I just can’t help myself. When ever the topic of FairTrade surfaces it’s head, I always find myself on the barricade waving a big flag for people not to buy into the advertising bullshit that is thrown at them… and I always get shot down because of it.
So just to get this out of the way: these are my PERSONAL thoughts on the matter, which I place here. And with that I need to amend the title, as FairTrade is not bad for EVERYONE, it is just bad for the biggest mass of the people as the ones pulling the strings are getting richer for it. And the following is how I arrived at this conclusion. Think of it what you want, just don’t bother me with your thoughts as you will never be able to change my mind.
Here we go.
FairTrade is expensive, we all know that. A least, it is more expensive than the cheap stuff, and we are told through advertising why it is more expensive. It is Fair Trade, the farmer got more money for it and/or it was not made by children. This implies that FairTrade goods are morally better than the cheaper stuff the competitor offers, but it does raise the question if it really is also better in QUALITY. As in the end I personally prefer quality over moral superiority, as I am not a fool and a thief of my own wallet.
What FairTrade does is create a hype in an old principle, that if something is cheaper it must automatically be of lesser quality, but these days that is no longer the case. For instance, growing quality specialty coffee gives the farmer a lot more income than any FairTrade product ever can. Wouldn’t it be more Fair by FairTrade to tell the FairTrade farmer to switch to the better earning coffee? But do they? No. Simply because they have a brand that is selling, the FairTrade brand, the company buying the coffee leaves the farmer in the dark. Why? Because he is no fool himself. If he tells the farmer how to earn more he will loose a supplier and run out of stock! Through this the farmer keeps on growing the same stuff and the company can pocket more profit, giving the farmer less, because who else is the farmer going to sell this inferior stock that nobody else wants to? I have yet yo hear from a farmer who can honestly say that FairTrade has made his life better, as to them it is just someone else telling them which rules to follow!
But I digress. The basic principle of the FairTrade hype is that if you can pay for more expensive goods, and the sales rep tells you how morally good it is that you do (and why would the sales rep lie? It is not like he has a stake in all of this… oh… wait…), then the cheaper stuff from a psychological standpoint HAS to be bad. The advertising is quite compelling, using smiling children for their product while showing all kinds of terrible scenario’s of children working in factories for ‘that other product’ and so anyone buying the cheaper product has, be definition, to be a despicable person, not caring about child slavery. Because if not then you are just being stupid buying he expensive stuff, you were conned and the human psyche will bend every which way to resist realizing that. It takes a great man to say ‘well fuck me, I have been duped’ and then walk on, having learned something.
The entire advertising of FairTrade runs on one thing and one thing alone: making you feel bad of you buy from the competition. Buying FairTrade gives you a sense of superiority, being better than the other guy, and deep inside everybody is an egomaniac. But after all these years of FairTrade product placement and advertising it has been proven that more money sticks to the fingers of the advertising and the sales than what trickles down to the farmer for who this entire thing started. You might even wonder if it was ever actually FOR this farmer to begin with as proof for this is quite scarce when you wipe away the advertising bullshit people have been fed. But still this advertising is imprinted on an emotional level, through which we now believe that if a product is NOT advertised as FairTrade with smiling children, that it HAS to be bad.
I call this the ‘Look left, look right’ principle. If any company loudly yells ‘look left, look left! See how good we are!’ (and yes, this ALSO goes for governments!) then just to be safe, look right and figure out where the money is going. Because it is always about money. And in the end only the advertising agencies really win in this huge battles of products forced upon the consumer. They couldn’t exist without these battles and currently TV has degraded so much that programs are built to fit inside commercial blocks! That is how important advertising has become, that the program has become secondary, filled with mediocre crap as a lure to tease people to watch, and then the hook comes out in the commercial block. The first commercial of each commercial block is more expensive than all the others and to have advertising during Superboal runs in the millions to obtain a spot! This should tell you something! And don’t say that advertising has no effect on you, because of you have been bombarded with a happy smiling woman saying that this brand Y is better than all others, when you’re in the shop and not sure what to buy, your eye will stray to product Y. If you tell someone something often enough they in the end WILL believe it. this is basic psychology, people!
YES, I am against child labor, but if that child earns money to help support their starving family, then I say ‘let that child work and instead of shouting that it is wrong change the underlying cause of the poverty! Don’t slap yourself on the chest in saying that you don’t buy something made through child labor, because you are actually saying you actively are killing people and it makes you feel good! That child is NOT in that factory because he LIKES it or anything, it is a necessity for survival! Don’t go throwing around first world ethics that the child should be playing or in school, as ethics only work when you have food on your plate, clean water to drink and a roof over your head. Ethics only work in times of peace and prosperity and NOT in times of survival or war.
ANY company who sells you the promise that you are buying into something BIGGER than a fucking cup of coffee, and YES Starbucks, I am looking at YOU, is lying to you. You are buying coffee, not the end to world hunger! And by the way the coffee from Starbucks comes from Mexico, not Guatemala or some place that really needs the income. By buying coffee at Starbucks you are actually PREVENTING that Guatemalan farmer to get food on the plates of his children and because of that these children HAVE TO work in a factory to make ends meet.
So SIP on THAT next time next time you take a sip of coffee made from twenty beans which cost 1 cent at the farmer, but for which you paid 5 bucks, and NO, the rest of it did NOT go into shipping and preparation for your Mocha Latte!
I hope to GOD I have reached someone with this or made some FairTrade groupie think about their life choices. But I am sure I’ll just get a lot of hate-mail… again. Haters gotta hate, as it is an inflated self-defense mechanism not to see how stupid they are. Just know that I know that what you yell says more about you than it does about me, because all you are shouting is your own opinion. And I just happen to know better. Yes, you can now state that this is my inflated self-defense mechanism at work, but I for one will not lie awake because of you said so. But knowing the haters they will fume about this for weeks to come and all this pent up anger will be another nail in their coffin, leading them straight towards a heart attack and yet another bypass. So I say ‘Cheers mate. Have some more coffee. And don’t switch to decaff or tea or anything, because that is for sissies, right?’
Want to learn more? Here are some links that explain my point of view abut the things I have been saying for years.