A little belatedly, I’ve got around to reading No Logo by Naomi Klein. As typified by the geeks in Douglas Coupland’s Microserfs, I’m a Gap victim. It’s easy bland fashion. But I’ve always had a nagging doubt about the ethics of it. Of course, there are two issues here that are often blurred into one: the human rights abuses of the people making the garments in export processing zones in Asia, and the globalisation of corporations. The later I’m not that bothered about: business is about becoming big and making money, and obviously they want to expand as much as possible. So long as they don’t do Wal-Mart style out-pricing tactics, then that I’ve got no problem with. The conditions of the people that have made the clothes I wear, and the huge gap (no pun intended) between what I paid for it and what the workers are paid does concern me.
This book is quite interesting and does a good job of going through all the various parts of the argument. It breaks down into four sections: No Space, No Choice, No Jobs, and No Logo. These cover the mass marketing of the brands, the globalisation, the movement of employment away from local factories to typically Asian “sweatshops”, and finally how people are beginning to turn on the brands. I think what’s probably most saddening about the first three sections is that, as appalling as it is, none of it is particularly a surprise. It’s worth reading though just to understand all the different issues that are involved in what is often seen as just a single amorphous globalisation debate. The book starts a little stat heavy, but picks up after the first chapter or so.
I guess the question is then: knowing what I know, what do I do about it? I don’t want to see the fall of places like Starbucks and the Gap, I’d just like to see them play fair, pay a living wage to the people that construct the clothes and harvest the coffee. I guess the first thing to do is let them know what I think. Putting the corporations out of business would probably just create space for someone else to step in. I’d like to think that the current crop could be made to play better. I’m a woolly minded liberal at heart, and I admit to liking my Apple laptop, and Gap clothes, so I’m stuck in this position where I don’t want to give up the brands, but I dislike some of what they’re doing. Hmmm.