I love chocolate, of course. We all do. Today just happens to be National Chocolate Day, so it’s obvious that chocolate is appreciated by many. Maybe it’s because it boosts serotonin levels, somehow causing my brain to produce more of the “happy” neuro-chemical. Maybe it’s because in my body’s inherent wisdom, I wisely crave the cocoa bean’s antioxidant rich micro-nutrients (though if you’ve ever tasted 100% raw cocoa, you know that’s not true! yuck). More likely, it’s because it’s combined with so much sugar and cocoa fat that it stimulates both the yin and the yang ends of the macrobiotic food cravings spectrum. But whatever the reason, one of life’s little pleasures is enjoying a few bites of a good chocolate bar every once in a while (OK, a lot of bites and on a regular basis).
But the problem is, it’s NOT a simple pleasure. Nothing is simple anymore. It turns out that many of the world’s major chocolate companies have been buying their cocoa from Western African cocoa growers who use child slave labor to harvest and process their crops! Not only that, but when this all came out in 2001, companies like Nestle, Hershey’s and Mars plead ignorance and resisted regulatory laws calling for mandatory “slave free” labeling and pledged to regulate themselves to put an end to this atrocity in their supply chain and to end child slave labor by 2005. As the linked article states: “It turned out, they didn’t do much. It’s 2015 and there are now more child slaves than there were in 2001. 51% more, in fact. There are now 1.4 million children carrying back-breaking sacks of cacao, having their bodies whipped and beaten and crushing themselves from dawn to dusk for no pay.”
My heart breaks. I cannot abide by this, I cannot support companies who callously ignore the suffering of innocent people for profit. I cannot stand to accept a world where this injustice occurs!
So – I did my research and found a list of Slave Free Chocolate companies and I downloaded my Chocolate List app from the Food Empowerment Project. I went on line and found End Slavery Now and Walk Free and signed ALL their petitions and shared them on Facebook. OK. Crisis averted. I can once again enjoy my massive amounts of chocolate slave-free style!
The problem is, this happens with practically EVERYTHING.
This video from Follow the Frog is one of the funniest social action videos I have ever seen. But it accurately captures what I feel like sometimes.
Like the protagonist in this video, I, too, recycle, reduce, reuse, buy organic, eat vegan, think globally and act locally. I even use non-disposable menstrual pads and Thinx period panties, ok? I menstruate consciously!
Sometimes I just feel like it shouldn’t be so hard to be a good person in this world! It shouldn’t be so complicated to buy food or goods without being a part of atrocities perpetuated on fellow humans or innocent voiceless animals. It shouldn’t be a full time job to make sure that my daily actions aren’t contributing to environmental catastrophes or unspeakable labor crimes.
I can’t buy that $5 t-shirt at Wal-Mart without supporting both unfair wages in the U.S. and abusive child-labor in Bangladesh. So, I buy a $32 t-shirt from Sudara made by women rescued from sex slavery.
The only fast-food joint I can go to is Chipotle without contributing to massive factory farm animal cruelty and the toxification of low-income food choices. It’s not even safe to buy “Cage-Free” eggs, because the factory farms simply removed the metal cages, and instead cram the living birds into barns so full that the chickens still can’t spread their wings, go outside or live any semblance of a normal chicken life. And even “Certified Organic” eggs only guarantee each hen a space of 18 square inches and kill those chicks unfortunate enough to be hatched male in a grinder, so I just gave up and decided to go vegan.
I can’t buy craft supplies from Hobby Lobby because their owners are imposing their personal religious beliefs about birth control onto their thousands of female employees who are grown-ass-women and should be able to make their own decisions about their own lady parts with their own lady brains. I can’t even donate money to charitable organizations supposedly set up to help people without checking them on something like The Charity Navigator or I might support something as benign sounding as the Children’s Charity Fund where only 9.1% of their donations actually help the children!
So, I end up having one app for slave-free chocolate, another app for Humane Eating, the Good Guide app for checking product ethical scores and a whole list of Top Ten Socially Responsible apps. If 13 apps aren’t enough for you, here is a list of 83. But I just can’t use 96 apps every time I make a purchase! It’s enough to drive you crazy. But what’s the alternative? Apathy is not an option. Endless senseless suffering is not acceptable.
Truly, the only way out of this insanity is to change our society as a whole – to change our collective consciousness! And before you say I’m a dreamer – it IS possible!
Recently, I spent 10 days in my native Sweden. It was lovely. For many reasons. One being that I felt like I could go about my life without trying SO HARD to make conscious decisions that wouldn’t destroy the environment or harm people and animals around the world.
I could drink the tap water knowing that it didn’t contain anything toxic, and it even tasted delicious! I didn’t have to refill my BPA free 5 gallon jugs with filtered water to combat the American plastic water bottle frenzy. I didn’t have to bring my recyclables home from work to be sure they don’t end up in a landfill. Sweden recycles EVERYTHING and less than 1% of it’s trash ends up in landfills – and this is how the whole system is set up, it’s not done by counter-culture activists. Sweden enacted a Farm Animal Bill of Rights in 1988 and every animal in the country has a legal right to be outside each day. The agencies that regulate food and consumer products actually work to protect people’s health – in Sweden and most European countries, there are nearly 1400 chemicals that are not allowed in face creams for health and safety standards while the U.S. has banned only eleven.
And yes, Sweden still has societal issues, prejudices and growing discrimination towards refugees. But overall, I felt like I could relax! I felt like I was surrounded by a general consciousness of care, compassion and common sense! And I felt like I wouldn’t unknowingly contribute to cruelty and greed if I didn’t check my 96 apps. And like Bernie says, we can learn from how other societies like Sweden and Denmark have implemented societal change.
So, we can do the same in the US. We can do the same worldwide! It’s about LOVE. It’s about recognizing that we as humans mostly WANT to do good. Most people are good people. And we can all start making the world a more peaceful place one person at a time and we can insist that our social and economic systems reflect the basic human values that any normal person would attest to. We can change our “business as usual” to be more like socially advanced countries and not accept anything less. We can educate each other and love one another.
At our core, humanity is GOOD and we are meant to love our neighbors and to fill this world with millions of examples of God’s Love because we are made in God’s image – we have LOVE at the center of our beings.
This morning, on National Chocolate Day, I read yesterday’s Richard Rohr Daily Meditation on Martin Luther King, Jr. where he wrote:
The problem is not first of all “the flesh” or personal sin, but systemic evil and structural, disguised violence. As King writes: “It is evil we are seeking to defeat, not the persons victimized by evil. Those of us who struggle against racial injustice must come to see that the basic tension is not between races. . . . The tension is at bottom between justice and injustice, between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. . . . At the center of nonviolence stands the principle of love. . . .” Like Gandhi, King was hopeful because he saw God’s love as the foundation of existence…. We must never forget that there is something within human nature that can respond to goodness, that man is not totally depraved; to put it in theological terms, the image of God is never totally gone.
So, as I adjust my chocolate habit to conform with the love in my heart that truly cares for children in Africa I have never met – I remind myself that changing our consciousness is the radical solution that gets to the root of the problem. And instead of despairing or tearing my hair out, I can fill my heart with love and have my hair, and every other part of me, express compassion! I can have my emotional impact and my actions reflect love. Empathy is our natural state – it’s in our neurons and our DNA. Peace is possible. Evil is like pee in the ocean of good. And Love always wins!