Something’s Gotta Give. (Part II)

>>> After rereading this blog, I realized it is much more of a call to action (perhaps for myself) than a spilling of my thoughts. But the call to action pours directly out of my thoughts, concerns, and internal conflicts. So instead of only laying out my mental musings, this blog post presents somewhat tangible reactions to those thoughts, which help illuminate the thoughts even more. <<<

Maybe after reading Part I of “Something’s Gotta Give” (scroll under this post if you haven’t read it yet) you think something like: ‘Giving to those in need is good, but I still want to buy gifts for friends and family. Even if they don’t need them, it shows I care.’ Yes, gifts are a great way to show you care, and this too can be done in ways that benefit others.

Perhaps the worst effect of consumerism is that it can contribute to the suffering of others. This has begun to disturb me to the point that I can’t look at purchases or even gifts I receive the same way. The other morning I unwrapped an advent gift and found a beautiful pair of silver earrings. But here’s what happened in my mind: “Those are so pretty. Were they made in a sweatshop?”

You see, “Those were so pretty” came first. My initial reaction was still one of consumerism, or more positively, a reaction to superficial beauty.

But what lies beneath the façade of beautiful jewelry? Is it a working child? An underpaid mother? If the jewelry is created in such a way that devalues humans and strips them of their beauty or their dignity, how can the end result be sincerely beautiful? How can I wear those earrings without thinking of the slaves who made them? Or the underpaid and starving people who operate the machinery they’re produced on? Something has to give.

This leads me to my unabashed call for fair trade purchases. Fair trade includes environmental concerns, forbids child labor and forced labor, and pays fair prices to producers or artisans. (See the link at the bottom for a complete list of fair trade standards.[i]) Forced labor is especially common in coffee and chocolate production, where fair trade has perhaps gotten the most publicity. Other organizations offer fair trade clothing, jewelry, toys, and more (some example companies are listed below).

I’ve recently been learning more about fair trade products, and am trying to make more fair trade purchases. It can be challenging, and I haven’t yet found a way to do so with all or even most purchases, but it’s definitely something worth working towards.

Many of you may be done shopping for the holiday season, but if there are still people on your list, would you consider one of the fair trade organizations listed below? When you give to family and friends, would you consider also giving dignity and livelihood to those who produced the good? What a blessing this could be!

Fair Trade Organizations:
(Some products are more expensive than others, if you’re looking for a great deal you’ve got to shop around – but isn’t that true of most places?)

>>> Please comment below with any thoughts or ideas. Thanks for reading! <<<

Fairtrade cotton farmer, Ibrahim Keita, 28, in Batimakana, Kita, Mali©Simon Rawles

Fairtrade cotton farmer, Ibrahim Keita, 28, in Batimakana, Kita, Mali
©Simon Rawles