Good news everyone! I have the internet now. And it’s jolly fast – or at least, a good deal faster than I experienced in Hick Town. That’s not to say I’ve opted for anything beyond the bare minimum package of ultimate cheapskateyness, because, let me assure you, I have not.
As we learned from Game of Thrones, all men must work (and I’d add that all women should probably pitch in as well), but that doesn’t mean that work doesn’t suck, because it does. I’m not alone in that opinion. In Britain today, a sizable majority hate their job, and a considerable proportion of those people really, really fucking hate their job. The exceptions are those that have found a career in something enjoyable, like photography or music or wine critiquing.
I’d like to be that sort of person, but I’m starting to doubt that I will ever be; even if this blog’s audience were to suddenly expand exponentially to the point where I could make some serious money, I imagine I’d find some way to complain about it. But I have found some minor consolation – despite the many hardships involved in a day in the life of Beef, I have never had to saw my own arm off after my workplace collapsed on me.
Bangladesh is the world’s largest clothing exporter. Chances are, if you are wearing clothes right now, they came from Bangladesh. Check the label. You might recall that disaster last year where a giant clothes factory collapsed and killed like 1,129 people, which is about the same as three weeks’ worth of Israeli airstrikes, or several centuries worth of UK terror attacks.
There is a UN-backed fund now in place to help survivors, to which a great many high street brands have contributed. But there is one notable abstainer, according to professional whingers 38 degrees, and that is Matalan. Damn you, Matalan!
38 degrees, if you haven’t heard of it, is one of those campaign groups who have petitions and whatnot that occasionally appear on your Facebook feed, asking you to help tell Vladamir Putin to, you know, chill out, or to tell water to stop being wet. I would say they are a thorn in the side of corporate power, but would be overstating it somewhat. They are more like a splinter in the shoe of corporate power, or one of those insect bites that corporate power doesn’t really notice until someone points it out, and corporate power is all like ‘oh yeah’, and then continues about its corporatey business as though it never even had an insect bite.*
Matalan say they shouldn’t really have to pay, because they already paid someone else for this shit, and that their customers don’t really give two shits about some dead and maimed Bangladeshi people as long as they have cheap clothes, which is why they are buying cheap clothes in even greater volume than they did before the horrible catastrophe. Well, that isn’t what they said, but if it had been, it would hardly have been inaccurate.
Why is it that people don’t care? Is there a way to make them care? One idea I had is that the Bangladeshi workers were to sew their twitter handles into the labels of all the clothes they make, so you could occasionally go and check to see the person who made your underpants is still alive and that all of their limbs are still intact. I think that would go some way to repairing the weird psychopathy that comes with a few thousand milesworth of physical separation. That’d make people care, surely?
I have been pondering what the average British shopper would do, were they to discover a massive crack in a load-bearing pillar, say, just behind where Matalan hang their lines of fashionable yellow trousers. The conclusion seems inescapable: the shopper in question would make a hasty retreat, make a few furious phone calls and never shop at Matalan again. Can you imagine what would happen if a Matalan (or any other High Street shop) collapsed and killed a thousand people, and it turned out that the retailer knew about the horrendous risk the previous day, and ignored it? Jesus.
I am not sure we should judge Matalan too harshly for not joining in this fund; they didn’t really get that much of their stuff from this one factory. And even if they did, I think to single one party out for criticism is to go too easily on all of the others involved. And the fund itself is not really a solution so much as a sticking-plaster; I am happy for some money to be given to the survivors and their relatives, don’t get me wrong, but I would prefer it if some arrangement could also be arrived at whereby buildings are no longer permitted to collapse on top of people if it is at all avoidable.
I watched a documentary last week about Rana Plaza (and I recommend it, it’s only up for the rest of today), and at the end it showed a bunch of people from the factory working in a new, co-operative factory. It was a single story factory, so as not to set off panic attacks and flashbacks and the like. They certainly seemed a great deal happier in their jobs. I’d buy clothes from them all day long, if only I knew exactly how and where to do so. Until then I’ll probably just buy whatever’s cheapest and most convenient.
Anyway, revisiting this tale of woe has certainly put my plight into perspective, but still; I would prefer not to have to endure any more tedious lettuce-related stories.
Until next week.
*Not at all like the insect bites I got over the weekend, by the way, which itch like you wouldn’t believe and have turned a funny shade of purple.