It begins with human beings. Every single person has dignity. Every person is deserving of respect. This is a fundamental truth that we cannot ignore. Millions are fighting for this very thing every day. And it is so clear that we are all connected to each other. Our choices do not only impact ourselves and those who are close to us. Our choices can affect people in other places, and other times, making a lasting impression even generations into the future.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI describes that, “purchasing is always a moral, and not simply economic act.” Each purchase we make is a demonstration of what we believe in. We inherently give our consent to everything about a product when we make a purchase. This includes where and how the materials were sourced. We give our consent to how the product was made, and how those who created the product were treated.
We recently had our eyes opened to the many problems of fast fashion. We found comfort in the fact that there is a burgeoning ethical fashion movement. We’ve reached a point of no return, where we cannot in good conscience and good faith continue to make clothing purchases that may be unethically made. Convenient or cheap, these pieces of clothing are difficult for us to consider purchasing when it is known that the company selling this clothing does not treat its workers with respect and dignity, or that they are sourcing their materials in a way that harms the environment.
In this way, we are all connected. My consent to purchase a piece of unethical clothing is my giving consent to harming the environment. It is my consent to workers not being paid a fair wage. It is my consent to the denial of the dignity of the human person.
The dignity of each person can sometimes extend to the items that they create. There is a life, in fact there are many lives, and stories, behind each piece of clothing that we wear. It’s the mother that travels many miles to work for mere pennies to support her children. It’s her child that she has to send away to another village to be looked after and cared for. It’s the village that resides near fields owned by corporations that are pumped with pesticides to ensure the “best” materials.
As Catholics, it is our duty to remind ourselves that every person is worthy of respect. Every person has dignity. This is why we must fight the good fight for ethical fashion. We must put into action our values, our core beliefs. It is time to reassess our habits and our purchases, asking ourselves if it is truly right and just to continue in this way. Let us hold up the human person with dignity. Let us love God, and love our neighbor. Let us love not only with our words but with our actions.
Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required (Luke 12:48).