What were these shoes made for?

It is said that a picture tells a thousand words. I’m not entirely convinced – it might tell a thousand words – but which words? Let’s introduce the picture:

What were these shoes made for?

What were these shoes made for?

If the words coming to mind include “cheapskate” or “broke” I suppose you wouldn’t be completely wrong, although technically I can afford to replace these with another similar pair. So why haven’t I?

An important piece of context is that these trainers are only a few months old – between two and three. That is context that the picture alone can’t give you – only these precise words. If I were to buy another pair of these as soon as they started to look worn, I would spend more than I would to buy less pairs of good trainers at a price that would make me flinch and decide I needed the money more urgently for other things.

So who do these cheap trainers benefit? Certainly it isn’t me – as they are falling apart within only a few months. I grant that I am a fairly big guy and my footwear is perhaps more stressed than that of the average person – but ten years ago I would have expected around 18 months of wear out of this same pair of trainers. I don’t see the benefit to the developing country worker who made these for a dollar or two a day (it might have even been slave labour, or slave child labour – how can I know?). I don’t see the benefit to the people in the store where I bought these who work for such a low wage that the taxpayer effectively subsidises the company that sold me these. The only people who really benefited – were a tiny number of super rich people who own this company.

They took their money and got that little bit richer while everyone else got that little bit poorer.

They benefited from the suffering and wage slavery of everyone else in that pipeline that digs things up from one hole in the ground and ultimately buries them in another hole in the ground.

On that note – the Story of Stuff tells that side of things somewhat better than I can here.

In the end we all subsidize this system by destroying our planet to support this lifestyle – except that the older people amongst us in effect are stealing from the younger ones, as they realised the benefits and we – the younger people – will realise their costs.

There is one key area in which I relate to these trainers. These trainers were created to die young.

My parents and grandparents have enjoyed a far greater quality and quantity of life than I can realistically aspire to – as a result of the selfishness of those generations and the consequent costs to our climate and environment.

I too was made to die young.