A New Standard And An End To Shrugging

So 2012. As those of you following along at home may recall, my goal this year is to make each new monthly topic somehow relate to the welfare of kids. I know in January I’ve been mainly recapping the ongoing pbsc transplant thing, but I want to get in a few kid entries if I can.  So let’s call January the month where I map out some ideas for the rest of the year….

For some reason, I’ve read a few articles this week about child labor and sweatshop labor in China (Foxconn, look into it…) and in the African chocolate industry. I’ve read about this stuff and even blogged about it before. You know about it, too, perhaps.

I got discouraged by the comments after the articles. A lot  “They need to feed their families. And it’s better than sex slavery.”  And ” I worked when I was a kid.”  And ” The company has to make the best profit and Americans want cheap goods.” And ” It’s just the way of the world. What am I supposed to do – NOT buy this or that? C’mon.”

Here are a few points that occured to me upon reflection:

I agree. Any job is better than being a sex worker, particularly if you’re a kid. 

I agree. Child labor is a complicated situation because a lot of families do need their kids to work in order for the family to subsist and going in and ripping kids out of jobs could have a very serious impact on families.

But:  It’s absurd to insist  it’s either sweatshop and/or borderline field slavery or prostitution.  People who own manufacturing companies and farms and mines, and the people who buy their raw materials or use their labor to make goods – have a choice about the conditions and the pay they offer and  what they consume. And they are choosing to go in the worst direction to make their own lives better at someone else’s expense – – because desperate people will do anything.

And: if a family is so poor that it must sent its 10 year old to work, there is a systemic problem in that society. Does this kind of set-up help change that system?  There are organizations who argue that the poverty wages paid by some manufacturing plants (this has been argued about Haiti) will NOT allow the people to eventually rise up to the middle class and will only keep them poor.

 More to the point, if kids must go to work not school, how do they ever learn to be doctors, computer scientists, business people, or anything but a sweatshop laborer or slave wage farm hand?

As for the last point: it’s just the way of the world. There’s nothing we can do about it.  We’re not going to stop buying this or that.

Well, ultimately, people can either believe in changing things and take up responsibility for their role in the world, or they can shrug it off and keep going , as is.  I think most of us do a combination of both.

I think when it comes to kids and poverty and their lives sucking, for lack of a better word, I have done too much shrugging . I waant to make 2012  a year where my shrugging stops and  where I learn to spend my time finding what I can do, and do it, instead of wasting mental energy getting upset about cynical statements by others people. Waste of time.

THE STANDARD

I did read one anonymous person on a message board who made a very cool and inspiring and simple statement: he or she recapped how Chinese workers are treated in this one company and said  “If it’s not good enough for me, why is it good enough for the Chinese?’   And of course the answers may be versions of the above points which all boil down to “they’re more desperate than you are. ”   But it gave me a clarification of my internal standard, if that makes any sense, and something I think of sometimes in general with kids and poverty and that is:

If a situation isn’t good enough for my nieces and nephews, it  isn’t  good enough for any kids. 

 I don’t want my nieces and nephews out of school, doing manual labor. I don’t want them picking through toxic trash. I don’t want them in neighborhoods where people are getting shot. I don’t want them eating crappy food. I can’t picture them eating jjust one meal a day. I can’t picture them living on the streets or in cars. I can’t imagine if the girls couldn’t go to school because they were girls, or my oldest nephew was put in an army at age almost 10.  And it is not acceptable to me, my nieces and nephews being sick and unable to see a doctor, or get medicine, or get stitches, or to their lives be threatened by diarriahal diseases or lack of vitamins or because their water isn’t clean. Unacceptable.

That has to be the standard.  That is the standard.

 Obviously, not everything is something I can do something about. But not being able to do everything about everything doesn’t mean I can’t do something about something. And if I stop believing I can do anything about anything, well, might as well hang it up.

So here are my goals:  Just say no to cynicism. Keep in my mind “the standard.” Learn and get involved.

As for you? So many people I know are parents with big hearts already working to help other kids in your community.You have already looked beyond your own offspring.  What kid-helping things do you want to do in 2012? What do you reccomend? What things bother you when you see them?  A new year. New opportunities. New goals. 

One of my goals is also, a year from now, have some concrete stuff  to point to saying I got off my butt and did my bit. We’ll see.

Here’s to 2012 being a busy year.

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