On 24th April 2013 an eight-storey building in Dhaka, Bangladesh collapsed, trapping thousands of factory workers inside, injuring about 2,500 people and killing 1,127.
Fifty-four days on, the disaster has mostly slipped out of the headlines and from the attention of the media.
What, if anything, has changed?
I found myself struggling to work out my own complicity in the disaster. In my wardrobe I found four t-shirts bought in British high street stores with the label ‘Made in Bangladesh’. Of course, the fact that these t-shirts were made in Bangladesh is not the issue; the main problem is a lack of ethical/ humanitarian constraints in the clothing market. The clothing companies who sell us cheap t-shirts can do so because they source their products from suppliers in countries where minimum wage standards, working conditions and building regulations are not as developed and/ or regulated as in economically better-off countries such as the UK. But the label ‘Made in Bangladesh’ is the only thing on this plain, unremarkable t-shirt that reminds us of the complex chain of events that has placed it in our hands, on our backs.
I feel as though I’ve got too used to buying things – whether clothes, food or toilet paper – without considering how they were produced. A brand new t-shirt appears so clean and complete that it seems even harder to think about the many hands it’s passed through to reach that wearable state we tend to take for granted.
The latest factory tragedy shows that this untroubled consumption can’t continue – it’s already coming apart at the seams.
There’s an interesting report on the factory disaster here, on the Democracy Now website: