Posted in Fate, Winter 2015 - 2016

Threads of Bondage

May 2013, 1,130 workers died in the Savar building collapse. I remember seeing a man on the news yelling. He blamed the United States and our demand for cheap clothing. Pope Francis said,

“A headline that really struck me on the day of the tragedy in Bangladesh was ‘Living on 38 euros a month’. That is what the people who died were being paid. This is called slave labour. Today in the world this slavery is being committed against something beautiful that God has given us – the capacity to create, to work, to have dignity. How many brothers and sisters find themselves in this situation! Not paying fairly, not giving a job because you are only looking at balance sheets, only looking at how to make a profit. That goes against God!”

I agree with the man in Bangladesh, and I agree with Pope Francis and I wonder why it is that threads have proven to be such an effective incentive for slavery for hundreds of years.

In school I was taught that it was the invention of the cotton gin that kept slavery profitable in the south. Cotton, more than tobacco or any of the other plantation crops was the one so profitable, the confederacy felt assured they could win the civil war.

At the time it upset me because I loved the cotton commercials on TV. They showed happy families experiencing special moments together. I can still hear the tune in my head, “the touch, the feel of cotton, the fabric of our lives.” I didn’t want to think about it too much.

Then I watched the movie Gandhi and saw him sitting in a loincloth, spinning. I didn’t really get why, but I knew it was important. I knew it mattered, there was some irreplaceable meaning there.

As I got older I learned about child labor and sweat shops both historical and modern. I have watched prices for clothing go down, while other prices skyrocketed. Finding shoes and clothing made in first world countries is nigh impossible at the local stores I shop and getting harder all the time. Even before the disaster in Bangladesh, I could not look at the cheap imported clothing with out thinking “slave labor,” now it shouts at me.

I have come to hate going anywhere but the second hand shop. At least there I know I am reusing the resource. A few months ago I got a flyer saying that while clothing and textiles are 100% recyclable, 85% end up in landfills. Seriously! Early Americans used to save every scrap to make patchwork quilts and here we are throwing fabric out with the trash.

Recently I found this passage.

About a good wife . . “In her hands she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.-Proverbs 31:19-22

Of course, once upon a time we didn’t need so many clothes. My mother used to read me the Little House on the Prairie books. They had two sets of clothes, everyday and Sunday. They slept in nightshirts and nightgowns and hung up their clothes overnight to freshen, then ironed them in the morning. They only got one new outfit each year at Easter. I know because my Grandmother made a big deal about us getting Easter clothes, every year.

It’s hard to imagine doing that now, but when I think of Gandhi’s courage sitting half-naked, spinning his own thread, I pray we can find a way to let go of this insatiable hunger, save or reuse our clothes and only buy what is not only well made, but clothing and fabric for which has been well paid, to the ones who grow, spin and sew.

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Author:

Carolyn E. Osiris = Openly seeking inquisitive, reverent, immortal souls. As a full time caretaker for my severely autistic son I don't get out much. That gives me all the more time for the journey inward towards self-realization. That's what I've been doing for most of my life really and the time has come for me to share.

4 thoughts on “Threads of Bondage

  1. Deeply grateful to find you posting about this. I have avoided buying slave-made fabrics and clothing for years, but it’s getting more difficult. You would think that the market for socially responsible clothing would have improved in the last twenty years. Not! Instead, manufacturers who used to make small lines for those of us willing to pay twice as much have dwindled to the point I can no longer find anything made of organic fibers and in Fair Trade shops. (Don’t get me started on how Fair Trade certifications are on the iffy side these days as well).

    Currently I wear ill-fitting hand-me-downs from a family member who gives me things she bought and didn’t like or no longer wears. I tell myself that at least they’re not going in the landfill, but it doesn’t make me feel any better about the people who died growing the cotton or the children and adult slaves and near-slaves who toiled in unsafe factories making the garments.

    I’m tired of looking dowdy and frumpy in crappy clothes, but I cannot bring myself to buy clothes made by people who are forced to choose between no job at all or working in extremely low-paying jobs under horrific conditions.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s much easier to find if you’re thin, or a size 12 or under. Eileen Fisher still does organic sometimes, but the few stores who carry her here (San Francisco) rarely carry her organic, Fair Trade lines.

        Liked by 1 person

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