Monday, September 26, 2005

For a Large Fee in America

Beside my workplace there is an American Apparel retail store. Today marked my second walk-through, and my first close look at the prices, and I find myself rather disarmed.

Is it really possible that such prices, which I find absurd given the (lack of) quality and the abject blandness and ugliness of the clothing, are what it takes to finance a non-sweatshop mass-marketed clothing line? If so, I'm a bit terrified that the prices I've come to consider reasonable exist only as a result of the exploitation of hundreds of thousands of people. Is that really true, or is American Apparel jacking up its prices dramatically, feeling justified in doing so because of the moral face it presents to the world (a face which also seems to justify the softcore-porn style exploitation of images of young women)? Or some combination of the two? Lately I debate at what level I consider business ethics possible, and at what level oxymoronic. The logical extremes of capitalism seem to me to end in no-win situations. And yet, as my beloved Ms. Atwood had the Commander so bluntly put it in The Handmaid's Tale, "Better never means better for everyone. . . . It always means worse, for some." None of the alternatives the world has offered have met with success in a wider context--is that because things that aren't capitalism only work if everybody does them, otherwise they can't be complete?

I reap, I know, the benefits of being white and American. Before my intelligence, before my gender and body, those in themselves gain me a lot. I just don't know how to think about it sometimes. In the end I always say to myself, "What am I going to do, not be white, not be American?" The answer I'd gain from bell hooks's Where We Stand: Class Matters is, share the benefits. I need to figure out the best way to do that.

I'm getting into these brief entries, because it means I can ask simple(r) questions, put out simple(r) thoughts, while working on bigger posts, and not have to be removed from the "post frequently" list on Blue Skies Falling.

4 Comments:

At 7:07 PM, Blogger meridity said...

I don't know about you, but I've found that life is a lot easier to take once you give up on the whole "reality" thing and accept it all as a giant acid trip. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm....acid.

 
At 12:24 PM, Blogger chloegoth said...

I think that American-made products are generally more expensive due to the higher hourly wages all legal American workers are paid. I mean, of course Wal-Mart clothing or H&M clothing is less expensive, because you're paying your workers at least a couple of dollars less an hour to produce the garment than the standard American worker. I learned this working at the Suq. We got things in that were ridiculously cheap at cost, which we then marked up significantly because we knew how much work went into making those items, even though the original worker was not paid their worth.

 
At 12:18 PM, Blogger chloegoth said...

Something else: capitalism only works well if everybody is on board, as well. Really truly. That's why we're having such problems with large, monopolizing coporations right now.

 
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