THE CLOTHING WE WEAR - New Choices for a New Time
Every item that we wear is made by someone else's hands... Clothing, in particular, requires garment workers to often work long hours at great cost to their own personal lives. Let us no longer separate 'things' from their human cost or from the cost to the Earth in our use of them.
It is not an easy task for those who wish to be conscious of not creating harm to others, to find and wear clothing that does not do that. Our clothing in developed countries, and especially in the U.S., comes from those countries that house the poorest of the poor, countries in which many slave at jobs that pay so little that we would find it hard to believe that a family might be supported by these low wages. We know and we don't know what we contribute to this situation. We know and we don't know.
When the production of clothing is outsourced to areas of the world such as Bangladesh where workers have had few rights and have been the victims of soul-searing poverty and abysmal working conditions (example: the Rana Plaza building collapse in 2013 where over one thousand perished), we cannot fathom how others could live in such conditions. Yet, we do not see the ready means to alter our participation in a process which leads to extreme profit at the top of the production chain, and debilitating poverty at the bottom.
What must we do? What can we do?
We must become more conscious. This is the beginning of our 'doing.' We must reevaluate what we actually need so that we do not contribute to the harmful effects of consumerism – of buying because it brings us pleasure or an illusory sense of freedom. We must know that our consumerism has a cost - that second to the fossil fuel industry, the garment industry produces more waste that the Earth must house and absorb than any other industry. Piles upon piles of unrecyclable clothing are stacked all over the world, waiting for eventual decomposition after hundreds of years if not longer, all the while emitting gases that pollute the skies.
We must know this, we must feel this – that since the 1970s the amount of clothing produced in this country according to one source has increased by 400 percent. That is, we are using and disposing of more clothing, making more purchases, getting rid of last year's styles more frequently, by 400 percent.
When we give our clothing to charities with a desire to be generous as well as to recycle, only a small portion gets used in shops. The rest becomes part of a landfill or is distributed in third world countries such as Haiti where it begins to replace the indigenous garment-producing economy of that country.
There is no easy answer to the question of what we can 'do' at this time, for it involves a change in our consciousness that is based on our understanding of our unity with all others. A place to begin, however, is the motivation to do no harm. Out of this motivation can come the decisions to follow several central principles that will help to bring more integrity to our purchases and to our way of life. Out of this motivation can come the fuller expression of our caring for the needs of all:
Clothing ourselves in our caring for people and for the Earth produces the following principles:
1. Use clothing well. Purchase clothing that lasts and allow it to last, rather than having to dispose of it because styles change. The principle of valuing things that last has been replaced, today, by the principle of responding to the 'trend' of the moment, fueled by advertising, and embraced by our desire for attractiveness and acceptance. We can choose to return to a more integrated way of responding to our own needs.
2. Re-evaluate what it is we actually need and return to simplicity as a foundational principle. 'What we need' is an idea that we hold, not a reality. Only a few generations ago people felt that they needed much less in the way of clothing than we do today.
3. Be creative in the choices we make about how to make more out of less, that is, how to develop an individual style that is not based on having more clothing but on using what we have with inspiration and creativity.
4. No longer treat 'things' as if they were separate from people. Every item that we wear is made by someone else's hands, even if some portion of production is automated. Clothing, in particular, requires garment workers to often work long hours at great cost to their own personal lives. Let us no longer separate 'things' from their human cost or from the cost to the Earth in our use of them.
These principles are only a beginning and do not address the entire problem of the change in values that is needed so that our economy becomes more heart-motivated and less profit-motivated, but it is a start.
May all beings benefit from this shift in our consciousness and from the changes we are willing to make within our own lives.
Much of this Newsletter has been based on the documentary "The True Cost." Those who question the statistics presented there may wish to do research of their own to either corroborate or alter the conclusions that this research has discovered.
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