An Opinion on the documentary “The True Cost: Who Pays the Real Price for YOUR Clothes” by Andrew Morgan, 2015

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One of the wonders of modern society is our freedom to rely on everyone else doing their job so we can live peacefully. As soon as we find our value for the market and make enough money with our skills, we can stick to just doing that and buy the rest we need. No need to hunt or make our own clothes. This easily becomes a double edged sword: on one hand, we have way more time to focus on the things we have potential at, but on the other, we can’t live without being dependent on someone else doing their jobs right. And turns out having no experience in those jobs makes us terrible judges for what constitutes “doing it right”, and this documentary tries to show us how desperately we need to find a solution within ourselves

The film starts out with fashion designers sharing their motivations and the relevance of fashion in society. Afterwards, we get to see attitude employers face the issue of labor with (how easily they accept “cutting corners”), and the risks the workers deal with, eventually to the individual level. In the end, we get to see the impacts of blind consumerism, and how improving our habits might be the beginning of a solution.

We can’t go without our clothing, whether we’re just fashion heads or we need it for sports, for example, it’s something everybody needs. So there’s a constant demand. Employers have also realized the cost reducing potentials of outsourcing the labor to regions where people are desperate for money. Paying workers a miserable amount is a way to avoid the real issue: their government is failing at protecting its people, as shown by the lack of measures taken: no pensions, no collective union rights, and it was crucial to get people close to the issue to explain this in the documentary However, this is a very complex issue to solve. If you’re an employer of this type, moral reasoning is not incentivized at all: if you don’t take advantage of these poor people, someone else will.

I think this documentary (“The True Cost: Who Pays the Real Price for YOUR Clothes”) does a spectacular job at showing that moral challenge people are facing. We all contribute by mindlessly buying our clothes and most media isn’t exactly doing its best to sensitize and educate the public. Raw documentaries like these are rare in a sea of false advertisement and statements. Behind these exploiting corporations, there’s thousands of people willing to hide the real working conditions of garment workers. We hardly ever get the real picture of what goes on inside the factories, with huge amounts of people concentrated in tight spaces where any accident could be disastrous.

The documentary lets the victims’ testimonies be heard. A lot of the clips used acutely show the emotional and health damage these working conditions and environmental carelessness provoke on families. They don’t try invasively blame the common person for the issue, but show how everyone would benefit if we all worked together to solve it. At the same time, it let us see honest thoughts from people who actively defend sweatshops. I think how those people were approached could have been better, their motivations were not made so clear, but it’s still important to show that side. Even if the viewer strongly disagrees with that view, they should still be aware of the justifications and how strong those viewpoints are in the real world.

Ultimately, I found this documentary very eye-opening. It showed me playing the blame game is not the goal here – we must discourage the consumerist attitude everyone defaults to nowadays, going as far as seeing shopping as a hobby. It’s an important reminder that despite the growing power of machines, a lot of what we use was still made at the cost human blood.

Written by Afonso Lopes 11ºC nº1

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