Thursday, February 10, 2011

All you need to know about the early 21st Century bourgeoisie

There's a piece on the Bay Citizen website this morning, Meet Your (Sustainable) Chocolate Farmers. The author, Tara Duggan, opens with this unappetizing lede:
When I hear that chocolate is produced in an unethical manner, I'd rather swallow knives than hear reasons why I shouldn't enjoy one of my favorite foods. But with Valentine's Day approaching, I thought it was time to face up to the labor issues around cocoa farming.
If I may unpack that:
  1. She occasionally hears that one of her favorite foods, chocolate, is sometimes "produced in an unethical manner."
  2. In order to keep from hearing this discouraging news, she'd "rather swallow knives."

    Actually it seems strange that to keep from hearing something one would swallow knives; it would be more logical to stick those knives into one's ears. But I guess that if one swallowed them, the discomfort might be so distracting that one couldn't pay attention to bad news about candy. Anyway:
  3. Valentine's Day is approaching, and as a journalist, she's hard put to come up with a piece linked to the holiday.
  4. What better time to face her fears about the conditions under which chocolate is produced?
Here we have the ingredients of the perfect Bay Area foodie post: transgressiveness (chocolate is bad for you), trendiness (chocolate is looked upon by foodies as a gourmet item, at least potentially), liberal guilt, and pop psychology (let's face our fears!). That the fears in question have not to do with facing the rubber truncheons of the Egyptian secret police, or the dank cells of Chinese prisons, or even the comparatively comfortable but difficult decision to, say, put your mother in a "care facility," doesn't make them easier to bear. They are fears nonetheless.

Right, then. How wonderful that the writer is able to assuage her consternation by discovering a free trade grower's cooperative in Ghana, owned and operated by colorfully dressed women (a close examination of the picture reveals they are wearing dresses imprinted with the logo of their co-op). And what's more, they are not wasting their profits on skin-lightening cream or anything Westerners might disapprove of; they are practicing democratic socialism at its finest:

Their fair trade agreement allows them extra money to create additional income generation projects for the villages, such as making soap.
Soap for the villages! It's a win-win for everyone.

As for the internal conflict of eating candy, that's taken care of by the fact that it's a holiday anyway. On Valentine's Day you may eat chocolate, while reading the inevitable newspaper and magazine features that assure you it's good for you in small quantities. And at the prices we pay for gourmet chocolate, small quantities are all we can afford anyway.

Now don't you feel bad about eating those M&Ms in the break room? For shame.


Brock said...

* standing ovation *

jwbatey said...

Which is why we should replace chocolate with beer. Unless, of course, you're one of those bleeding hearts who prattle on about the exploitation of yeast.