Dear Dancing Queen,
Subcomandauntie’s mailbag has once again been bulging with letters on ethical-consumer issues (don’t you people have any real problems?). I”m afraid there’s no easy answer, but you mustn’t feel guilty about buying sweatshop labour products: half the world’s workers are denied the basic right to even join a trade union, so most clothing we buy reeks of exploitation.
Nor should you treat the ethical purchasing of trainers as an act of self-indulgent consumer choice, as many ‘bourgeois boycotters’ do. Your power to choose is a luxury most of the world’s working classes don’t have: Chinese or Indonesian workers in tax-free, anti-union export-processing zones cannot suddenly decide to go and work in better conditions.
As a stand-alone act, boycotting sweated labour products in favour of a ‘fair-trade label’ usually means redistributing wealth from one country’s working class to another. This does nothing to eradicate sweatshop labour itself.
There are ‘ethical footwear’ options out there, however. Ethical Wares is run by vegans who seek to trade goods that are non-exploitative of animals, humans and the wider environment. A similar venture is Vegetarian Shoes. Check out the websites www.ethicalconsumer.org and www.nosweatapparel.com for outlets.
But ultimately, whatever trainers you purchase, someone or something will always be exploited as long as you continue to work for the system. Auntie ‘sub-commands’ you to cut down on selling dodgy pensions and partying all night.
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Dear Auntie _ War, famine, economic depression and global warming - the idea that 'another world is possible' seems remoter than ever. Will we ever have a just and peaceful world? _ Desperate for peace, Preston
Dear Auntie _ At one of the Gaza protests in London, Stop the War put the number of protesters at around 100,000 but the police insisted it was only 20,000. Can Auntie reassure me that the Met has a scientific methodology for estimating crowd numbers? _ Numberless in London
Dear Auntie, All my left-wing friends seem to be overjoyed about Obama winning the US election, holding real hope that he will bring change, that he'll stop the wars, and that he'll somehow make America all cuddly and nice. But haven't we been here before? I'm getting flashbacks to the expectations people had of politicians like Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, and how quickly they betrayed us. Is it terrible that I think Obama will be just more of the same? Hopeless, London
Dear Auntie, Having reached 50, I've become invisible. It's the only explanation of why people look right through me. I'm ignored in shops and at bus stops; and getting served at the bar is an endurance test, as men and younger women always take priority. I have a lifetime of experience as an activist, but these days there's always a 'Darren' or 'Ryan' whose opinion matters more. I'd go as far as saying they don't even hear me speak! It seems white hair and wrinkles are taken as an early indication of Alzheimer's. But I'm not ready to go gently into the night and as Auntie looks of a similar age, does she have any advice? The invisible woman, London
Dear Auntie, _ My daughter is starting to ask awkward questions such as 'Mum, did you take drugs when you were young?' I don't want to lie but I don't want her to venture down the same route. What do I tell her? _ Amy in London
Dear Auntie, _ I'm a vegetarian who is fed up having to justify why I don't eat anything with a face on it. And it's the environmentalists who are also meat eaters who seem the most personally affronted by my choices. Do you have any suggestions how I can deal with this? _ Chickpea not chicken lover, Totnes