Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Where does your Sugar come From?

I just watched part one of "Big Sugar," a documentary by Brian McKenna.

The modern day slave story of the sugar plantation workers of the biggest sugar-producing companies in the world, which is an American company. The extreme difference of realities for the sugar plantation workers and the owner of the company is astounding.

On one hand you have the owner living in Florida, being driven around in a luxury automobile, living in one of the most expensive places in the state, eating at fine dining restaurants, throwing extravagant charity events for the rich and famous and when asked about the workers of his company, denying the conditions for life of the workers on the plantation that are sustaining his company, his profits and thus his lifestyle.

On the other hand you have the labor of the men forced to take work on one side of an island that, once promised a better life through the opportunity of employment, their passports are taken away and thus are stuck, working for the plantation and stateless. They are monitored by 'sheriffs' and tear up any gardens in the area and so cannot grow their own vegetables, they are charged by the owners of the company they work for, for their source of groceries from a small shop in the village, which is twice as much as it is in the city. They go into the fields every morning without food and at the end of the day, up to 16 people must eat from the same pot.

For every ounce of sugar in your cookies, brownies, birthday cakes, dairy, meat and anything else we throw sugar into – the existence of slavery continues. In a land that thought it abolished slavery over 150 years ago – still an American company serves up its product by virtue of the slaves it employs, while the consumer is none the wiser.

This is the reality in which we live – where what we buy and consume exists on a shelf in the super market that we do not consider comes from a long process that once began by a human being forgoing their basic human rights to simply make it through another day.

Have we ever considered following the trail to see what gives us our sugar high? Does the history in which the sugar industry has developed interest us whatsoever? Or have we so sufficiently been sedated by our buzz from sucrose, that we do not care to question, investigate, rip open even the reality of how our world exists - where our products come from and who currently must suffer to sustain the lifestyles of the rich and the few.

In this documentary – the owner of the American company suggest that one cannot compare the living standards of those on the island of Hispaniola (Dominic Republic and Haiti) to that of American standards – that they have done enough simply by providing jobs for the workers that would otherwise be unemployed.

Here we must realize that to simply work is not a solution or even a privilege in which the company owner is providing – it is a human right for all to be able to work as that is currently the means in which one makes the money to survive and the ability to survive is a basic human right - access to sufficient food, water and shelter. And then of course – for one to have a job that is not in alignment with standards that ALL persons would be willing to accept and allow themselves to work in, then it is not sufficient in supporting the dignity all people have a right to in their working conditions.

It is not enough for us to give a person a job. It is our responsibility and duty to ensure that job does not cause unnecessary harm or prevention of one being able to practically sustain their life and the life of their family. For every one ton of sugar cane that ONE MAN cuts a day they receive the equivalent of $2 US dollars a day. Does this seem like a fair wage for you? Is this a living wage? Is this a practical wage that honors the real work of the physical labor of the human being in which ALL products and service move in our reality? Have we misplaced the value in which we create what we offer to consumers? How is it the owner of the company reaps the most benefit in terms of quality of life when the men doing the physical, hard labor day in and day out see the bare minimum of what they sow? This is in reverse and one of the core problems we have on earth wherein we are not equally valuing or even placing the actual value that we measure with money in the hands of those that are doing the actual work – the actual labor. Human labor is the greatest resource we have and here, in this documentary, we have a clear example of how it is being exploited and used to enslave many while enriching a few. 

Investigate the Equal Life Foundation and the proposal for a Living Income Guaranteed where all are sufficiently supported and honored with their basic human rights - where they have the ability to provide themselves with food, water, shelter, education, health care - all things one would like for themselves and would be living a standard less than what is best for them without such things. 

Investigate your world, educate yourself about what you consume. Become part of a solution and no longer be blind to how we have come to accept and allow as the design of our world -  let us be the ones to re-design it into what is best for all. 

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