columnBy Chris Smith
The Christmas break period is not one usually mapped as one where one's basic views are challenged as the media and town environment is usually overrun with the normal retail therapy propaganda while paper and electronic media scratch amongst the ashes of the previous year as they and their contacts are whisked off to isolated destinations by their frequent flier miles and 5 star accomodation equivalents! Even Obama's "fiscal cliff" had to be sustained by several new faces who had obviously been instructed to keep up the appearance of a caring world struggling for solutions.
Bloggers and the anonymous social media plus multiple repeats, barely and often inadequately filled the gaps.
But for me this period was different. A couple of Al Jazeera documentaries on middle-East political process, a chance chat with a youth in Namibian tertiary education and the visit of my son, his Namibian wife and my Namibian born but dual citizenship granddaughter, especially the latter brought home to me some reallities which, despite my constant desire to stick to long held principles, made me realise perhaps I have lost touch with the real world? Am I really living on cloud 9?
The documentaries were about about how the major players in both the food and clothing industries were, at corporate levels, putting out the stories that they were upholding the "fair trade" end of their "social policies" (no doubt all tax deductable!) and employees. Those at the front line, the base levels of production were now receiving good wages, safe working conditions and how cooperation between governments, local regulatory bodies and producing companies, audited by impressively staffed "independants" had changed the world! And this looked quite impressive when the documentaries first looked.
But it took the investigators little effort to quickly realise that under this platform of more formalised and visible businesses there was the real prime production levels where working conditions were foul and life threatening, involved large numbers of children and bond slavery was real with parents selling their children. Cotton ginning, brick making and cocoa harvesting were featured but other programmes featuring mining have even worse tales to tell. Most of these activities are small scale, multitudinous and hidden in the forests or towns. The globals also realise that while their "social consciences" are challenged that there "price, race to the bottom" underlies these failings and the states where such practices exist have political elements in control that require such subservience.
Yes, we live in a hypocritical world driven by power and money, the people really seem not to matter? My principles always tell me such failings must be openly challenged! But then the problem only moves on leaving those who have lost their jobs completely without hope?
These thoughts also emerged with the nameless but thinking student who supported African patronage and political gravy train as a better alternative to uncontrolled capitalism! Then came my son. A chance after nearly 5 years to open up the debate! His excellent education in this region (private), his full skills apprenticeship and work experience has left him, after many years with the same international company and now London based, experienced across many borders, especially in the Arab world.
To cut a long story short and having to accept my progressive loss of touch with the "real world" to some extent, it is quite evident that moral fibre, ethical behavior and honor have ceased to be socially valuable assets. The materialistic, cash flashed and arrogant society of the IRBs is what matters. The political system only exists to cement positions and trade transactions in return for financial support. Democracy is a superficial cloth to be sustained by rhetoric, multiple consultations and political shadow boxing.
I am challenged! I fear 2013 is going to expose our realities. Is the materialistic and cash force the way to develop? I am yet to be convinced but the weight of effort is against me. What motivates?