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THE CAPITALIST CATWALK

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    THE CAPITALIST CATWALK

    "Say: 'My life, my death and acts of worship are all for the Rabi-l alamin.'" [TMQ Al-An'am: 162].

    "Obey Allah and Obey the RasoolÖ" [TMQ An-Nur: 54].

    "Thirst is everything, obey your thirst" (American commercial for Sprite).

    Get a Lifestyle

    We are told that the purpose for our entire existence is to worship Allah (swt). TV ads tell us otherwise. According to advertisements, our needs, wants and instincts are everything; we should obey them.

    The Western way of life relies on a continual cycle of want. The people must always desire to own something new, regardless of whether they need it. The people keep the cycle of consumption in constant motion. They work extra hard, in order to buy things they do not really need, in order to impress people that they do not really care for. The objective is to have the newest and the best; and therefore, in their eyes, to be the best. For this "cult of the worship of newness" to prevail, the high priests of the god of consumerism must work hard to preach their gospel. They are not just selling products, they are selling an ideology. They are promoting a value system that continuously bombards the public with messages of self-indulgence and instant gratification. One only needs to look at the catch phrases: 'me first', 'gotta-have-it' and 'gimme,' to understand the common ethic. This god of consumerism is the creator and sustainer of the Capitalist system.

    Fashion epitomises the Capitalist ethos of creating a desire for the inconsequential. Consumers from all walks of life spend hundreds of billions of dollars on fashion annually. On face value, fashion may appear to be a frivolous and insignificant obsession for the rich, dandy and infamous. In reality, it is an industrial giant that directly influences most of the world's inhabitants. Its task force includes Chinese silkworm farmers, Indian cotton pickers, Italian yarn spinners, Scottish weavers, German dyers, French seamstresses, teenaged Saturday shop assistants from Hackney, Harlesden and Hounslow, and South American, Portuguese, Greek, Turkish and Bengali sweatshop workers. Besides these, are a string of wholesalers, retailers, merchant traders, rip-off artists and street hustlers from Bangkok to Brixton. In global terms, it is an industry worth over $1.5 thousand billion. This astounding figure is actually more than the international expenditure for the arms industry.

    Fashion reached a new pinnacle during the 1980s. During this time, right wing parties controlled the main economies of the world. The Thatcher and Reagan administrations provided tough fiscal policies and reduced taxation for the rich and very rich. With this new climate, the rich no longer had to be ashamed about their wealth. Clothing became a means for the wealthy to display their means while inflating their egos. The demise of Reaganomics and Thatcherism had no effect on the escalation of fashion at large. Fashion now stands as the primary cultural artefact of the Western world, replacing music, cinema, art and poetry as the all-encompassing symbol of both popular and high culture.

    Clothing is an integral part of human existence; yet, it is only a minute aspect of fashion. Other components are art, design, expression, risk and above all, marketing. The fashion industry has evolved symbiotic relationships with many sectors. These are primarily with the visual media industry (magazines especially), the chemical industry (through dyes, perfumes and cosmetics) and pharmaceutical industries.

    The Fashion Industry

    The fashion industry is constructed as a pyramid. At the top are the couturiers (Chanel, Dior, Yves Saint Laurent and the like), below these are the imitators and competitors, and at the bottom lies 'high street' fashion. The clothes produced directly from the fashion houses are exclusive and very expensive. Haute couture, though it holds the most exclusive position in the fashion pyramid, does not provide the designers with a profit. This is because of the cost of materials and the small clientele. It is the piece of the pyramid beneath couture that has become the most lucrative. Though these can also be very expensive, they are mass marketed in a way that the first category is not; therefore, it is accessible to more people, while retaining prestige.

    Associated with design houses are a plethora of other products. These include everything from cosmetics, accessories, perfumes, jewellery, cars, sports equipment etc. Pierre Cardin endorses over 800 products, most of which Cardin himself has probably never seen. Designers' names (under licence) have gone on underwear, cigarettes, deodorants, chess-sets, teddy bears, stationary, bath-towels, neckties, cufflinks, ball point pens, watches, sunglasses and even tropical fruit (the Oscar La Renta papaya). The perfumes Dune and Coco were only conceived years after the deaths of Christian Dior and Coco Chanel, although the Houses of Dior and Chanel make a handsome profit from them.

    The not so rich can buy into the Calvin Klein lifestyle by simply buying bottles of cK Be from department stores. Those who have even less can buy into the lifestyle from unofficial vendors on Oxford Street, London. The perfume industry is worth well over $10 billion a year. Few women can afford a Chanel suit for thousands of pounds, but millions are able to spare enough for a 7 ml bottle of liquid. Gram for gram Chanel's No. 5 costs about the same as 22 Karat gold.

    The main point here is that fashion is not about clothes, it is about lifestyles. This is true just as Coca-Cola is not about thirst, but lifestyle. Yet, with all the abundance, Westerners who can get clean water on tap for free, will proclaim that they have nothing to drink, or look through their bulging wardrobes, and proclaim, "I haven't a thing to wear." Do not think, however, that all this rampant indulgence comes without cost.

    Exploitative Practices

    The exploitative practices of the fashion industry have been well publicised in recent years. This practice is not unique to Third World countries. Immigrant workers earn minimum wage in sweatshops on 7thAvenue in New York. They operate cheek by jowl with shoppers buying designer sweatshirts on 5th Avenue. The contradictions here are blatant. The combination of cheap labour combined with the artisans' skills, make fashion a paradigm of the workings of Capitalism.

    The contradictions in the less developed countries are even starker. Relatively poor regions, where jeans are not commonly worn, import large quantities of denim. For example, 48 million metres of denim were imported into Bangladesh and 85 million meters were imported into Turkey in 1996. The reason for this is simple; nearly all jeans are stitched together in hundreds of thousands of low wage sweatshops and private homes around the world, but they are worn in the West. The wages paid to these workers are far less than the wages paid to those in the developed countries. Mexican garment workers earn one-fifth to one-tenth of the hourly rate paid to the 200,000 garment workers across the border in Los Angeles. These practices are necessary for the jeans industry to maintain their massive profit margins. Between 1984 and 1997 Levi Strauss's market value increased 105 times - by almost as much as Microsoft. In the early 1990s annual sales of Levi Strauss were worth $7 billion, 71% of this was due to jeans or jeans-related items, with an annual publicity expenditure of $300 million in the US and $200 million outside. These disproportionate amounts spent on publicity can be contrasted with the wages paid to their workers.

    This issue of spending on advertising rather than labour is a common trait among many different companies. More is spent on convincing one person to wear one item than paying an employee to make thousands of that same item.

    Compare the millions of dollars paid to Michael Jordan by Nike over the years with the pittance paid to the South East Asians for producing these Nike goods. What is the cost of a pair of Air Jordans? The women and children of Nike sweatshops know them to be less than $2. After all, that is what they get paid to make the shoes on their 12-hour shifts for 6 days a week. Michael Jordan was at one stage the richest sportsman on the planet, even though basketball is not the most popular sport in any country except the US. His wealth is largely due to the generous salary provided by Nike. In the UK, parallels can be seen with the recent million pound agreements made between David Beckham and Adidas. Once again, the disproportionate wages paid to the Indonesians that stitch them, compared to the one who endorses them, are quite apparent.

    Another company that has come under the international spotlight is the Gap. A series of protests were sparked off in America in 1995 when an 18 year old addressed a crowd outside a Gap store in Toronto. Holding up a Gap shirt, Viera told the crowd: 'In Canada, you pay $34 for this shirt. In El Salvador we were paid 27 cents to sew it.' The Gap does not own the factories or have to deal with the workers that make their products. Instead, they contract out production to free-trade zones in Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and now Africa.

    The Gap has conspicuously not allowed independent monitoring at any of its contract factories in over 50 countries around the world, nor did the company suffer much public criticism when Carmelita Alonzo died of exhaustion from overwork in 1997. Before she died, Carmelita had been working 14 hours a day at a factory in the Philippines producing garments for the Gap and other brand-name retailers.

    Fall into The Gap

    The followers of fashion are fooled into believing that spending thousands on an outfit gives them 'individuality'. The victim is often unaware of the financial oppression that they themselves are subjected to. Who better to sum-up the machinations of the industry than one of the main perpetrators of the fashion conspiracy, Karl Largerfeld. The head designer at Chanel, ChloŽ, Fendi, and KL. When asked about what makes the fashion industry run, he narrated the famous children's story, The Emperors New Clothes. This is a story of a couple of tricksters who convinced a vain emperor that they could tailor him an immaculate outfit. Only intelligent people could see the elegance of the clothes. The ignorant would not even see the outfit, and the wearer would appear naked. In actuality, the emperor really was naked! Largerfeld draws the similarity between himself, and the tricksters in the story. After all, it is only the 'intelligent' that can look at a handbag, and recognises that it is a Chanel crocodile original, with interlocking C-C hallmark, costing more than £5,000. The ignorant will merely see a leather bag.

    Other designers are not as honest about their profession. Their egos delude them into believing that they are a special gift to humankind, bringing delight, beauty and pleasure to millions of people. Christian Lacroix, for example pontificates that the slave labour employed throughout the world helps to provide employment for the people of Third World countries and their economies. Ralph Lauren, on the other hand, considers his designs a reflection of emotional freedom, nostalgia and romanticism of the average American.

    The people caught up in fashion are superficial, pretentious and naive, but what is so pathetic about them is that they are innocent victims. The trap (or the Gap) is an easy one to fall into. There are many inner desires within all of us. It is these desires that corporate power tap into.

    The fashion industry is far from a marginal or atypical Capitalist industry. It is not the norm for any Capitalist corporation to perceive a demand for a new product and then strive to meet it. It is far more common for Capitalists to produce commodities and then set out to create a 'need' for them. From Pokemon to Double Mints, or roller blades to Rolls-Royces, the product precedes demand. This explains why marketing is such a fundamental tenet of Capitalism.

    One only needs to consider the present dependence on cars in the US, which was brought about by the deliberate denial of choice to travellers. A 1974 report to a subcommittee of the US Senate documented the destruction of electric rail-transport systems in 45 US cities by General Motors (GM), assisted by Standard Oil of California and the Firestone Tire Company. GM bought electric transit systems, ripped up the tracks, substituted GM buses and then sold the transit company. Public transport by bus implied road construction and hence a huge hidden subsidy for the private car industry. Similar processes are now taking place in Eastern Europe. Citizens of the new Capitalist 'democracies' will have the choice between buying cars and immobility.

    Another example of the creation of a need can be seen in a more pernicious industry: the international arms industry. While it can be compared with the fashion industry in terms of its annual turn over, the parallels actually go much further. Developed countries produce arms and then work to create a need for their produce in other countries. They do this by convincing people that their neighbours, even fellow countrymen, are their potential enemies. These people are often of the same creed, colour, race and tongue. The believers of this myth proceed to squander the national wealth on useless military hardware, just in case their friends become their enemies. I use the term 'useless' because these packages always have strings attached. It is these 'strings' that render the packages unusable. These may be such that the arms cannot be deployed against a manifest enemy (often the salesman themselves). The result is that we see governments going on shopping sprees to the Bond Streets and 5th Avenues of the arms world. The glossy adverts and PR are more elaborate than in the fashion industry. Whole wars, and endless repeats or war footage are used, i.e. the stealth bomber and patriot missiles of the Gulf War. Wars are the arms industries equivalent of cat walks and Fashion Week, and Norman Schwarzkopf and Colin Powell were the super models of the industry.

    Marketing

    The power of advertising cannot be overstated and is indeed a whole topic in its own right. Advertisers are continually seeking to manipulate the minds of the public. They etch out new groups of consumers to target and continually think up new exploitative ways of getting people to part with their money in exchange for useless commodities.

    A 1999 article in kidScreen, an online industry newsletter, stated, "there have never been more ways in the culture to support marketing toward kids, and there have never been more outlets to study how to speak to them. That makes the competition for kids attention significantly greater, forcing advertisers to work harder to get inside kids heads." Advertisers consider children to represent great market potential. They are a sought-after demographic because, in addition to making their own purchases, they have a powerful and growing influence over their parents' buying decisions, and they hold great promise as future adult consumers. In the US in 1998 alone, children ages 4 to 12 spent approximately $27 billion of their own money and 12 to 19 year olds spent $94 billion. Children directly influenced about $200 billion in parental purchases.

    Advertisers and marketers are enjoying an unprecedented number of potent psychological tools to probe and exploit the minds and emotions of the consumers. There is simultaneously a strong and growing body of psychological evidence that indicates that people who watch a great deal of television, with its incessant stream of commercials, have more materialistic values. It is only now that psychologists are acknowledging that materialistic values are associated with increased depression, anxiety, substance abuse, interpersonal problems and antisocial behaviour. The American Psychological Association published a statement in 2000 stating, "studies on 'materialism' show that individuals highly focused on materialistic values also report less satisfaction with life...worse interpersonal relationships, more drug and alcohol abuse, and less contribution to community...[and this process contributes] to the formation of a shallow 'consumer identity' that is obsessed with instant gratification and material wealth." Western psychologists are finally recognising the obvious. Rasool-Allah (saw) said, "If the son of Adam had two valleys of money, he would wish for a third, for nothing can fill the belly of Adam's son except dust, and Allah forgives him who repents to him" [Bukhari].

    The fashion industry is a contrived industry based on creating a lust for something that does not really exist: a gold standard in style. The industry would not exist if this lust was not created in the first instance and then sustained.

    This blatant manipulation of basic human wants and needs could be contrasted with the Socialist philosophy. In the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engel described the expansion of human needs as part of Capitalism's 'progressive' role. Having observed what was happening in the West they concluded that human desire was all a bourgeois plot. They completely denied the existence of any innate human wants, needs or instincts. A century and a half after Marx's observations, the new 'needs' created by Capitalism no longer has a character way beyond what Marx observed. Consider the US funeral industries promotion of coffins with a foam mattress for the deceased. Mattresses for the dead are the last word on consumerism. No doubt, one day these mattresses will be labelled, under licence, with Calvin Klein or the like. The 'needs' referred to are part of a malignant alienation that we know as 'consumerism'.
    Islam

    The Capitalists selfishly exploit and manipulate the wants and desires of humans. The Socialists deny the very existence of these thought and emotions. Both of these approaches would lead to misery.

    Islam acknowledges the fact that ownership and the desire to have money is part and parcel of human nature. Rasool-Allah (saw) said: "This wealth is (like) green and sweet (fruit), and whoever takes it without greed, Allah will bless it for him, but whoever takes it with greed, Allah will not bless it for him, and he will be like the one who eats but is never satisfied. And the upper (giving) hand is better than the lower (taking) hand" [Bukhari].

    Also in the Qur'an:

    "Beautiful in the eyes of men is the love of things they covet: Women and sons; Heaped-up hoards of gold and silver; horses branded (for blood and excellence); and (wealth of) cattle and well-tilled land. Such are the possessions of this world's life; but in nearness to God is the best of the goals" [TMQ Ale-Imran: 14].

    Umar (ra) once said, "Oh Allah! We cannot but be happy with those things which you have made fair in our eyes. O Allah! I request You to give me power to spend all those things in the right way" [Bukhari].

    Islam acknowledges this basic instinct, but it has not assigned it as the basis of the whole economic system as Capitalism does. Islam's economic system is comprehensive and clearly defined. A tenet of this system upholds that "all property belongs to Allah, and we have delegated authority over that which Allah has allowed us to own". This system also must ensure all basic rights of food, water, shelter and clothing. In addition to these, Islam caters for the luxuries. Therefore, it is clear that the system of Islam is in accordance with our individual nature, the global community and the globe itself.

    The above examples demonstrate that the Capitalist system has allowed certain industries to dominate. In doing so, they have actually stripped the basic rights away from many individuals. The fat cats such as fashion, films and pharmaceuticals have bled the human resources within the Western World, not to mention the Third World and the Earth itself. Despite the power of these billion dollar industries, we cannot allow their foolishness to distract this Ummah from its goal: the Khilafah.

    Salim Fredericks

    Source: Khilafah Magazine

    #2
    Good article bro! It is true what has been said especially highlighting the role that the media plays in a capitalist system. It is but a dangerous weapon which all muslims should be aware of and learn to see through, criticise and change by reading articles and replying to comments made against the truth and Inshallah have many muslims entering into the media to hopefully bring about change and remove the nudity that increases day by day in front of us and our children.
    JK

    Comment


      #3
      Muslims entering the media is only half a solution. The people at the top would always have a kufr agenda to promote the kufr way of life. The haram would still get through.

      The complete solution would be for Muslims to run the media to show just the Islamic point of view so as to cut haram off from the root. This can only be under the khilafah.

      Comment


        #4
        The reall solution wuold be KHILAFAT. Not by sending muslims in to the meadia if they were in the media they still have to rule by what the kufar tell them so they will not change anything by going in to media.

        Comment


          #5

          Yeah i agree,the kuffar will never allow islamic thoughts,sentiments and concepts aired in the media because it contradicts their way of life and they will do all they can to protect their way of life. And plus in the muslim world the media has muslims but they still do not portray islam. Only way that islam can be conveyed in the correct method is by the islamic state.

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