October 7, 2008

A Tale of 3 Rugs

Last week I bought 3 new rugs.
Recently we've done some home remodeling ourselves. I'm sure the story of that process will be the topic of future posts since the remodeling is still ubderway and a huge part of my daily activities. Today it will suffice to say that we replaced the floor. We took up a ratty old carpet and replaced it with wood laminate. So I needed some area rugs.
In my typical fashion, I obsessed online over what to buy. I looked at a lot of rugs. You see, for one thing, this remodeling process has been the culmination of my awakening to color. For the first time ever I have color on my walls. My floor is a beautiful pale maple color. And now that I have the color on my walls, I can really feel what other colors each room is calling for. And the cool hardness of the floor needs some softness and warmth.
I'm still afraid of making color mistakes though. So I spend a lot of time online looking at color, and then walking into the room and seeing. And then imagining. And then trying to let the colors, both of the color of the prospective rugs and the color of the walls, just hit my eyes and go past all my words till I just feel the right color to chose. Sometimes that works.
And all the while I'm very worried about spending too much money. I was raised by a grandmother whose sole income came from Social Security, so I have money issues that I'm sure you'll end up reading about that at some point too. I don't have a lot of money now, for that matter. So I'm looking and looking, wondering about color and constantly looking for a better deal. And aking "Where's that web site?" You know the one, the one operated by people who have really figured out how to grab business online with great prices and selection. There's always one like that, no matter what you're buying online.
So finally I end up at eSalerugs. ESale rugs has beautiful wool rugs that I can afford, along with beautiful antique rugs and such that I can't afford. These are high quality hand knotted rugs. So I succumb and order 3 rugs. One is small, thick soft and pale blue. It looks perfect in my daughter's room. The long runner for the hallway is faded pink with peach flowers and green leaves to reflect the green I chose for the walls. And, most beautiful of all, a deep blue for the living room with a unique but unobtrusive pattern in it, so soft I went in on Friday and found all of the daycare kids snuggled together on it. What a cozy domestic scene, huh? And I'm responsible for creating it, lucky me.
However, where did these rugs come from? Tibet and Chna is where. So how much misery did I buy with those rugs? How much misery did I bring into my home? If I could afford them, it's likely someone was badly exploited to make them. And I can't forget that. It stays with me. I know the world economy has to keep functioning, and that generally it's good for a country to have functioning industry and to sell products. Still I can't kid myself. I can't leave the misery behind. With everything I buy, I carry that misery, I know.
So what to do? Humans, to some degree, must consume. And I think it's important for me to consume only what I need. Then the question arises, how much beauty do I need? And how do I acquire that beauty. Yes, I do create some of it myself. But as far as what I buy? Should only the wealthy have beautiful hand-crafted items? Don't the children I care for deserve the same asthetics that the children of Sewickley Heights deserve? As you can see, I often wind up in this circular mind trap with conflicting values and desires, feeling foolish for overthinking the most mundane of items I'm trying to purches.
I've talked to others that have these some problems with the consumer choices we're given, though. It's not just me.
I guess all we can do is keep trying to further human evolution and human consciousness, while making each individual choice as well as we can. It's just I get tired of everything being so difficult. Can't things just be easy sometimes?
Here's hoping that someday we can all share in the beauty of handmade rugs in a healthy world.


Leah said...

maybe we can look at it like emissions or carbon footprint trading. then the next question is, how do you set the price?

Tina B Shannon said...

Yes. that would be one way to approach it. Trade agreemtents could also be made more worker/union friendly.

Leah said...

hmmm, i mean emissions trading but between the people participating (so more like carbon footprint trading) -- so its not between companies, its between people consuming it. Here is a primitive version http://cgi.ebay.com/Carbon-credits-from-the-CARBON-ZERO-FUND_W0QQitemZ280271432294QQcmdZViewItem?hash=item280271432294&_trkparms=72%3A1416|39%3A1|66%3A2|65%3A12|240%3A1318&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14

I think its an interesting concept. Say buying Nike shirt would cost 5 credits, then if you buy fair trade coffee you get 2 credits. So one day, you buy three rugs, and you have no credits, well, then you have to go to ebay and bid for some..

Tina B Shannon said...


Global exchange isn't always, or wholly, negative. What would those who made your rugs being doing if they weren't making rugs, even under what we might see as poor conditions? They might face worse.

I learned of a service set up in Cambodia, where you could send scanned images of text to be manually typed into computer files, and sent back to you via the internet. The women hired to do it were paid 50 cents an hour, US. It didn't matter that their English was poor, because the owner would have three of them type the piece, since it was still cheap for him, then run the three versions against a grammar and spellchecker, to get the final good copy. What was interesting was women stood in line for the job, which was one of the highest paying in Phnom Penh, with the best conditions. The owners, a couple of liberal American geeks, even limited their workers hours to eight a day, and made them take regular breaks, and offered day care and free tuition for them at a local college for courses in their time off. Of course, this is hardly typical, but you never know, and it gives a target to work toward, especially with a plan for local people to take over such operations. Finally, if jet fuel was priced at its true cost, a lot of useless global trade would shrink, and local products would have a better edge. That's a reform worth fighting for.

Leah said...

"Global exchange isn't always, or wholly, negative. What would those who made your rugs being doing if they weren't making rugs, even under what we might see as poor conditions? They might face worse."

I agree with this in part. But what makes it a slippery slope is that there is no such transparency. The most we could be is agnostic unless we do the vetting each time with each product we buy from Bangladesh, the Philippines or other third world country. And even if it is "Made in the USA" its not so clear cut -- American Apparel prides itself for having "no sweatshop" labor but accusations of sexism in the workplace and definitely in its ads are rampant and definitely begs the question of what you value more. which is not to say that the situations that are more ideal do not exist -- thousands of college graduates in India and the Philippines man the call centers that US companies use and are all sought-after positions for the benefits they provide even though call center employment is one of the most high-stress jobs in the world.