Just a little perspective…REALLY???


by Kenneth Justice

~20 years ago the NEWS wire was running like wild fire with stories about the child slavery problem in Africa’s Ivory Coast. I was a teenager at the time and I remember front page stories on the local News Papers (back when we used to get the paper delivered to our house) and I was overcome with emotion as I came face to face with the reality of what those children in the Ivory Coast are going through every day.

In 2001 the problem in the Ivory Coast resurfaced thanks to a small documentary that was filmed and once again media from Europe to the America’s began talking about child slavery…….

Its now 2013 and slavery still exists in the Ivory Coast

I have followed the story with disciplined regularity every month since I first became aware of the child slaves who are bought for 260 Euro’s (about $350 in American dollars) and then forced to work in the chocolate fields of the Ivory Coast.

1/3 of all chocolate consumed world wide is produced by the slaves in the Ivory Coast.

There is little you or I can do about this problem. We are not the Prime Minister of England and we aren’t the President of the United States. Boycotting chocolate is said to be a ‘bad idea’ by the people who are intimately acquainted with the problem;

–) allegedly, if the Western World were to boycott chocolate from the Ivory Coast it would supposedly drive the cost down which would then mean the slaves would have to work even harder.

–) I have read numerous perspectives on the problem with boycotting any chocolate that comes from the Ivory Coast and it seems as though it is a very complex issue that is difficult to understand

But this article isn’t necessarily about the child slaves in the Ivory Coast; it’s about perspective.

I love talking about culture. I love talking about the various elements that make up Western Society like media, politics, art, religion, film, music and more. I think it is a subject that directly relates to all of us because our culture is all around us.

Lately, it seems as though there is a large consensus of people who believe Western Culture is spiraling downward;

—) Unemployment is a major problem all across Europe and the Americas

—) News Journalism seems to care more about celebrities than reporting NEWS that is relevant and the things that matter most

—) Smart Phones are changing our way of life unlike anything else we’ve ever seen before; last week a man boarded a subway with a loaded gun to commit a crime and none of the passengers even noticed because they were all looking at their phones!

We’ve discussed the various problems in the Western World throughout the past year…..but sometimes its important to step back and take in just a little perspective. Because as bad as it may be getting here in the Western World….there are still child slaves in the Ivory Coast!

in the twenty years since the story of the child slaves became a world wide story….not much has changed.

Isn’t that how life can be? We can get so wrapped up in our own problems that we can forget that there is a bigger world outside of our own backyard. Of course, this isn’t to say that I’m not empathetic to our problems here in the West; I am! I am very concerned with the trends that we’ve discussed in relation to jobs, unemployment, religion, politics, media, other such subjects.

But as with so many topics…its important to always remember the bigger picture. If I’m not careful, I can become so upset over the way the NEWS media is in love with talking about Hollywood celebrities that I can forget about the millions of children who are kept in activity along the Ivory Coast.

Isn’t there a way to find a balance between these issues? To still be concerned with the problems in Western Society but not to lose focus on the problems around the globe?

My heart goes out to the child slaves in the Ivory Coast…it has frustrated me to no end that there has been so little I can do about the problem. I have written about the subject in various forms in the past 20 years….but what more can I really do?

As for each of us….its always good to have just a little perspective…

and for now another cup of coffee for me,


For more info on the Ivory Coast Slave Trades go to;











Categories: Culture & Society

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27 replies

  1. I don’t think it’s just that we are wrapped up in our own problems…I think that there are SO MANY problems and no one knows WHAT to do and even if you try to do something you are BLOCKED by the people in power who want the status quo to remain in place. It’s not that people don’t CARE, because they DO. It’s just that no one can see a way TO CHANGE ANYTHING. There are blocks set up to stop change from taking place because MONEY is god and those who want it will do anything to get it. It’s not always apathy it’s the inability to make changes and changes that will STICK/REMAIN in place once they are made. Laws can be changed once they are finally in place, so even that is an issue. Just remember that it’s all about the MONEY and the people who have/make money off the backs of children have POWER and it’s not going to stop. It may go underground but if there’s money to be made…it’s not going to stop.

  2. Thank you, so much, for your passion and your perspective, as always.

  3. I am loving this post. But media is like a magician, i said that before. Feel good media is what they show with celebrities. look on one end and you will not see or hear what happens in nother corner. If meida descidess to show news from across the world it is also often enough a fals truth. Sometimes making it so bad people will justthink. it is not in our neighbourhood. And we carry on. Thinking lucky we do not have these problems making us feel good again.
    We all know how they can in a way manipulate our perspective with a bit of media. WE have gotten so used to it we just do not care to put it bluntly. It has become a part of us like a drug we just want to feel good.
    But yes what is going on has more to it then meets th eye same goes for diamants from the same region.. same goes for south america where kids are almost bred if you ask me for harvesting organs. to say it in an extreme way.
    Sometimes i think people just do not want to see it and look the other way.

  4. Many people in the west believe that slavery was a huge,horrible and historic business between England, Africa, the Caribbean and the USA and has long been ended.
    However slavery has NEVER ended in Africa and the Arab countries, it was there before Europeans came to Africa and is still there now. The greatest slave traders are, and always were, Africans themselves, the personal profits to be made are huge and so it goes on from generation to generation.
    In Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States the treatment of workers from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan is tantamount to slavery.
    Well meaning governments in the democratic world can pass every piece of legislation they want , and consumers can boycott products until they are blue in the face, but it will not end slavery until there is a change of mind-set in the countries that practice and rely on it…and sad to say I do not see that happening any time soon.

  5. Thank you for helping to educate me. Here is a clear example of that positive communication within the community to enact change ,you were talking about yesterday. You might never know what the information reaching the mind of a reader could end up doing to help in the future. Knowledge is Power.

  6. I think that unfortunately there is a problem that it is hard for human beings to maintain a high level of concern and attention for people far away from them, especially if they look different and speak a different language. I think to some extent there is reason to be encouraged, actually, by the fact that a global mass media makes it possible for some people, you, e.g., to become aware of an issue like this and be genuinely pained about it for so long. But it is frustrating that not enough people have that concern to put enough pressure on the right people to make a change.


    My own despondent concern kind of like this is Dabaab refugee camp in Kenya. I am a lawyer and at one time in my career I worked helping refugees. This was in the mid-90s and a lot of our clients were Somalis, some of whom had spent a long time in refugee camps in Kenya and elsewhere before finding their way to Minnesota.

    More than ten years later, I was teaching a refugee law class at a law school, and I invited a former student to class because she had a job working with refugees. I didn’t know that she had just returned from a stint overseas, screening refugees at Dadaab in Kenya for possible resettlement in the US.

    Most of the clients I had screened had fled Somalia before 1992, in the most disordered, most violent periods. While my former student was talking, I realized that there was an entire generation of people whose home, from birth, was that camp. That most of them were just waiting there, without a homeland. I can’t get over it, still. The living conditions there are difficult. But even more, it’s just hard to accept, that the world that we have created is okay with the fact that literally hundreds of thousands of displaced persons, most of them through no fault of their own, are consigned to live entire lives in that forsaken place, in a permanent limbo state.

    Well. Now I’m depressed and seem to be disproving my initial point. Still, I do try to keep perspective. It seems possible that over time, more and more people in the more privileged locations on the globe will feel less and less comfortable with the inequality.

  7. Thank you for stopping by my blog. One of the hazards of becoming informed is finding out such things as your favorite sweet treat is a result of another’s entrapment with a damned if you do, damned if you don’t twist to it. Morally, I’d say boycott the chocolate even though it would take great determination on my part. But, I see the point you made on why that would be ineffective.

    On the other hand, I would be much rather educate myself on Ivory Coast slavery than listen to the drone of the latest in celebrity news. The western world is so enchanted with reality TV that I fear it has actually taken on the identity of a reality show.

    I like your thoughts on perspective…it aligns with the idea of the power of one and how to bring about change. By the way, did you watch the movie. “I AM”?

  8. ultimately the only true power we have to change things is to change ourselves . . .once an individual finds his/her center, the opportunities to help out will appear.

    This planet is drowning in ignorance created by man . . . therefore man must change it . . . doesn’t seem possible now, but . . .

  9. Hey Kenneth,
    Do you have any info as to which companies are being supplied by the Ivory Coast growers? I’m wondering if it’s big companies like Hershey’s and Nestle’s. Do you know if smaller companies that produce organic/fair trade chocolate use suppliers other than the Ivory Coast?

    • 30 – 40% of Herseys and Nestles comes from the Ivory Coast….if you buy chocolate that is labeled “fair trade” then you’re generally getting chocolate from somewhere else other than the ivory coast…..

      there are long essays on the subject by people smarter than me that says if we ALL bought chocolate that was ‘fair trade’ it would actually hurt the child slaves in the ivory coast because they would have to work even harder and their lives would become more miserable. I can’t say whether these people are right or wrong on their thesis. its a tough issue either way you look at it.

      What makes me sad is that people like the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of England could have ended this problem a long time ago by putting pressure on the government in the Ivory Coast….but they ignore the problem.

  10. As usual, you’ve written a powerful post with a subject that I can’t acknowledge by simply clicking on “like”. I don’t “like” the idea of ongoing slavery, the frustration that for all the progress we think we’ve made in civilization nothing has really changed for centuries, or the head-in-the-sand attitude we’ve developed to cope with these truths. Being reminded is painful, but I’m grateful for your efforts!

  11. I have nothing to say to this that isn’t useless or that hasn’t already been said, other than if ever you find a way in which we can act, be it a petition, an email campaign or similar, please blog about it so we can help.

  12. To me this is proof that governments only get involved in foreign affairs when money is involved (significant money). It’s been like that forever and a day! Wars are almost never fought unless money is involved, etc., etc. It’s sad because it’s things like this when foreign governments need to step up for the right reason and they don’t because there’s no “incentive.” It’s disgusting. That’s not just a U.S. issue either. The only way to force the government to put pressure on the Ivory Coast is to get the public to take a stance and really fore the issue here but that’s tough because people here are so involved with themselves or other issues. It could happen but there needs to be enough people to be forcing the media to put this back out there again for people to look at and then take action. Maybe you’re the guy to get that movement going Kenneth 😉

  13. I absolutely agree with you in principle, but I think my approach would be different. Nations putting pressure on each other, particularly developed nations putting pressure on less developed nations, often smacks to me of bullying. It’s also a minefield: do we ever truly understand another nation’s culture? and doesn’t that nation have a perfect right to say ‘mind your own business’? Look at it the other way: would Europe have a right to tell the US that free healthcare must be made available to all, or that citizens must not be allowed to bear arms? Two issues on which Europe and the US have totally differing views.

    Child slavery is an abomination that has to stop, and you’re absolutely right. We need to step back and get things in perspective. For me, part of the perspective in this case is the overall picture of the Ivory Coast. According to the CIA World Fact Book, the average life expectancy is 57, the literacry rate is 56.9, and average education expectancy is 6 years. The economy is highly sensitive to fluctuations in the price of cocoa, coffee and palm oil, and 42% of the popultion already lives below the poverty line. Couldn’t we be playing with fire to place embargoes on chocolate? Education would take longer, but wouldn’t it be less damaging, and more effective and lasting long term?

    I love your blog. It makes me think. And in this case, it’s also prompted me to a post on one of my own particular anathemas – cosmetic surgery vs world starvation.

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