Trading in trade offs: the Bangladesh factory collapse

Take a look at this image, if you haven’t already.

It’s a haunting photo from within the factory building in Bangladesh where to date over 800 workers have been found dead after the unsafe structure, the site of five garment factories, collapsed with thousands inside it last month. These avoidable deaths came even after workers expressed fear of widening cracks in the walls days before.

To peer into this intimate moment of unspeakable tragedy, the culmination of a chain of exploitation that begins right under our noses, seems almost intrusive: perhaps a condemnable continuation of this ethos of detachment that allowed this collapse of human dignity to occur in the first place. In life, and in death, we consume them and what they create; their bodies byproducts of the most trivial appetites of our everyday “advanced” existence.

Or maybe to look and reflect on it is the least we can do?

Having studied trade and the debate over the role of labour standards in several of my classes at Korbel, I can say that my reading has taught me there are no easy answers here, and I must admit to finding comfort in the numbing apathy induced by mental and geographic distance.

But if we are to look at their bodies, might we take from this image a sense that it is incumbent upon each of us to continue to trouble ourselves with the question of how we move from this place: a place where people are continually reduced to disposable inputs whose lives have less value than the capacity to fulfill a supply order on time. Or perhaps more importantly, with understanding how we got to this point to begin with. I am totally guilty of failing to do so.

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Posted on May 8, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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