This class hinges on two lines of thought: the first is being aware of what happens in the vast unknown of the world we live in. All the data, empirical evidence, anecdotal evidence, stories and articles that you can lay hands on bringing to light the “wicked problems of industrial practice”, for which this course is named for. It’s important to know what our corporations and economic forces and organizations are doing behind closed doors, sure, and it’s important to understand that we live in a world painted grey in places where we assume black and white wouldn’t bleed into each other. I’m sure you can relate to the visceral reaction when you read about “how our ecosystems are being abused”, “how X is violating human rights” or “the economy we exist in conflicts with human nature because X.” All the information that was put on our plate this semester, from the articles we read to DicapriBro’s movie lines, elicit a response of fear and urgency. I think this works as a pro in the sense that it mobilizes us to be more passionate about the world we live in and to continue to educate ourselves about the state of current decision making.
That being said, the subject matter of this class is severely limited in the time required to actually meaningfully wrap our heads around the processes that got us here and understand industry on a more intimate level of “why is this going on today?” versus “this industry practice sucks and it should stop.” The more I buried my head in the articles, the more questions I had, the less I realized I knew for fact, the less I realized the people who write about these issues know for a fact, and the more I realized time was ticking closer to each due date. The more I learned, the more I feared that if I end up in a position of substantial decision making, who’s to say I wouldn’t choose my family’s financial well-being over some kids I’ve never met somewhere across the world? Who’s to say that just because I took a class in college, all of a sudden my perspective has shifted and now I can swing my proverbial weight around and change the way people & systems fundamentally work? I think it’s important to feel empowered to do the right thing in any given situation, but gone unchecked, how exactly are you less naïve then you were before?
Which brings me to the second line of thought that we’ve emphasized this semester: Mindfulness. How is this related to problems of industrial practice? Who truly knows. Maybe the hypothesis is that people who made decisions that ended up harming our planet lacked it, maybe it’s the idea that if we exercise it, we’ll think of every variable to consider when creating the technologies and practices that change our world for the better. Maybe it’ll teach us to be kinder and more sympathetic to each other, or maybe it’ll be a useful tool in reducing stress in overwhelming situations so that we can get our priorities straight. Maybe it’s all of that and more, but there’s a reason here why mindfulness and empirical data are being taught simultaneously, and here’s my takeaway. There’s nothing I can do right now to help people who are abused by their governments. There’s nothing I can do right now to help equalize opportunity for those working in sweatshops. There’s nothing I can do right now to change what kind of energy powers our grid, and there’s definitely nothing I can do to change anybody’s mind. I mean, I feel like right now all I can do is try and write 1000 words before 10pm for three people to read and move on with their lives, but I digress. There’s beauty in our freedom and our autonomy, and as we get older and become more educated and responsible, our means and scope by which we influence people will change over time. We know it’s important to set a positive example for people. To “do the right thing.” To try to make the world a little more beautiful and interesting with us in it. To follow the basic underlying principle of trade that I half remember from one of the articles: “trade should leave all parties involved better off than they were before” or something to that effect.
I would say that I thoroughly enjoyed this course. I love discussions, and playing devil’s advocate and putting my opinion out on the table to see how people react, whether it’s poking holes in my shortsightedness or agreeing with the sentiment, or even both. I love watching ideas battle to the death and seeing what floats to the surface. Some things I’d like to know more about and be involved in moving forward is the clothing industry in general, the systems in place, more about manufacturing, the effects of pollutants on the environment, and the barriers that get in the way of positive change. As an apparel design major I’m interested in smaller brands (and eventually, bigger conglomerates) utilizing technology to cut labor costs, save materials, and provide consumers with better quality products than the current standards. I find myself excited to see what the world in 20 years when our generation has moved into higher positions in industry, politics, social services, sustainability and what not would look like, and how the gaps in our peripherals will be criticized by future generations.