. We are making silent votes for or against death every time we make a purchase.
I can choose the live of another without compromising my own.
I can choose to stop compromised the lives of others over serving my own selfish needs.