My experience during lockdown has been challenging but more importantly enlightening. I feel I can speak for many when I say the various challenges posed by the pandemic have driven us to question our realities and the way we choose to live our lives, as well as taught us more about ourselves and others. Although, being in a position where you are able to reflect on your life is a privilege symptomatic of the very issue this article will discuss- that being capitalism. Capitalism for all its benefits is unquestionably the catalyst for the majority of injustices prevalent in the world today.
Many of the existing injustices across the globe e.g. poverty have inevitably been amplified by the effects of Covid-19 and have ironically become more apparent through reflections on capitalist privilege. For instance, through reflecting on the increase in fast fashion consumption over lockdown we can understand the implications of capitalist privilege (i.e. the ability to continuously purchase non-essential products) on exploited workers and the environment. According to Oxfam, ‘the carbon footprint of new clothes in the UK each month is greater than flying a plane around the world 900 times’. Whilst this is a clear global concern for the environment, it is also a major ethical concern in that developed countries such as the UK continue to contribute vast amounts of CO2 emissions that disproportionately impact less developed and developing countries in the global south.
The pandemic can be said to have caused a void for many, with fewer distractions and more restrictions, a ‘modern reality check’ emerged. Advances in capitalism/ platform capitalism and therefore consumerism arose to supplement the void. Platform capitalism is when business takes place through the recruitment of vast numbers of people who utilise a company’s platform to make profit e.g. Deliveroo and Zoom. In addition to when platforms such as Amazon and Deliveroo profit from the products or services sold by individuals or companies utilising the platform. The significance of platform capitalism is that platforms such as Deliveroo and Zoom instigate new inclinations within capitalism that impede the emergence of a non-capitalist future. This has been paired with various companies shifting to accommodate more online shopping.
Ironically, along with the tremendous increase in alternative means of consumerism (online) over lockdown has come a rise in awareness of the injustices caused by capitalism and therefore consumerism. The rise in awareness is evidenced by the presence of numerous posts on social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and TikTok educating people on this matter. Recent events relating to the BLM movement has put capitalism and therefore fast fashion under the spotlight, in order to highlight fundamental plagues of the world such as systemic racism. Consequently, people are becoming more conscious of their everyday life choices and of the ways in which they consume. Relating back to the beginning of this article, although these unprecedented times have resurfaced many ongoing issues of the world, we have seen people come together and stand up against the very systems and institutions that are responsible for these issues. There is much to learn from these difficult times, as well as many positive outcomes that we can achieve. It is our responsibility to increase our awareness and ensure we strive to become conscious individuals.
“The things you own end up owning you”- Chuck Palahniuk
Yasmine Hisham (BA Hons) International Relations and Development (2017-20)