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The Real Chocolate War

Mar
19
2008

Chocolate. Why’d I have to find out about the chocolate?
I’m of the firm belief that it’s not my job to fix everything in the universe. So I don’t go out of my way to dig up all the miseries of the world, contemplate them, expose them and lay them out for everyone to join me in a good ol’ wallow.
But if, in the course of my going about my business, happy-go-lucky and enjoying things like, say, dark chocolate nonpareils, I come across information about the enslavement, trafficking and torture of children required to bring about that chocolate, I am forced to pay attention. It’s the universe’s way of tapping me on the shoulder and saying, “You are probably the last person on the planet to find out about this and, while you are only an ineffective, non-confrontational and usually invisible middle-aged housewife, just thought you ought to know.” The Universe apparently knows who is eating all that chocolate.
Oh. Man. Wasn’t there anyone else to bother with this? Because now I’ve got to give it up.
It’s one thing to see cause to give up something you were never really interested in to begin with. This is the secret to how I got through Lent when I was a kid – I’d pick a food to give up, like kale for instance, that my mother had to force-feed me anyway.
That’s the feeling I’ve always had about my refusal to wear or buy diamonds or anything diamond-like (thus encouraging that fashion that has caused so much misery). I probably wouldn’t be a diamond sort of person anyway. Oh, I have an engagement ring and a necklace with a single diamond my parents gave me one Christmas, neither of which I wear that I would were it not for my diamond boycott. But, other than those sentimental pieces, I’m not a big fan of that over-the-top kind of glitz that diamonds flash.
And my boycott of Wal Mart is similarly easy because it only means I pay a little more for a few things and have to wait a little longer to save up to buy other things, rather than buy the landfill-fodder that store promotes. I’m not really giving anything up but a modicum of convenience and a couple of bucks.
But chocolate? Aw…man…not the chocolate.
That’s hitting me where it hurts: right on my food obsession.
While the reasons for the unstable cocoa market are complicated, the issue is exacerbated by the fact that the major cocoa processors – the corporations like Nestle, M&M/Mars and Hershey that have the most clout in the industry – have basically said it’s not their problem, which seems to the general consensus of everyone at every level except, of course, the children whose problem it really and truly is. And while the industry has set a goal to eliminate inhumane practices in processing the cocoa, their deadline has come and gone and the only progress made is the extension of the deadline.
The European Union, who you would think could help out battling such atrocities, is more interested in preventing British-produced chocolate onto the continent as a measure to further protect the economy of those very plantation owners who contribute to the exploitation. After all, first things first.
So, I can’t be a part of it. There are Fair Trade chocolate sources that are expensive and will require more than a trip to the grocery store. And, while I will make use of them, I know that the price and the effort will drastically curtail my consumption of chocolate.
But I know chocolate is the absolute last thing people would be willing to give up – or jump through all kinds of hoops to obtain when it’s so readily available on grocery store shelves. This, though, is one of the main reasons I just. Can’t. Let. This. Go.
I can just picture some corporate cocoa processing executive sitting back with smug satisfaction at the fact that most of those fat, stupid, spoiled Americans lead too indulgent a lifestyle to ever consider boycotting his client’s chocolate. The companies who buy his cocoa have an easy enough excuse to give the occasional radical like me.
Oh yeah, they did without ivory for the sake of the elephants, but how many people could afford ivory anyway? And the public was placated by toothless legislation against blood diamonds and good ol’ DeBeers is still able to sell their huge back log for inflated prices. Why, if the American chocolate producers were ever economically hit by a boycott, they might put pressure on the processors. . . to. . . comply to the new regulations.
But I know that will never happen. I can no more make a difference in Nestle’s or Hershey’s corporate policies than I have with the DeBeers diamond cartel or the Walton family. And, like with the diamonds and WalMart, when I tell people they will roll their eyes, call me a na├»ve extremist, pat me on the head and dismiss everything I say from then on.
Of course, if Hollywood got involved (WARNING: Very over-the-top graphic, as befitting a PETA ad), this issue would be more publicized. There would be magazine ads dispersing guilt to anyone contemplating chocolate chip cookies and television commercials showing someone unattractively smeared with slathers of fudge.
But that sort of publicity is saved for the welfare of cows and chickens. Children on another continent can fend for themselves.

Share  Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 8:49 AM | Permalink

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