Sean Michael Wilson talks about the need to enforce Good Global Practice in a world of mismatched working rights. He is an author of 30+ books, living in Kumamoto, Japan.
In a time when the question of race – and how we treat minorities in our nations – has come to the forefront, Sean Michael Wilson speaks about the people we rarely consider or see in our day-to-day lives. He discusses those around the world who have produced the goods that we consume in our fast-fashion, fast-production culture.
I chose this time to post his Dear Global Citizen letter because of his passion and attention to the needs of these people, as well as his no-nonsense approaching to solving these issues. He has some great solutions that deserve a voice. Take a look at his idea for a Global Watch and Good Global Practice.
Globalisation cannot work if it only supports those who have privilege. It must benefit everyone – perhaps especially the people who are not able or do not wish to cross borders.
Read his perspective below.
Introducing Global Citizen… Sean Michael Wilson
- What do you do? A professional writer with more than 30 books published.
- Years Abroad: 15 years
- Home? From Edinburgh, Scotland, UK. Now in Kumamoto, Japan.
- Languages: English and Japanese.
- Where will you be five years from now? Still in Japan probably.
Dear Global Citizen…
What does it mean to be a global citizen?
A key aspect for me involves awareness of the link between people and consumption. How are other people in various parts of the world involved in producing the goods that we consume, the computers, the clothes, the food, etc.? These goods are not merely made by machines but by people, fellow citizens of the world.
We need to be more aware of this is because those people are very often working in terrible conditions. For example, recently there were protests for better conditions among garment workers in Pakistan. Very quickly the police were sent in, beating and even shooting at these people. We simply cannot be good global citizens if we turn a blind eye to this type of thing – merely because it’s not happening in our city or to someone we know personally.
To be good global citizens… we first have to be aware: the people who produce the things we buy are often treated very badly. Then we must play our part in changing this.
When we say protesting for better conditions it often involves very basic things like being ‘allowed’ to have a toilet break or to open the window to reduce the terrible heat and dirty air in a crowded factory. And for the cheek of trying to improve their situation, we see cases like the one this year in Pakistan, and others such as in 2016 where workers were cracked down on by the police and national authorities.
Many of these workers get paid around $100 a month, which may be less than you paid for your last pair of jeans. Since the coronavirus many have been let go, with no warning and no way of complaining, Even those kept on have not been paid since March.
Supporting globalisation from afar: good global practice
To be good global citizens, it seems to me that we first have to be aware: the people who produce the things we buy are often treated very badly. Then we must play our part in changing this. There are obvious courses of action we can take. Do not buy the products of companies that are the worst offenders. Do not stay at their hotels. Do not order their food, etc.
In order to know who these offending companies are it would be helpful if there was a Global Watch website or app providing reports on how well companies treat their workers. It should become standard procedure to check with this ‘Good Global Practice’ (GGP) site before buying anything, in the same way that we check the price or the sell by date.
The Good Global Practice record could even be built into the barcode of products, so we can scan it and find out in seconds. Why not? The technology exists.
And, of course, this should extend to consider what damage such companies do to the environment. For example a report in 2018 from Greenpeace and the Break Free From Plastic movement revealed the top ten Plastic Polluting Companies (the top five are Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Nestlé, Danone and Mondelez International). I’m very anti-capitalist; but one power we have as consumers in capitalism is to hurt the pockets of abusive companies. We can push them to reduce such pollution around the world by refusing to buy their products unless they behave in more ethical ways – until they too are good global players. Or a lot better at least!
Bettering the environment one step at a time
Now, my own special focus is an environmental one.
I writing articles, contact companies and local government agencies to try to address environmental subjects that are of some significance but are being almost totally ignored. For example, there exists a very bad habit in Japan of cutting down all the trees, bushes and lawns in an old garden when putting up a new building, and then replacing it with either a tiny amount of greenery or none at all. Clearly this is not positive for the urban environment of Japan, both in terms of health and beauty and quite contrary to the image that Japanese people love nature.
I have written articles for outlets such as The Japan Times on this subject, suggesting that building companies should implement a policy requiring a minimum of a 25% replacement of trees when constructing a house. This is an example of something that would be good for Japan. And since the environmental is a global issue, it would be good for us all.