All of us like to think that we are generally good employees, friends, spouses, mothers, fathers, students, and citizens. While optimism can motivate us to be more confident and productive, misguided optimism and wearing rose-coloured glasses when assessing our own character can provide us a grand disservice.
Our society has created a culture of disconnection. No longer do we kill the animals we eat or plant the seeds that provide us with vegetables. Due to high government regulations it is illegal to even sell your cow’s milk to a neighbour! We play video games and watch movies to feel adventure instead of sailing out on an open ocean or trekking into the wild to confront our fears. Facebook, texting, and even blogging (yes, I realize the irony) have replaced a knock on a friend’s door. We are more informed, educated, cyber-connected and efficient, but this ultimately results in a culture of disconnection.
When consumerism is paired with a culture of disconnection, a market for exploitation begins to take shape. Yes, there is a reason you got ‘such a good deal’ on those jeans, jacket, or shirt. Yes, someone did pick the coffee beans you now enjoy in your americano. No, it is not a coincidence the same countries appear on label after label when you check for laundry instructions on your clothing. People around the world sacrifice more, more, more while we buy more for less, less, less.
Why am I talking about this on a blog about sex trafficking? Because one of the root causes of trafficking is poverty. Buying products for a ‘good deal’ reinforces the market for exploitation. Families in India, China, Thailand, the Philippines, Honduras, Mexico, Ethiopia, and the Ivory Coast are struggling to support themselves with the meager wages earned from making us clothes, coffee, tea, and other products. The global economic structure does not allow them to compete fairly with Western countries, which embeds poverty into communities…and poverty makes people do desperate things.
Like selling a daughter to a brothel owner so at least some children in the family can be fed.
Like searching for jobs overseas and getting enticed by traffickers who make false promises.
Whether we like to think about it or not, our daily choices have an impact on those we have disconnected ourselves from. I recently decided not to buy chocolate that is not fair trade. Yes, I pay more for a chocolate bar which means I eat less chocolate. But regular chocolate, despite its sweetness, began to taste bitter on my tongue as I thought about the labourers who were exploited so that I could have a snack with my tea.
Here’s a revolutionary concept: Let’s consume less, buy wisely, and give more.
It does cost to be a good global citizen. Please don’t be fooled: your optimism about how ‘good’ you really are can lead you astray. If you do decide to wear rose-coloured glasses, make sure you remove them every once-in-a-while to ensure you are not stepping on any wayward petals. I am trying my best to do the same.