I am guessing that it must be hard for many of you to accept my view or even begin to understand how I can tolerate and accept the so-called sweatshops and their real or exaggerated poor working conditions and environments.
The reality is that there are uglier truths that I didn’t share. No this is not just a women’s issue, everyone is affected: whole families, communities and nations. Lack of education and opportunity for education is a serious issue. The reality is no matter how bad they want it, many cannot get an education even if they had the opportunity and the money.
Why? Because these countries do not have enough schools, rooms, desks or even teachers and have to turn away thousands of children wanting to attend school at all levels, every semester, every year. Nearly a quarter of the students who attend school have to share books with other students. Not because they cannot afford them. Rather there are simply not enough books in print. The government cannot afford publication.
Even worse concerning employment issues, in the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries many can only find employment as female and male prostitutes. It is not the best paying profession, but it puts food on the table. Other more lucrative endeavors include young children employed as sex slaves by their parents for the very lucrative foreign pedophile clientele (American, European, Australian, Asian) who plan one- to two-weeklong vacations via the Internet so they can spend warm sunny days on a beach fondling and repeatedly raping a 7-year-old little boy or girl where there is no need to fear prosecution.
For a quicker return on your investment, and fast money in your pocket, you can have your son or more likely your daughter (of any age) sold and exported to Japan, China or the Middle East sex-slave trade. Most often end up in the movies and discovered dead in the streets a few years later, discarded as worn-out goods. I had the wonderful opportunity of comforting many families whose children where kidnapped for this very purpose, and nothing is done about it because it is an almost accepted practice in some people’s eyes. No laws exist to battle such obvious crimes. And you’re more concerned about the need for more comfortable stools with backrests in the factory workplace?
Finally, let us not forget the thousands of people in the Philippines who live and work at the Smokey Mountains Landfill, the dump for the tri-city area of Manila, Caloocan, and Quezon City. It is so named because in reality it is a landfill comparable in size to the District of Columbia that consists of literal mountains of trash constantly burning and smoldering. It is home to thousands.
It is impossible to imagine – the sight and smell alone brought tears to my eyes. These people literally live in, on, around and under the trash in makeshift homes. They rummage for food and the essentials to sustain life, make very little money from collecting trash and finding ingenious ways to create products to sell or trade. Any of them would kill for a job in a sweatshop, and I mean kill for it. I don’t think they would be too concerned about comfortable seating arrangements and hazardous chemicals. I have pictures of hazardous chemicals running down streets.
In conclusion Ms. Margolin, I know the truth, I have been educated, I lived it. I appreciate your invitation to attend a meeting, but I will have to decline. For clarification, I never said, there was not a problem with sweatshops outside the United States. And the very thought that I might be racist in my views and that I might think people of developing nations inferior to Americans is an absolute insult to me and every citizen of a developing nation in this world.
I close with this quote by Thomas Browne that I hung on every wall of every home I lived in for over two years from the Smokey Mountains Landfill to the Leper Colony and every hellhole in between. It helped me make it from day to day: It is a brave act of valor to despise death: but where life is more terrible than death. It is then the truest valor to dare to live.
I know what it is like to go hungry, I know what it is like to go without; I have lived where life was truly more terrible than death. I have the utmost respect for all the people, even those who despised me and could not accept me for who I am, an American. How can you even begin to try and understand their feelings, thoughts, desires and ambitions, let alone mine? You have no right.
There are more pressing issues right here at home, that we can begin to understand and do something about. Why not lend a helping hand to the homeless here in our own nation’s capital? it is not hard to find them – they are right around the corner from TGI Friday’s on Pennsylvania Avenue. Let’s start making the world a better place by looking in our mirror first, and then we will be that much stronger and better able to understand and help other nations help themselves.
The writer is a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in criminal justice.