Who is to blame?

by Mark Lissaman 4 years ago
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It’s been a year since the Rana Plaza collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh and people are again asking “who was to blame?” The building owner? The owners and managers of the factories? The Bangladeshi government? The international brands and retailers? Customers? And the list goes on.

It is simplistic to look for the protagonists to blame this human tragedy on: Cartoon parodies of an evil factory owner whipping his staff like a pantomime villain, or greedy corporate executive – the 1% – looking no further than his stock options and the opportunity to buy a larger super-yacht to peacock around Sardinia in. Simplistic and wrong.

The problem with evil of course, as any high school philosopher will tell you, is not that there are good people and bad people, but that there is good and bad in all of us. It really is only in pantomimes that we can find the evil villain to be caught.

Sadly, Rana Plaza is no pantomime. To prevent another Rana Plaza then is not a case of stopping a few evil people, but for all of us to act better, and there’s the rub. “Acting better” is *hard*:

Firstly, it’s complex. How should you shop for clothes to do the decent thing? How much should a a garment cost to provide a fair wage to all involved? Even if you pay more, how do you know the money is going where you want it to? The answer to these questions will probably surprise you.  Be curious.  Find out more.

Secondly it involves sacrifice. Probably. To pay a little more for a garment means a little less money to spend on something else. This holds whether you are a customer in a shop or a buyer working for a retailer. Less money for shareholders maybe. Or CEO salaries.

Thirdly it involves action. Figuring it all out and doing nothing is just bar-room philosophy.

It all adds up to an unpopular message for many, but for those seeking an answer to that most ancient of questions “how to live a good life?” then hopefully it’s a message that you will embrace, and I encourage you to do so. After all life’s not a dress rehearsal.

Mark Lissaman is co-founder of organic menswear brand Arthur & Henry


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