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What We Wear: Another Way to “Vote”


What We Wear: Another Way to “Vote”

Andrew Moss

For more than two decades, more and more Americans have become aware of the exploitation and violence associated with much of the globalized garment industry producing more than 95 percent of our clothes. A series of media exposures, including the 1996 revelation that TV host Kathy Lee Gifford had endorsed a clothing line produced by Honduran children in sweatshop conditions, spurred a growing consciousness of labor abuses in many countries.


Great post. Global solidarity is a much better frame that "US jobs" for an effective movement against the rampant power of capital.

Global minimum wage, global wealth cap, fair share for all.


You are exactly right.

Capitalism with its myriad of abuses and exploitation is global. The problem cannot and will not be rectified on a national basis. Hence, the movement for fair wages, benefits, and working conditions must be global, as well.

The "message" of the movement must be international and unified. Otherwise, the capitalist organization will simply move the operations to the lowest cost production facility on the global map ... even to the point of utilizing forced slave labor.


Watchdog groups and easy to understand labels (free from governmental tampering/spin) are needed lest everyone need to inspect the factories in which their clothes are assembled, take organic chemistry to understand what's in their food/toothpaste, take microbiology and the like to determine the biological impacts, demand that the electric company explain exactly how much of their power comes from what sources and take the coursework necessary to understand the implications, etc. We need watchdog groups with these special resources to do the work for us and for them to efficiently inform us of the ethical implications of our choices. Oh yeah, we need to turn off the fucking TV.


i agree with you as well. Global solidarity does not mean "consuming" crap produced all over the globe. It means building ecologically and socially just economies everywhere, not one giant economy that dominates everywhere. Buying from and producing for your healthy local and regional economy is not nationalism or jingoism, when it is based in economic, social and ecological justice.


How, specifically, does this help the poor foreign laborers?

I'm sorry but I must reject this individualist approach as it doesn't help the abused, exploited and oppressed workers in the Third World (as the lowest cost producers) in any way at all.

While your way may address capitalism to some degree, if practiced by a very large number of people; it doesn't address the injustices, exploitation and inhumane abuses of the laborers.

I'm sorry, but the world is about more than "me". I am not free if those around me are not free and are being exploited and abused by the capitalist ruling class.

I 100% reject nationalism. The purpose of nationalism is divide, control, and conquer the international working class. The ruling class knows full well that if (and when) the international working class becomes united, the gig of capitalism is over.

Survivor, I understand the potential benefits and the potential power of the "buy local" movement. In fact, I agree with and practice some of what you posted. (Example: I primarily buy used clothes, tools, etc.) I am just more (internationally) communally minded than individualist minded.

I mean no disrespect, at all, toward you and your beliefs.


It's by no means an individualist approach. Do i need to buy something manufactured 8,000 miles away to live in solidarity with people everywhere? Am i being selfish because i have never bought a car or a phone? Will the world, or the workers of the world, be better, more just and solidary, if i start buying imported cars? i totally reject such a claim.

If i work where i live, and buy and sell needed goods that are produced locally and regionally, in ways that do not undermine the ecology, that's all to the good. And the ecological impact of transporting everything everywhere is undeniable. Reducing transport, and energy, and infrastructure required, is absolutely necessary.

In order to be more in solidarity, what "should" i buy from thousands of miles away, instead of from much nearer by?


Cast your votes in the marketplace where the 1% have less opportunity to tamper with them.

I buy my clothes at thrift shops and would continue to do so even if I was a millionaire so I could give more money to worthy causes.

I will be wearing as many GREEN garments as possible between now and November 8, and storing my red and blue garments in a trunk.


Wow ... my post wasn't meant to incite your hostility.

As the last paragraph of my original post indicated, I practice "buy local" (by buying secondhand products) in my life to the extent it is reasonable. That being said, it is my opinion that said practice, by itself, inadequately addresses the issue of capitalism's abuse and exploitation of the laborers in the Third World countries.

My position does not mean I encourage the practice of buying foreign produced goods over those produced locally. Apparently, I was unclear on this point.

Again, my post was not intended to incite your hostile response. Enjoy the rest of your weekend! :slight_smile:


Thanks, sorry, i write too fast sometimes, don't catch myself.


this roblem has been around for decades and it almost defies solution. tell the sweatshop owner he needs to pay a living wage and he fires all,his workers, and more women and girls will be lining up next morning to take their jobs. the most instructive thing i ever read was written by a 15 year old worker in Guatemala. yes she worked for low wages 12 hour shifts, yes it was tough. But she said she needed this job to help support her family. what else could she do? people in the north who refuse to buy their clothes from sweatshops need to find workable solutions, not throw poor women in the South out of work. here's the link


Had to read the last comment twice to translate it to the political scene.
Ancient saying "He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough" has encouraged my conspicuous non-consumer life-style and allowed me to survive with a less-than-poverty income for many years. Thrift stores, sewing machine, sharing with friends, and joyful creativity; how wealthy we can all become when materialism dissolves as we focus on human needs, rather than human wants, and identify ourselves as world citizens rather than a member of a class, an ethnic or national group,etc. A slow process requiring a tremendous surge of truth-telling in media and the necessity of facing up to the oneness of our human race on this planet suffering from economic cancer and thoughtless competition fed by fear. The 'movement' has begun, now let's find our place in it, OK? We can all share the leadership at some level, and the renewable energy of our individual and group labours.


Regarding the article and the discussion in the comments, I wonder how buying locally can be applied in places that do not produce clothing. The idea of international solidarity cannot, IMHO, rely solely on tactics that only apply to the USA and a few highly developed countries and are inapplicable across the world. Surely more is needed for a comprehensive approach.


hi Sammy
thanks for your thoughtful letter. i have a lot of respect for Native American traditions, and have tried to embrace many of the teachings of mostly Plains Indians
Black Elk, Standing Bear, what little i know of Sitting Bull. I also greatly admire Tecumseh for his efforts to rally and unite the tribes to resist the invasion. I also respect your views on the Resistance Economy.
at the same time i must remain in solidarity with the Indegenas of Guatemala and all of Central and South America in their struggles to resist capitalist theft of what lands they have left. Berta Caceres and Maxima Acuna are great heroes of this resistance, along with many not famous Indigenas of the Guarani and Kalapalo always resisting rapacious dam building and mining and land theft. You may wonder what all this has to do with anything, but Myra Esperanza Mejia is a person I am bound to respect and support.
thanks again for writing


Kathy Lee Gifford should be fired from her show for supporting those kinds of companies. There should be people in the poor nations fighting for the rights of the most exploited people. The unions are very powerless. They accomplish nothing or very little. Companies that outsource their jobs should be barred from sending their products to the countries they leave.


Props to those lifestyle activists. Humans are going to have to reevaluate their personal lifestyles, either voluntarily or involuntarily, due to the effects of catastrophic climate change and ever diminishing cash flows, thanks to income inequality. We can all take a page from the book belonging to these lifestyle activists because as things are going it would be foolish to not develop survival techniques.

I'm involved in developing a food collective in my community like many others are doing. Check out Cooperation Jackson [ http://www.cooperationjackson.org/ ] an organization that grew out of the late Chockwe Lumumba's mayoral leadership. Not only is this an economic model for survival, it is also a democratic model for governance.

When lifestyle activism turns into collective cooperative organizing, it really can impact communities in positive ways and open up channels to deeper thought and better decision making, a first step in political awakening for many.

I agree that the individual taking these steps in no organized way won't solve the problem, although practicing lifestyle advocates are helping by not making the problem worse. But by collectivizing, and through the collective meeting folks needs, a pathway to greater participation in the political process unfolds.

I also agree that the problems we face are much larger than the singular actions of lone individuals or a number of collectives can solve, the reason government exists. But through collectives, people learn new processes and new ways of thinking that propel them forth into political action united in their demands in a social movement.

From my POV, survivors of the climate holocaust will have to live collectively. It just makes good sense to start collectivizing now in the hopes of forestalling the worst effects of a warming planet, to create new/better processes for decision-making/governance, and to provide food, shelter, healthcare, and education when the systems we now depend upon fail completely because of unfettered capitalism or climate catastrophe.


Please explain, Tom:

How is it MORE SOLIDARY, MORE ECOLOGICAL, "BETTER" IN ANY WAY, to prefer "goods" transported from 5,000, 8,000, 10,000 miles away in a "globalized economy", over "goods" that are produced locally and regionally?


OK, so until "the revolution" it literally matters zero what anyone actually does in their lives?

And until my life produces "the revolution," then i am "individualistic"?


OK, so you are arguing against someone else.

Please show me where i said "the revolution" will happen because of my choices?

If you have another point, perhaps we have something to discuss.

And i will add: Living holisitcally, and living in ways that harmonize with ecological systems, and living with actions the DO NOT FEED capital, IS "building." It is not an end in itself.


@Survivor, @Tom_Larson, @webwalk....

This is one of the very few times since I've been participating on Common Dreams that I sincerely wish the four of us were in a room together to talk this thing through.

Unfortunately, this particular communication method (forum) tends to force us into our own corners to "defend" our personal position.

I don't think anyone stated that the Resistance Economy, lifestyle activism, the "buy local" movement, and finally collective international activism regarding this issue are exclusive of each other.

My personal belief is that we need to use all available methods and resources at our disposal to address this serious problem. If we are honest, each method of activism listed in the previous paragraph has its own strengths and weaknesses.

Recognizing the limitations and weaknesses of any particular method of activism should encourage us all to participate in all of the methods mentioned based on our abilities, talents and opportunities.

Capitalism, including capitalist consumerism, in particular, are destroying Mother Earth and our human relationships with each other. Our differences in the issues we brought up are minor in comparison to our fight against the capitalist ruling class.

I have to tell myself every day to stay focused and that I only have two enemies: capitalism and the state.