I’ve run up against something I didn’t know about that should have been on my radar. I’m deeply disturbed, convicted, and dumb.
It’s also hard to write when you have too strong an agenda.
I’m pissed. I want to preach, to rant, to tell everyone what they should do – not particularly compelling reading.
About thirty minutes after I heard the symphony of trucks on Monday, I heard a report on Marketplace that disturbed me, to say the least. The story had to do with a lawsuit filed against Nestle, Cargill, and Archer Daniels Midland for their connection to child slavery on the cocoa farms in Ivory Coast. The suit is being brought on behalf of three boys who escaped the horror, with hopes that it will become a class action lawsuit to move these corporations beyond “studying the problem,” which they have been doing for years, to moving to a fair trade model that would not allow for slavery in any form.
I had no idea.
Some of the specifics I heard in the story and found in some other material are:
70% of the cocoa used in America comes from Ivory Coast;
90% of the cocoa grown in Ivory Coast is connected to child slavery;
though new to me, it’s not a new problem.
I’ve spent the last hour chasing down links, trying to learn more. I’m overwhelmed by what I’ve found. Rather than repeat it all, I offer these links so you can read for yourself.
“Why slavery still exists: those along the ‘chocolate chain’ put blame on someone else”
“Chocolate and Slavery”
“Fair Trade Chocolate”
I’m just trying to figure out what to do with the fact that I’m killing children when I buy M&M’s.
Unfortunately, there’s no hyperbole in that statement. Tim Bergquist, president of International Chocolate Company, said it this way: “Every time one closes his eyes and buys a product made by children, then he is also responsible. He becomes an accomplice.”
Ginger, my wife, put it more succinctly: “No more chocolate.”
And Valentine’s Day is next week. This year we’ll be skipping the Reese’s Hearts.
Every trip to the supermarket, it seems, is a test of faith. Globalization means that my picking up grapes from Chile in the dead of winter means some poor farmer is taking it in the face. I have more fresh produce available to me in the dead of a New England winter than the people who live in the countries that grow the stuff ever get to see themselves. So I’ve joined the growing band of folks who are working hard to figure out how to eat more locally and challenge the big corporations.
But this chocolate thing goes to a whole different level.
Children are being sold as slaves, being beaten and killed for not working fast enough, just so I have ninety-seven inexpensive candy options when I step up to the register at CVS. Kids are dying for candy.
What in hell are we doing?
I know I’m late to the game in adding my voice to the chorus of concerned folks demanding change. But now I know and I can’t keep quiet.
When I lived in Dallas, my roommate and I decided to make a concerted effort to quit adding salt to our food, since both of us came from families with heart issues. We decided the best way to do it was to quit calling it salt; we called it “White Death.” If we wanted to salt our food, we had to say, “Please pass the White Death.” We soon cured ourselves of the desire to use the stuff.
Maybe it’s time to say, “You want a Child Killer?” instead of “You want a candy bar?”
I know this is raw. It’s how I feel.