As I was making smores the other day, I read this article, (one of several I’ve read recently), about how our chocolate is made. Here’s one telling quote from an article on the topic in the Daily Beast.
Many of the children are sold into slavery, some for less than $30; others are kidnapped or tricked into thinking it’s a real job, the complaint alleges. Once there, the children are allegedly trapped on isolated farms, threatened with physical abuse, required to work when they are sick, and denied sufficient food….
Mistrati…said he witnessed child slave labor firsthand—and believes it can be stopped quickly. “Mars, Hershey, and Nestle have had every opportunity to stop the trafficking of children and illegal child slaves,” he said. “I have seen small children, 6 years old, being trafficked from Mali to Ivory Coast. It was so heartbreaking to watch. But the companies have not had the will to end it for many years. Only empty words and expensive advertising instead of using money to pay back to the children on the ground in West Africa.”
So, if all of us would agree that child slave labor is unequivocally evil, then why do we walk into stores looking for smores and leave having sponsored the exploitation of children? As Peter Rollins points out, it’s not that we don’t believe in child labor, it’s that we only believe that we don’t believe in child labor.
Take the example of buying chocolate from a corner shop. If I know, or suspect, that the chocolate is made from coco beans picked by children under the conditions of slavery then, regardless of what I say, I believe in child slavery. For the belief operates at a material level (the level of what I do) rather than at the level of the mind (what I tell myself I believe). And I can’t hide in supposed ignorance either for if I don’t know about how most chocolate is made it is likely that my lack of knowledge is a form of refusal to care. For the very fact that there is Fair Trade chocolate, for example, should be enough for me to ask questions about whether other chocolate is made in an unfair way.
This is the moral danger of living in the most powerful nation in the world. Our way of life is predicated upon the exploitation of others for our gain, whether that be driving cars whose ecological cost is paid by other regions of the world, buying ten dollar jeans made in a sweatshop, or getting a cheap chocolate bar made by child slaves.
We have to actively work *not* to harm other when we participate in our economy. Sometimes, doing so may be just plain impossible. I hope that this genuinely troubles every time you roast smores in your backyard during these waning days of summer.
It genuinely troubles me.
After saying all of that, I opened the cabinet in my kitchen today and what do I find?
Here’s hoping we all learn how to do better.