Recently we were watching the 1990's series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, an episode called "The Quickening." Starfleet travellers landed on a planet where everyone was born with a plague, and would eventually die in agony. Starfleet's Doctor Bashir thought he could easily find a cure for the problem, but his attempts at treatment failed. The people of the planet were angry with him, and he felt humiliated by his powerlessness. Near the end, the doctor's favourite patient died in spite of the new drug he had been giving her; but her baby had absorbed the drug and was born free of the disease. The adults were not cured, but their children could be saved.
This story can be read in many ways. It may be about admitting our own arrogance, and the limits of our knowledge. It is also about compassion, dedication, and hope for a better future. One of the biggest points was that nobody could help those already born with the plague; but someone who cared, and who kept trying, could make a difference for the next generation.
Who cares that much about the people of our planet, especially those who get the least attention? In spite of the annual media blitz around Fashion Revolution Week, disheartening stories continue to surface.
"In the wake of Rana Plaza, which occurred months after a deadly factory fire at Tazreen Fashions killed 112 mostly female garment workers, global outrage spurred several international efforts to prevent deaths and injuries due to fire or structural failures. Safety measures were instituted at more than 1,600 factories. Hundreds of brands and companies signed the five-year, binding Bangladesh Accord on Building and Fire Safety ...
"In a recent series of Solidarity Center interviews, garment worker-organizers from several national unions applaud the significant safety improvements but warn that employers are backsliding. And workers seeking to improve safety in their factories often face employer intimidation, threats, physical violence, loss of jobs and government-imposed barriers to union registration.*
*I know the link is incorrect; that's how it was posted on their blog.
Whose responsibility is it to remember the lessons, and to make sure the rest of us do as well? Factory owners? Big corporations and retailers? Consumers? Media organizations like Fashion Revolution? National and local governments? Religious groups? Political activists? The United Nations? The workers themselves? At first we may feel far away from both the scene and the cause of such tragedies. But when we do become informed and want to do...something...we may feel like mice with very little power. Especially if we're just the guy holding the broom.
But there are things even mice can do. Ask questions and talk to people, in person or on social media. Find out "who made your clothes." Do some "haulternative" shopping (that includes non-shopping). Read news sources that seem to care about giving true facts (not propaganda). Give Black Friday shopping sprees a pass. Write letters. Make videos. Donate, or give some volunteer hours, to groups concerned with justice in the garment industry, and with the education and health of women and the families they support.
Can't it be this generation that creates hope?