John Lennon famously wrote “Imagine” during a tumultuous time in the world. However, based on the essence of what it is to be human, I argue that it is always a tumultuous time in the world—some simply more than others.
The other morning, while scrolling through Instagram, I finally saw celebrities speaking out against the violence in Aleppo, Syria. However, long before the Anne Hathaways and Kaley Cuocos of Hollywood started speaking out, my newsfeed was filled with sorrow and love for the tragedy and people affected. For those in the Raleigh, NC area, many were actively working to raise funds and supplies in one day for a family arrived directly from Syria. The outpouring did not disappoint.
On this particular day, after seeing an image of the rubble in Aleppo, I was greeted with a lovely and artistic image from Dior. The contrast struck me, and once again I found myself waffling between my love of people and desire to see the world change and my love of the fashion world—especially when clothing and accessories seem so frivolous in the face of children and adults senselessly dying.
For context, let me share what first inspired me to pursue journalism. I read the April 2011 Vogue story by journalist Marisa Mazria Katz who went to Morocco to teach impoverished youth how to tell their stories, and felt called to do the same—write for the sake of truth and justice. However, it impressed me that a magazine known for fashion was the carrier of such inspiration. That was the beginning of my exploration and love of the many fascinating and, at times, controversial articles published by Vogue—a giant in the fashion industry.
Since then, I’ve enjoyed many conversations in which I was able to share why I believe it’s important to not overlook avenues that may seem unorthodox when it comes to impacting humanity—which brings me to that morning.
Imagine…what the fashion industry could do if it took a real stand against “the lions of injustice”. These are not separate realms, one being frivolous style and another being heart-wrenching deaths of people unaffected by fashion. Yes, one certainly outweighs the other, but terror does not discriminate based on the brand sewn into ones clothing. But, money does play a role in when and how quickly one can attempt to evade the horrors to which so many are currently subjected. (In fact, many of the country’s wealthiest have fled Syria to surrounding countries, and, according to Bloomberg, could even play a role in rebuilding the nation if peace could be attained.)
Of the five countries that border Syria, four of them have Christian Dior boutiques. Why is this relevant? Because it shows that contrary to the way many view the East, the same brands that don the cat walk in Paris are bought and worn there, as well. Consequently, what happens in these countries impacts the companies that reside and profit within each border. Therefore, as the adage goes, “money talks.”
If we believe that money does, in fact, talk, imagine what could happen if the multi-billion dollar fashion industry halted all preparations that are currently underway for Spring Fashion Weeks and said nothing would move forward until fighting ceases and peace is attained in the region?
Imagine what could happen if consumers boycotted buying clothes, accessories, beauty products, and more until people start engaging and speaking out against the atrocities happening? As individuals, we hold far more power than we realize—especially when we come together to work for a cause. In this case, the lives of humans suffering at the hands of fellow humans. As stated above: money talks. The people who have money are connected and influence each other. If that money flow is stopped because people are upset and want change, something is going to happen.
Syria is not the only country impacted by the war—many others have contributed by providing militarization, supplies, weapons, etc. to both the government and the rebel army. These countries are wealthy, enjoy the profits of the companies that reside within them, and would hurt economically if the fashion world decided to shut everything down until progress towards peace is made—and if the consumers stopped consuming.
The problem is: it requires sacrifice. Money will be lost. It will hurt. But, isn’t sacrifice necessary to properly fight against the powers that want to oppress and terrorize humanity? This overview of the civil war by Al Jazeera makes it clear that people protesting against injustice was not tolerated, thus leading to the past five years of fighting. However, if the rest of world rallied and said, “we will go without until justice is served and peace reinstated”, the shockwaves would go out, corporations would feel the pain, whole cities and countries would know how serious the world is about no longer tolerating such actions.
The question is: are people willing to go without in order to fight for something greater than themselves? Are they willing to go beyond posting on social media and stop shopping? Are they willing to give and open up themselves, their communities, and even their homes to help those with less?
I’m asking myself these same questions. What am I willing to give up to help other people? I’m reminded of my great-grandparents who took in a young Hungarian refugee family after WWII. Am I willing and/or able to open my home to strangers? If I can’t, am I willing to send funds, supplies, or help coordinate assistance to those suffering and in need? Am I willing to forego buying from entities that refuse to stand up against tyranny and instead profit off places supporting suppression of expression of beliefs and values?
I hope I can say “yes” and act. I want to challenge myself and you to know what is being supported by the purchases we make and the things we do…beyond the square of Instagram.