I saw a link to this article about Dubai on Twitter today. Like zts, I found it an extremely disturbing read, stopping at many points to read out loud to anyone who would listen. I recommend that you read it too.
After having read through it, I suppose my first thought is to wonder why anyone who knows that this sort of thing goes on would ever go there. Why any rich person from a democratic country would move there to set up home. Why any Western sporting personalities or pop stars would put their name to Dubai resorts and hotels, to stadiums and their gigs. Coldplay, Bon Jovi, Justin Timberlake, Shakira, Christina Aguilera and Elton John aren’t really acts you associate with slavery, after all.
The urge to take the moral high ground and denounce the practice is strong, and rightly so. Something nags at me though about how much of our society must be built on injustice. The clothes and food we buy when we’re being economical, how much of it comes from oppressed workers? Do we just turn a blind eye all the time?
The people interviewed by Johann Hari in the article either avoid the subject or say they force themselves not to think about it, so a lot of them too are just turning a blind eye. I like to think that if I knew some product was the result of sweat shop labour (let alone slavery) then I would avoid it, but am I kidding myself?
When we could afford it we shopped at Waitrose/Ocado not just because it tasted better but because it’s got to be ethically superior, right? But as soon as we needed to live on a tighter budget this went out of the window and these days we mostly shop at Asda. Most of the bad publicity for supermarkets in the UK seems to be reserved for Tesco but Asda is even cheaper and I can’t really believe their practices are that much better. They have whole cooked chickens for £4, for goodness sake. I could stop shopping there but then that would be less money to spend on other things which would reduce the quality of my life, so this makes me a massive selfish hypocrite.
Of course none of this is comparable to the blatantly fucked Dubai society; if Asda were taking passports off of Filipino girls and forcing them to sell cheap goods for 19 hours a day for no money then certainly I’d consider paying more than 5p per 100ml of Pepsi Max at a competing supermarket.
It’s a bit of a coincidence that we’re hearing all this about Dubai now though, just as they enter the news for allowing their state bank to default massively. This stuff has been going on for years, right? The millions of slaves used to build that place. I confess I never really thought about it before. The worst I’d previously heard was about their insane laws on drugs which could get you locked up for minuscule traces on the outside of your shoes, or for stuff you bought over the counter in the airport.
We all turned a blind eye for years.
If you read this far and for some reason want to comment then it would be great if your comment was not solely based on what you do to consume more ethically than everyone else on the Internet.