02 December, 2010

Will We Do What We Say?

I've had a conundrum in my head for a while now. There is an ever growing movement among us to put "fair trade" in the forethought of our spending habits. (How many people actually know what fair trade is beyond being a trendy concept and a sticker on one type at coffee at their favorite coffee place?) 

So there is this movement, if you will, to care. To say that we believe that workers around the world should be paid fairly, work reasonable hours and not be pulled into bonded labor. We expect this treatment – but we don't demand it. We think it's a nice concept, but don't change our lifestyle over it.

And that's the rub. In the last few months I have become increasingly annoyed at people who talk and don't do. People who say they want to help – but don't adjust their budget to accommodate helping, or people who treat what's happening in the world like tea time conversation.

Pompus, maybe. But to say you care but not act is like being an elephant in a china shop. You destroy more than you help. You leave behind a devastating wake that is worse than your apathy.

I almost fainted at an event last summer where an organization was raising money to end sex trafficking. A woman raised her hand and asked about forced labor. The man's response - in a nutshell - was forced labor was too hard, they were sticking to sex slaves. At least he was honest, I guess. 

I have read, and I wish I could find the link, that fair trade isn't sustainable, or doesn't do much to help the local economy. Kevin Bales often says you are not going to change things from the production line. 

If we honestly went to fair trade (which I think is trendy and doesn't actually encompass what needs to change). Would we truly be willing to pay the cost? Would we be willing to pay for vegetables what it would take for a fair waged harvester to do the job? Would we pay more for a shirt because everyone along the production line got a decent wage? 

Don't be too quick to say yes - because I don't think most people actually would.

Most people in this country shop at Wal-Mart, it's cheap, easy, convenient and I would venture most of the products there are made by slave labor. Are we really willing to give up that luxury? Or is it just easier to buy a pound of fair trade coffee and say, "we support the cause?" 

How far are you willing to be inconvenienced or change your life to truly help the lives of others?