So your kid needs a new smart phone, a new laptop or that awesome new game everyone is yabbering about. Really? Here’s where I might be able to save you all a few bucks: instead of giving them this new technology, show them where such things are coming from in the world. A good starting point is to go to Congo where 5000 – 6000 children, ages starting from as low as 7, are forced to scurry through tunnels dug by their own hands in the search for columbite-tantalite, commonly known as Coltan. This toxic ore is used by the big corporations who, as well as making all the fancy things kids, big and small, love so much, they also make billions of dollars off the backs of children who are the same ages as your own. Thousands of kids die either from the tunnels collapsing, starvation and malnutrition or by the hands of the military that abuses and murders them for god knows what reasons. Then there are the “artisanal mines” where an estimated 40 thousand kids work alongside their families in order to earn enough to eat and hopefully go to school one day. This is just the beginning of an exploitative and corrupt supply chain that turns blood into shiny stuff.
I’m ashamed to say, this Compaq computer I’m working on is probably part of the big picture of child slave labour, but as much as it gives me blue screen of death on a daily basis (which I probably deserve), I refuse to upgrade until I’ve done my ethical homework.
And, don’t get me wrong, I’m a firm believer in putting the kids to work in the fields at a young age and I can’t wait ‘till my 8 year old, over-privileged, white grandson comes to visit this Christmas because the list of jobs that needs doing grows every day. There’s naught wrong with asking for help to clean the car, wash bottles or weed the garden, but there’s no way his attention span would last 11hrs working the mines of Congo. The poor little bugger would have been killed on his first day.
Ok annual Christmas rant is over. Is anybody even listening? If you must indulge in a consumerist Christmas at least buy second hand and shop local people. It isn’t that hard to support your artisans, producers, farmers, musicians and authors. C’mon!
*Next year I’ll focus on “where your ham comes from” and “what? More plastic shit!”
Lavery, Charles. 2008. “Plight of African child slaves forced into mines - for our mobile phones”. Glasgow Sunday Mail. ILRF. http://www.laborrights.org/in-the-news/plight-african-child-slaves-forced-mines-our-mobile-phones.
Lavoipierre, Angela. 2016. “Tech companies accused of failing to ensure their supply chains don't involve child labour”. ABC News: PM. Sydney. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-19/tech-companies-accused-of-failing-to-ensure-their/7099524.