It is very well known that there is a distinct difference between the upper and lower classes of the world. We see this to be true in America, but this is made even more apparent in other countries where companies are taking over the communities they are built in.
First I will address the issue this blog will comment on. In Kelsey Timmerman’s “Where am I wearing”, he continually comments on the poor living conditions of the communities he visits. Village after village, Timmerman speaks with and meets people who are living in poverty. Poverty, as we discussed in class on April 15th, is the destitution that results from impotency (ie. inability) to be self-sufficient and maintain one’s inherited status. This definition of self-sufficiency ties directly to Timmerman’s book because we see an example of an impoverished family when he visits Arifa in Bangladesh. In this story Timmerman discusses how Arifa is forced to live off of less than $1 per day as she is a garment worker at a local factory. In this same story, Timmerman discusses how the factory in Arifa’s village was massive, state of the art, and clearly not struggling to bring in capital. It is thus ridiculous that someone like Arifa is getting paid so little for her work. She is barely making enough money to support herself, yet alone the family of six she goes home to everyday after her long work days. I think this image of a woman working for less than $1 per day in a factory where she is a sweatshop worker, is a gloomy image, but a perfect picture to discuss the ethical issue of a place of wealth vs poverty in these factory settings.
Above is a link to a video about what it is like to live on one dollar a day. I believe this is an accurate depiction of this lifestyle because it illustrates the story of someone who is living this life.
To connect this discussion to scripture we will first review Ecclesiastes 5:11 which reads, ” As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owners except to feast their eyes on them?”. Ultimately I believe this passage can be taken both literally and figuratively when commenting on the factories that are destroying villages like Arifa’s. This passage first comments on how consumerism has lead to the increase in production and thus increase in factory work. So first, this increase of goods has resulted in people like Arifa increasing their work, yet she is still getting paid such a minimal amount. How is this fair to her and how are we to ask her to work more, but see minimal pay increase?! This is the exact reason people like Arifa are living the poverty stricken lives that they are. Second, I think it is important to note that the “increase” can also be interpreted as consumers wanting more goods, and thus continuing this cycle of increased work for the already poor factory employees. This increase in consumption is again seen to result in increased work for those suffering poverty conditions. Lastly, to comment on the second half of this verse, we address the owners. In this intense, scripture is commenting on how the owners are feasting on the consumption of goods by the individuals. This exact scenario is comparable with these big companies. They are the owners taking advantage of the increase in consumption by consumers. As a result, the owners are not only feasting on this financial gain, but they are also feasting on the communities around them.
To further comment on the poverty of the communities in which these factories are built in, I found an article in “The Guardian” that discusses poor working conditions for those in Bangladesh even following the collapse of a factory. These workers were already living poor lives working in this factory, but now they were even harmed by the collapse of this factory. This article illustrates how poor the conditions are for these poverty stricken workers.
One other verse I would like to address in this discussion of wealth vs poverty is Matthew 6:25. This verse reads, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?”. I think this verse is a healthy reminder to people like Arifa that there is more to life than just the amount of money you make or goods you own. Granted she is forced to do things like split her $1 income amongst her family, but at least she is blessed to have a family in the first place. I think this verse really wants the reader to understand that we do not need to worry about what we wear or how much we make in order to evaluate our life. Now I understand that this may be taking a step back from Timmerman’s whole message of valuing what all it takes to produce the clothes we make, but in regards to commenting on the distinction between the wealthy and the poor, I think this verse is crucial. One note I took away from our class discussion of this verse is that, “We are not more valuable than other creations”. I think it is important to recognize that we are all blessed to be created in the first place, and no one persons wealth or lack of it can define us.
To conclude, I think this separation of wealth and poverty in these countries like Bangladesh is something we as Christians need to work towards addressing. Joel Osteen states that God wants us to be prosperous financially in order to fulfill our destiny’s that God has for us. One destiny I think we can do a better job at is loving thy neighbor (“neighbor” being the workers forced into these poverty stricken communities that barely make enough money to get by). I think now is the time that Christians, especially those of the Western world, need to begin using their wealth to help those that need it most.