I guess I’ll start with a photo that I took yesterday. I was on the bus – had just turned off Wigmore and was headed to Oxford, when passing the side of a major department store, I saw a homeless man sleeping on multiple layers of cardboard. It was bitter cold (two degrees Centigrade), and the wind was irregular – no sooner would I turn my back to the wind then it would swing around and spit in my face. The man was off the pavement, tucked into a nook. I would have curled into a fetal position, but he was stretched out. His face was hidden. He was covered with a blanket and a coat.
I see many homeless people “sleeping rough.” It is said that accommodations are available, but many of the destitute do not want to take advantage of the shelters open to them. Pride, addictions and mental illness probably factor in. The fact remains that sleeping rough in this weather is a flirtation with death. But enough with the words – I’ll insert the photo that I took.
It wasn’t the homeless sleeper himself that drew my attention; in general, it was the sleeper’s juxtaposition with the dumpster; in particular, it was the writing, “commercial waste” written on the dumpster. I found the juxtaposition so compelling that I got off the bus and went back to snap a picture. True enough, the man sleeping rough is commercial waste.
Commerce and our global economy has a lot to answer for. I bought a cotton camisole with a “hidden shelf for added support and adjustable straps” at Primark yesterday. Primark is a Spanish company which is not to say that the garment was made in Spain. I looked in vain for the place of manufacture. Spain may have 25 percent unemployment, but my guess is that they outsource their manufacture just like the rest of the developed world. My purchase cost 2 pound 50. I shouldn’t have bought it, but… in truth, I’m no more high-minded than the next guy. If there is a bargain to be had, I’ll find it. But I’m feeling soiled. My bargain was at someone else’s expense. Lots of people paid for my cheap camisole top. England paid in that it was not manufactured here, and from the cotton farmer to the factory where the garment was outsourced, the workers paid too.