What You Buy/ Money * (7:31)
A story in the news recently caught my imagination -- and my imagination does not like being caught. My imagination is like a wild animal that when caught in a trap it will gnaw its own leg off to get released, which is exactly what it did.
Fortunately my imagination also believes itself to be a millipede and it could spare a leg. So, I put on a fresh T-Shirt and headed out the door forgetting that somewhere beneath the rubble of a collapsed ten story garment factory in Bangladesh lies part of my imagination. There it shall remain, with the remains of the poorly educated women working for shocking low wages who died there.
It seems the hole left by my missing leg began to grow until it became a giant black hole sucking the white clouds of my imagination into a time warp - and not stopping until a full century had passed.
I found myself no longer in the sweat shops of Bangladesh but in the sweat shops of New York City.
The year was 1911.
Another ten story garment factory was on fire. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. The victims of the tragedy again were mostly poorly educated women working for shocking low wages.
Just like in Bangladesh, the management had locked all the workers inside before the fire to prevent them from stealing.
In both places fire escapes collapsed from the weight of fleeing workers. And in both cases, local inspectors had warned the building was unsafe. In both cases workers were told they would be fired if they did not continue working.
In New York, the events horrified the nation.
Horror is the only catalyst for change.
Content people do not take to the streets.
Less than a year after the event in New York, all of the women working in those garment factories in the north east had been organized by the Industrial Workers of the World - and this was before they could even vote.
These events helped fuel a movement of organized workers that brought us work place safety standards, the abolishment of child labor, minimum wage and the eight hour day. Things for which this country should be proud.
However, the real engine of this country - the corporations - run from these American values like traitors.
In Bangladesh, the accident killed ten times the number of workers in New York, whose wages are twenty time worse, the volume of clothing produced a hundred times greater and the the profits a thousand times more obscene.
One would think that the international outrage would be proportionate.
If it had been a terrorist’s bomb that killed twelve hundred people in the name of a prophet it would scare the pants off of us, but when it is corporate neglect and greed that kills twelve hundred in the name of a very different profit we go to Walmart for another pair of pants.
In the twenty-first century, American corporations continue to have their wares manufactured in nineteenth century century working conditions.
This too catches my imagination.
It is an active imagination, because I envision a day when large American box stores and name brands take pride in American values and no longer sell merchandise made in such un-American conditions.
Where Walmart’s slogan “Save More. Live Better.” Started living up to the “Live better” part of their slogan.
Where Gap did not mean income Gap.
Where Dell Computers slogan, “Get more out of now!” was not aimed at a 13 year old girl on an assembly line.
And where Nike’s “Just Do it.” and Target’s “Expect More. Pay Less” did not sound like it was coming out of the mouth of a factory boss with a riding crop in his hand.
It is time, my friends, that we Americans demand that the working conditions we insist upon for our selves be true of the things we buy.
Because after-all, you are what you buy.
Think globally, buy locally
Chris Chandler / Roger Waters
Ninth Wave Publishing / Hampton House Publishing licensed through Harry Fox
Chandler: Spoken Word
Paul Benoit: Guitar, Vocals, Bass
Will Dowd: Drums
Damien Aitken: Sax
Jordan Feinstein: Organ and Piano
Additional Vocals: Grace Park and John Elliott
Recorded mixed and mastered at Lost and Found by Blake Harkins
Additional Tracks by Jordan Feinstein and Michael McLeod.
Chandler recorded at The Monkey House by Ira Marlowe