Sunday, January 6, 2013

"If ignorance is bliss, then count me out..."

This is something my boyfriend said to me after I told him about what I was thinking this morning. Here it is, are you ready?

How can I be grateful and appreciative of what I have when there are people who don't have anything in this world?

I know for some people this would make them even more appreciative of the thigns they have, but since I've learned a little bit about globalization and how the world works, it's very hard to NOT think about what goes in to our daily lives.

For example, today for breakfast I had coffee (fair trade, so no worries there), sugar in the coffee and cream, honey nut Cheerios cereal, some mango slices, and grapes. First of all, I am fortunate enough to not only have enough to eat, but a surplus of it. Every day that I go into my kitchen I think about how fortunate I am to not only have a kitchen, but have the choice of what I want to eat. 

Okay, so there's that. So let's talk about the sugar, hmm? It was Dominoes sugar, and they are absolutely not fair trade certified. They are also one of the largest sugar companies. So sugar cane is cut, often in searing hot weather, but in places where there are many poor people, so companies can take advantage of the fact that they could pay them as little as they wanted and yet the people would still take it because they are desperate. Sometimes people can end up in slavery because of this. So because my sugar that I put into my coffee isn't fair trade, that means I have no way of being sure that the people who grew, cut, and processed the sugar cane weren't exploited. Well, that makes me feel great, huh? 

Then my cereal. I won't go into detail about the ingredients of the cereal, but when I opened the large, family-sized box my uncle had gotten, I thought "how many children could this feed if they were starving?" Terrible, right? Not the fact that I thought about it, but the fact, the FACT that there are starvin children.

Now, my mango. Although I got it at a local market in Boston, the people there do not usually grow their own goods; they buy them and then sell them for a much lower price. So looking at the label of my mango, I see that it was a product of Ecuador. Alright, so let's see here. Going from my knowledge of Latin America, the government of most countries there are corrupt, if not very corrupt, and many also exploit their people (most of the times the indigenous population) by giving American and other European companies land so that they can use it for their companies. In terms of fruit, I would think that somewhat of the same process occurs, or that an American company buys out a local one or takes the land away from the farmers that were doing the work anyway, and re-employs them with terrible wages and working conditions. 

The governments of these countries feel that they are doing their country a service because they are getting paid for the land and so the money can go into the federal bank account or what ever other system they have. 

Even though I'm not entirely sure about the process that went into my mango, I can assume that because it is not fair trade or a product of a company that is, that there might have been people who were terribly paid, overworked, or that the company has a detrimental effect on the environment because of pesticides, which also hurt humans.

Wow, I know, right? And my grapes, I have absolutely no idea. 

So you see, I'm in a bit of a predicament. I want to feel grateful for what I have, I really do. And I AM. But at the same time, I am NOT grateful that the people who grew/made/produced the things that I have might have been exploited, in poverty, hungry, etc. And no, I do not know this for a fact. But, I have learned that although it is great to assume the best about large companies, there is usually something bad going on underneath the surface. The pattern of taking away land and selling it to a HUGE comapny in a country that has much poverty is extremely common. It happens all over the world, and as I write this, there is probably one such deal going on or at least being considered.

What do I do? It kind of sucks knowing that what I have was made at the expsnse of another, and am I ungrateful for thinking that is unacceptable? No, I don't think so. So, here is my predicament. If you, my friend, made it all the way down to here, I commend you, thank you for at least considering what I have to say, and appreciate you reading my posts. So for now, that is all.

Karen xx
Pin It