Saturday, July 16, 2005

The Apostle Paul on Sweatshops in Asia

I am continuing in my reading of Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire. In fact, I am almost done. I am really thinking of doing a book club through this book if anyone is interested. It is an incredible book... really.

Here is a quote that really got me. It is a sort of conversation that is being had in the book. The main voice is italicized. I know it's a longer section, but it is an impacting enough quote for me to type it all out...

There is nothing innocent about economic oppression. There is no room for Christians to be "balanced" and "careful" when we are talking about an economic idolatry that will sacrifice children in its service. Slavery is sinister no matter how it gets packaged.

There what are we to do? How do we proclaim Colossians' liberating word [regarding freedom for slaves] to slaves when they are halfway around the world? It's not as if we have any power over their working conditions. It's not as if they are our slaves whom we need to release.

But that's just the point. They are our slaves. Every time we step into a Wal-Mart or Niketown or Gap or Winners and exclaim over the great deal we can get on an article of clothing, or how trendy we now look, we've made sweatshop workers our slaves. Every time we buy coffee that isn't shade grown and fairly traded, we've made those coffee producers and their children into our slaves. Every time we have purchased a product–any product–that says Made in China, or Indonesia, or the Philippines, or Sri Lanka, it is pretty likely that we have made someone our slave.

But we have no choice about buying products made in those places. Some things can be bought only from these companies! Buying some of these products is inevitable.

The language of inevitability is the language of empire. Whenever we hear "We have no choice," our ears should perk up. It is precisely the strategy of the empire to take our imagination captive so that we think we have no choice. When a certain lifestyle seems to be inexcapable, you need to realize that you are imprisoned.


Chris Haw said...

ryan, i really appreciated that quote. walsh and i have developed a small relationship over email after an initial encounter.
i liked the book. i thought, for your average reader, it got a little heady at some points--with the whole PM philosophy sketch on truth. but that was their audience. i think keezmat might be the brains of the operation (as sweet as walsh is); i think she translated most things from greek and hebrew.
i think the economic implications of the Christian faith is a major contribution in this book that needs to be greatly discussed in the Church.
rock on, love, chris

Jason said...

That's a fantastic quote that rings very true to me. If you're talking a book club I'm interested. But I think you should first move down here and start it at Influx coffee house down the street from me ;) said...

Sounds like a book that Mr. DeLay should read... he visited some Asian countries maybe two years ago and I quote, 'didn't find anyone sweating.' but, he's a christian so we should blindly follow him through politics. That is a joke. Anyway, guess what? I will probably meet with Joel in Kathmandu sometime next week bc he will be here and he might help me look into some options for my orphan tikes. I'll be in touch :)

Dean said...

Let justice flow like a mighty river and righteouness like an unfailing stream! Its so incredible to hear that Christians are finally getting our shit together and deciding that shalom needs to happen and that we need to be the agents.

Its like I've been meditating, maybe. "where do wars come from? Are they not from your appetites your desires?" But Jesus said, "If any man comes and drinks from me he will have as it were streams of living water that flow from his belly." The streams of healing,justice and peace! Thanks for posting about the book on Colossians! Shalom.