May 05, 2016
Author: Christopher Cox
If you recently have thought about needing more storage for your clothing, let me suggest a tactic. This may take some time, but it is worth your while.
Make a list of your purchases and gifts of clothing from the past 12 months. Your bank statements and credit card statements can help, especially with those nifty features that categorize your expenses. Go through them line by line. Can you recall the individual purchases? Do you remember anything at all? Any good memories? Sometimes, the mind remains completely blank about that expenditure.
If you are coming up blank, you probably did not need it. In fact, the purchase likely did nothing to improve your quality of life. In all likelihood, you did not need to make that expenditure. When we spend money, we want our purchases to be meaningful, not money discarded carelessly.
Choosing ethically sourced clothing, I suggest, leads to greater satisfaction in life than throwing money carelessly after fast fashion. Advertising for fast fashion, like fast food, is propaganda in a war over your finances. All the slick ads seek to entice us to prioritize instant gratification over long-term fulfillment. A careless purchase now may bring momentary pleasure but, over time, it disappears. We are left with burgeoning closets of things that we do not want to wear or, in the case of fast food, burgeoning waistlines, neither of which make us happier over the long haul.
Taking the long view leads to enduring satisfaction, even joy. Try this test next time you are about to purchase clothing: Will I remember this garment when my credit card bill is due? Will I remember it in 12 months? If I can honestly say yes, then it may prove useful, perhaps even enduring. If it won’t, then I should not make the purchase. Our clothing, like our money, should not be carelessly discarded.
Today, everything is seen as either disposable or replaceable. Our overflowing landfills aren’t the only obvious signs. The purchase of discardable clothing lends itself to thinking of the workers as disposable as well. Pope Francis often reminds us that our “throwaway culture” leads us to throwaway not only “things” but also relationships, people, beliefs, and even dreams.
If we slow down the way we purchase, we will change the way we purchase and consume. If we consistently choose enduring satisfaction over instant gratification, we build a better life for ourselves, for those we care about, and even for those who live far distant from us and who we cannot see.
If you are willing to undertake the challenge of these kinds of changes in your shopping habits, perhaps you want to take our St. Vincent Pledge. By means of this pledge, you pledge to:
Pray for the cultivation of solidarity between the consumers of clothing with the people who produce them in order to create sustainable communities through a more just economy. Learn about and educate others on the real consequences (both negative and positive) of globalized supply chains, especially in the clothing industry. Assess how we — as individuals and in our families, faith communities and places of employment — are able to confront the ’globalization of indifference” in the clothing industry by taking greater responsibility for the unintended consequences of our behavior as consumers. Act to change our choices and behaviors as consumers to improve the lives of the people who make our clothing and other goods in the global economy. Advocate for Catholic principles, priorities, and values with retailers, brand owners and government bodies concerning the wages and working conditions of the people who make our clothing.
May 05, 2016
Author: Christopher Cox
St Peter’s Square
Wednesday, 18 May 2016
Poverty and Mercy (cf Lk 16:19-31)
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
I should like to pause with you today on the parable of the rich man and the poor Lazarus. The lives of these two people seem to run on parallel tracks: their life status is opposite and not at all connected. The gate of the rich man’s house is always closed to the poor man, who lies outside it, seeking to eat the leftovers from the rich man’s table. The rich man is dressed in fine clothes, while Lazarus is covered with sores; the rich man feasts sumptuously every day, while Lazarus starves. Only the dogs take care of him, and they come to lick his wounds. This scene recalls the harsh reprimand of the Son of Man at the Last Judgement: “I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was […] naked and you did not clothe me” (Mt 25:42-43). Lazarus is a good example of the silent cry of the poor throughout the ages and the contradictions of a world in which immense wealth and resources are in the the hands of the few.
Jesus says that one day that rich man died: the poor and the rich die, they have the same destiny, like all of us, there are no exceptions to this. Thus, that man turned to Abraham, imploring him in the name of ‘father’ (vv. 24, 27). Thereby claiming to be his son, belonging to the People of God. Yet in life he showed no consideration toward God. Instead he made himself the centre of all things, closed inside his world of luxury and wastefulness. In excluding Lazarus, he did not take into consideration the Lord nor his law. To ignore a poor man is to scorn God! We must learn this well: to ignore the poor is to scorn God. There is a detail in the parable that is worth noting: the rich man has no name, but only an adjective: ‘the rich man’; while the name of the poor man is repeated five times, and ‘Lazarus’ means ‘God helps’. Lazarus, who is lying at the gate, is a living reminder to the rich man to remember God, but the rich man does not receive that reminder. Hence, he will be condemned not because of his wealth, but for being incapable of feeling compassion for Lazarus and for not coming to his aid.
In the second part of the parable, we again meet Lazarus and the rich man after their death (vv. 22-31). In the hereafter the situation is reversed: the poor Lazarus is carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom in heaven, while the rich man is thrown into torment. Thus the rich man “lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom”. He seems to see Lazarus for the first time, but his words betray him: “Father Abraham”, he calls, “have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame”. Now the rich man recognizes Lazarus and asks for his help, while in life he pretended not to see him. How often do many people pretend not to see the poor! To them the poor do not exist. Before he denied him even the leftovers from his table, and now he would like him to bring him a drink! He still believes he can assert rights through his previous social status. Declaring it impossible to grant his request, Abraham personally offers the key to the whole story: he explains that good things and evil things have been distributed so as to compensate for earthly injustices, and the door that in life separated the rich from the poor is transformed into “a great chasm”. As long as Lazarus was outside his house, the rich man had the opportunity for salvation, to thrust open the door, to help Lazarus, but now that they are both dead, the situation has become irreparable. God is never called upon directly, but the parable clearly warns: God’s mercy toward us is linked to our mercy toward our neighbour; when this is lacking, also that of not finding room in our closed heart, He cannot enter. If I do not thrust open the door of my heart to the poor, that door remains closed. Even to God. This is terrible.
At this point, the rich man thinks about his brothers, who risk suffering the same fate, and he asks that Lazarus return to the world in order to warn them. But Abraham replies: “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them”. In order to convert, we must not wait for prodigious events, but open our heart to the Word of God, which calls us to love God and neighbour. The Word of God may revive a withered heart and cure it of its blindness. The rich man knew the Word of God, but did not let it enter his heart, he did not listen to it, and thus was incapable of opening his eyes and of having compassion for the poor man. No messenger and no message can take the place of the poor whom we meet on the journey, because in them Jesus himself comes to meet us: “as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40), Jesus says. Thus hidden in the reversal of fate that the parable describes lies the mystery of our salvation, in which Christ links poverty with mercy.
Dear brothers and sisters, listening to this Gospel passage, all of us, together with the poor of the earth, can sing with Mary: “He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away” (Lk 1:52-53).
Originally posted on the Vatican website here.
Author: Christopher Cox
On Sunday, British tabloid newspaper The Sun described the Sri Lankan garment workers who make Beyoncé’s new Ivy Park apparel line as “sweatshop ‘slaves'” earning just 64 cents an hour. The Sun‘s reporters visited “poverty-stricken seamstresses” at the MAS Holdings factory in Sri Lanka, which produces the clothes. A sewing machine operator said that she was unable to survive on her basic wage of 18,500 rupees a month ($126). The newspaper claimed on average seamstresses earn $6.23 a day, although acknowledging that workers at the factory were still being paid roughly double the legal minimum wage of 13,500 rupees a month. The full article can be found here. Teen Vogue, while examining the criticism of Beyoncé, noted that Ivy Park is not the only apparel line to face abuse claims.
The justifications made by Beyoncé and Ivy Park sound a lot like her 2007 hit “Beautiful Liar”:
While Beyoncé’s Ivy Park line markets independence and empowerment for women, it deprives the women who make the wardrobe their freedom and dignity. Paid between $116 and $136 a month, the Teen Vogue article notes that “the workers who reside on the premises are locked into their living spaces at night. They must abide by curfews, and keep movement to a minimum.” Sadly, that is the industry norm, not the exception.
The Asia Floor Wage Alliance, an alliance led by trade unions in the key garment producing countries in Asia, has teamed with The Center for Alliance of Labor & Human Rights and a number of other organizations, to release a report contributing new research collected through interviews with 251 workers engaged in H&M supply chains. The report, entitled, “Precarious Work in the H&M Global Value Chain,” an investigation of production conditions in H & M factories in Cambodia and India, is one in of a series of reports, entitled “Workers Voices from the Global Supply Chain: A Report to the ILO 2016.”
We can and must do better. Those who make our clothing deserve a wage that provides enough for workers and their families to live on, in dignity and safety.
May 05, 2016
Author: Christopher Cox
The Human Thread was delighted to be a part of Katwalk 2016, the annual spring fashion show for St. Catherine University Apparel, Merchandising, and Design students. Opulence showcased the design creations of junior and senior apparel design students, and features sustainable garments created by the sophomore class.
Katwalk allows students to gain experience in a variety of responsibilities: marketing, design, vendor relations, budgeting, fundraising, merchandising, modeling, event planning, and time management. For design students specifically, the professional photos of their garments as well as the design process/experience build their design portfolio, and ultimately, helps them jump start their careers.
The department’s mission is to offer a rigorous program of study and prepare professional and ethical leaders with an innovative mindset and professional voice. Grounded in social responsibility, strong business and community collaborations prepare students for transformational leadership, life-long learning, and a commitment to sustainability in a global context.
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