Brian Edwards Media

‘Suffer the little children!’ Before you tuck into those chocolate Easter eggs, take a look at this.

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    Truth can be complex as some of the comments on this article illustrate.

  2. And here:

  3. Alan, most of these arguments were advanced in the 19th century in the UK to justify 10 year old children working in cotton mills or going down coal mines. Humanity has not advanced a great deal. As long as we can have our chocolate (or our cheap computers/phones/clothing) we conveniently close our eyes to the conditions under which these products are made.

    There is an enormous difference between the kids of Switzerland skipping merrily to the sound of cow bells to help gather in the grape harvest for a bit of pocket money, to the kids of the Ivory coast who probably live in abject poverty being ‘forced’ (and that is the operative word) to pick the beans. But why should we care? As long as they get some schooling in between that’s alright then. And if they happen to live in conditions little better than a Gulag, why should we worry?

    And before you say it, yes, I am a bloody hypocrite. I like my comfortable western lifestyle and a bar of chocolate, as much as the next guy, but it does not make it right. If we really wanted to eliminate child labour we could do it, (in spite of the mealy mouthed comments from a Nestle representative) in the same way as reformers made sure kids did not have to go up chimneys or down coal mines.

  4. Ben, kids routinely work on farms here too. Rural life is different from city life. And as another comment points out, Asian families routinely work together. Different cultures have very different expectations.

    Also you continue to buy chocolate and that continues to give poor families a living. Stop buying and they starve.

    If we really wanted to eliminate child labour we could do it, (in spite of the mealy mouthed comments from a Nestle representative)

    Only by starving them as above. The Fairtrade responses point out the reality that change can only be progressive and gradual given the complexities.

    (See Afghanistan if you need further proof of the difficulties in forcing Western morals on other cultures.)

  5. ‘Children required for chimney sweeping in the Bay’. Only applicants under 12 years with own brush and lunch and willing to work 10 hours for 50 cents a day need apply. Contact Alan W your friendly free enterprise western culture BOI child labour contractor.

  6. “Different cultures have very different expectations”

    When someone can definitively analyse WHY cultures grow differently (even from similar starting points) we may get somewhere in dealing with the dichotomies *.
    Meantime, it is what it is.
    * my own humble guess is that religion has always been the main problem, and it’s a question of how quickly the culture can grow away from it.

  7. Kat, how did you know? I do need my chimney swept!

    But relax and go back to munching your chocolate Easter eggs because it will be the usual adult contractor I expect.

  8. There is no excuse for such behaviors.Culture is not an excuse.Comparing children here (rural or urban)with this cannot sustain scrutiny.Profit being a driving force ,the fairer distribution of it would help impliment a better lifestyle for the victims in this industry.Chocolate may still cost a similar amount but an overpaid upper echelon of executives might have to limit their lifetyles.

  9. pjr, different cultures don’t care that you think they have no excuse. They will just do their thing anyway. Organisations like Fairtrade and even some large corporates are trying to bring about change on the ground. You can support them or not as you wish.

  10. Does anyone REALLY believe the west should go through life bullying other cultures into doing things the “right” way?

    Some people don’t buy battery eggs because they don’t approve of the chook’s conditions. Others don’t eat meat because they think it’s unfair on the lambs. If you don’t approve of child labour and want to deny Third World families their (probable) only source of income, stop eating chocolate and start wearing jandals.

  11. Alan, since you appear to justify the use of child labour on the grounds that families would otherwise starve, you would have no problem with third world families who sell their children into prostitution because of dire poverty.

    It must be alright because it keeps the families fed, and in between being raped and learning about “western morals” the children can go to school and learn their three times table. I am not sure that the children of Switzerland and rural New Zealand participate in this quaint custom but you will possibly know the answer to that.

    All these so called ‘Fair Trade’ organisations achieve is the continuation of child exploitation while at the same time make those who buy the chocolate, etc, feel better about their little indulgence.

  12. And, Zinc, don’t feel left out because my commnets are also aimed at you. No of course the west should not bully other cultures into doing things the right way. God forbid; if we did that we might have to go without what we hve come to regard as the necessities of life, not to mention ruin tourism to Thailand for a certain example of western culture. You just carry on indulging yourself and bugger the rest of the world

  13. Zinc April 6th, 2012 at 14:04 : Does anyone REALLY believe the west should go through life bullying other cultures into doing things the “right” way? ”

    Zinc, explain to me why the West INVENTED the modern world, and stop whinging. You don’t know how lucky you are to have been born where (I assume) you were. The hypocrisy in statements like yours is, paradoxically, both juvenile and profound.

    pjr April 6th, 2012 at 12:07 : “…Culture is not an excuse.”

    Indeed it is not – especially as we have now shown, in the modern world, what can REALLy be achieved if you’re prepared to throw off primitive shackles. What excuse has Africa now, after so many years of post-Mandela “reconstruction” Culture will out – and it will drag you backwards if you let it.

  14. the wealthy elite in these countries would not allow their own children to suffer slavery. yet they, the rich, look away and provide little help to welfare workers who represent slaves – adults and children.or silence advocates for the downtrodden.

    the rich from these countries embrace the western culture, in my experience.
    i have been to a pakistani’s grand polo party and met an arab prince big in racehorses. in fact , i insulted him, he said, by guessing at his request to have a stab at his country of origin. i said india.dear me. bit of a clanger in front of lady blah blah and some other duck but he WAS in western mufti!!!!!!

    in any case, the world is small and western nations should snarl at these nations/ businesses/ individuals who are cruel and exploiting. these countries leaders and their wealthy supporters know what the good life is (in the extreme) and are happy to subscribe to the niceties of the west. so the west should duly point out subscribers’ rules.
    they are not going to listen to any rules though are they, cos that’s why many are so rich and ‘western’.

  15. If those in third world nations enjoyed their wages and conditions, then there would not be a steady stream of immigrants from those countries coming to the west to enjoy their wages and conditions and living standards.

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    Ben: “All these so called ‘Fair Trade’ organisations achieve is the continuation of child exploitation while at the same time make those who buy the chocolate, etc, feel better about their little indulgence.”

    Evidence, or mere assertion? From what I have seen and heard that is simply untrue.

    As for the rest, I didn’t say child labour was ok, merely that it is better than starvation. You may disagree, but your table is not empty.

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    millsy, the immense migration of rural Chinese to the cities shows that working for the corporates Ben and bje despise is preferable to the alternative.

    But of course you are correct that escaping to the developed world is the most preferred option.

  18. human rights we are talking here. we all know what they mean but if we are short changed somehow, over providing them for the unrepresented, then some complain.
    and don’t tell me what i despise alan. you are being presumptuous.

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    bje, apologies if I misinterpreted what you said:

    these nations/ businesses/ individuals who are cruel and exploiting”

  20. oh for goodness sake – read it properly alan.

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    bje, reading it doesn’t translate it from the vaguely general to the specific. I withdraw my apology since you try to exploit that.

    Are you critical of Nestlé and Fairtrade or not?

  22. bastard film and tv daringly created this piece. their vision of stopping the child slave trade may have been advanced through its distribution.
    it puts the ball into the court of the multi billion dollar top end in the makes these global chocolate companies complicit in the trafficing and invites them to do something to abide by what they have signed.
    it says they are part of the problem. it says they have the financial reserves to makes a positive change for basic human rights.
    its a straight forward premise -inviting collaborative action.

  23. Ben – my point is that in respect of Third World child labour, you and I may have ethics but they can’t afford ‘em.

    I don’t eat chocolate but if you and half a million others who do were to down Easter Eggs today forever I doubt if a single child would be sent off to school. It’s only them what’s working can afford the education anyway.

    There’re cultural differences on every continent, and two billion westeners giving up chocolate, tobacco, sports shoes and hand-knotted oriental rugs isn’t going to change that much. Mostly, people in thoise situations, however terrible they seem to us, lead happy and fulfilled lives in total ignorance of Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion, and Pythagoras’ Theorum. Jungle Law doesn’t fit into the streets of Parnell any better than the reverse.

    If you want to change the world, the best way is to get all the Western politicians to set up a pressure group. Next best option: raise some cash, build a school in a clearing somewhere and compensate the families concerned for their lost income while you teach theis kids English.

    Your extrapolation to the child sex slave trade is most offensive but valid, though not what we’re discussing here. Given the political will, it would certainly be a lot easier to stamp out.

  24. Its about fair employment.I dont think beggars on the streets of calcutta think their life is happy and fulfilled.I feel confident child labourers dont feel happy or fulfilled in these situations.I would imagine 2 billion westerners giving up chocolate (for the particular reason of child labour)would definitely grab Nestles attention.Ethics are laws that can and should fit into any society.

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    pjr, that’s about as useful as saying a comet striking the earth would get Nestle’s attention. And that is actually more likely.

    And ethics are not laws, and they do differ with cultures and circumstances.

  26. Alan the comment was addressed to Zincs asumption that 2 billion Westerners wouldnt make a difference.Ethics are not the same as doing whatever society accepts.Cultures and circumstances can act unethically which is exactly what Brian has alluded to here.

  27. If there’s a far bigger form of exploitation than cocoa beans, it’d have to be farm subsidies in various G20 nations, most notably the Common Agricultural Policy. What does it mean when avowed leftists like John Pilger are calling for cuts in farm subsidies?

  28. pjr – I’ve been on the streets of Calcutta and numerous other Indian cities – it’s not food the beggars want, it’s money. Offer them a bread or fruit and they won’t even take it, but if they dare go back to their masters without cash, all hell lets loose.

    With this in mind the child labourers of the hinterland will surely feel fulfilled?

    Education’s the only route to freedom – we both know that. I’m as keen as anyone to get kids out of child labour, but you have to do so in a way that benefits their whole society without offending their culture. So far I’ve not seen one solution, viable or otherwise, offered from anyone on this site.

  29. Cultural offence may be an unavoidable side effect of having a morally beneficial society.I would doubt either of these groups (beggars or child laborers)would feel fufilled but as I have never been there I can not be sure.Education is only part of the answer ,with viable opportunity into employment required to make education worthwhile in this society.The masters of Nestles etc have an opportunity to assist in this process to the detriment of their personal wealth,not a great loss in my book.

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    Alan Wilkinson challenges Ben “Evidence, or mere assertion?”

    This is novel. From the previous thread:

    “I doubt many Asians at Sky City will have come from poor communities.”

    Evidence or mere assertion?

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    Number Eleven, I asserted that I doubt. No further evidence necessary. You can prove my doubt unfounded if you wish. That wouldn’t alter the fact that I doubted, though it would of course change my mind about the source of Asians at Sky City.

    Ben made a derogatory assertion about Fairtrade as a matter of fact, not belief or supposition. I believe his assertion is factually wrong since Fairtrade is acting on the issue:

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    So it seems is Nestlé: