I feel a little timid about getting angry, especially on the blog. Maybe we are brought up to think it's a little un-lady-like. Plus, I feel a little like I'm entering a dark circle of Dante's Inferno, from which I shall never be able to emerge, by trying to understand the workings of the WTO. It seems deliberately obscure and obfuscating such that simple folk such as myself don't dare enter, for fear of looking foolish. Best kept to the experts, maybe. Best kept to the non-elected, unaccountable folk isn't always the right thing to do.
It is in fact close to my heart. I make in the UK and have always wanted to really understand how this all happened. I think it wrong to produce in the Far East, not in principle, but definitely at the volumes we currently do. This is because of the cheap labour (often in inhumane conditions, though not always) and the massive use cheap oil to ship all these products and to manufacture. Finally I deplore the affect this has on society such that we don't have any connection to how goods are produced, and with what resources. We don't care because they are so cheap; it becomes a commodity like rainwater. Something so cheap to produce, the only value is in the brand experience.
I read somewhere, probably in The Guardian, some politician, can't remember who, answering the question something along the lines of 'why can't we tax imports for their carbon footprint or sustainable credentials?". This person responded something along the lines of "because it's a nightmare; you get into trade regulations and before you know it you have a trade war. Don't go there." I felt intrigued, but depressed.
We have fairly stringent EU protocols for labour, enviromental emissions and so on - they could be considerably better - but they are, in fact, quite rigourous. It's meaningless, of course, when we import all this rubbish from other parts of the world, where such norms are not enforced. This is largely why they are cheaper. It's fabulously democratic; stuff for everyone because it's so cheap.
So, in the euphoria of the general election, when you may recall I got quite excited by the Green Party, I found myself wanting to join that party. Shortly after the election, I did! I opted for the 'get a free book by Caroline Lucas MP' subscription.
I did think, however, that it might sit on my bookshelves for some time before I'd dive in. I diligently took it on holiday in the summer, and curiously, I found myself reaching for it, instead of the pile of novels I'd brought with me. It interesting to notice where you're energy is going, and somewhat comforting to just let yourself follow that, without analysing too much. I really want to read Virginia Woolf but don't seem to be able to do it except when I'm being diligent. Rather nerdy theoretical stuff is drawing me with an unfamiliar excitement right now.
So, in the magical depth of Wales in August, I found myself almost shouting at the sky at this Frankenstein that we have let World Trade Organisation produce. In my simple language, it appears that trade laws, which are world laws that haven't gone through our parliament, override national laws. People complain about the European Union, but at least we've got MEPs we can elect. So, if we decide that we want to set environmental standards for how things are produced, and that we want workers to be paid a living wage, that's fine. But, we can't enforce any standards for products that come in. If we do, that company from the other country can take us to court for lost earnings. So that's why we hear the endless cop-out that is the mantra of 'consumer choice' - we are told to take the power as consumers. Of course, we must in the face of this feebleness.
I am aware, that I'm striding into an area of which I know very little, and feel hugely intimidated by this pedestrian perspective but it just doesn't make sense. Or maybe it makes sense, but it just seems outrageously unjust. I get a whiff of that fury that the protestors who camp out at G20 summits feel.
So instead of having a fair and just system that uses materials and labour in a good way, we rely on something called consumer choice and the odd well-informed journalist such as Lucy Siegle and need to become experts, which in the ordeal of daily life is understandably too much for most people to take on.