I am far from perfect when it comes to checking where every item I made has come from. I am usually very diligent, but there are times when I’ll forget, or be in a hurry, or honestly, just buy before thinking. Besides, when a product is all pretty and shiny up on a shelf, it’s much easier to think is “I want, want, want” rather than “Was child labor use to make this product?” “Were the workers treated well and paid fairly?” “Did they put their health in harm’s way so I could have this cheap product?”
If there was ever any doubt in my mind that I need to ask exactly those questions EVERY time I shop, the controversial Banksy intro for The Simpsons that aired a few weeks ago is a stark reminder:
There is a lot of talk about whether the intro trivializes sweat shop labor, or shines a light on the issue. Personally, I think it’s all a matter of perspective. The Simpsons is known for tackling serious social and political issues with humor. The somber music, dark scene and overall message make it clear that this issue is not to be taken lightly. And when the image cuts back to the bright, upbeat theme song, I see it as a metaphor for how easy it is for us to forget the people and environments that are harmed so unapologetic consumers can have what they want, when they want it.
And if you don’t know of Banksy’s work, let me give you a quick overview. Banksy is an anonymous graffiti artist, political activist and painter. “Banksy” is a pseudonym, and the artist prefers to keep it that way. He often tackles political and social commentary with dark humor and satire, and his work has been on streets, walls, and bridges throughout the world. In other words, this sort of commentary is par for the course for this artist. Check out some of his other work:
What can I do?
Simple. Buy products that are made in the U.S., where better working conditions are demanded and minimum wage (while still a paltry sum) at least demands that workers are paid. Buy products made by independent shops and artisans rather than factories. If you do buy products made overseas, find out if they are Fair Trade.
I make this challenge to myself as well, because I slip up more than I’d like.
So, what do you think of the Banksy intro? Will it make you think twice the next time you shop?
Image Sources: Screenshot from intro; Banksy.co.uk