Defining help can be as simple as saying it is the means whereby one offers assistance to another. And although this is not the official definition offered in some of the world’s most prestigious dictionaries. It reflects what seems to be the working definition that applies to many cases where help has gone wrong. This seems to be the case when it comes to chocolate and it’s connection to the help that has been offered to many groups over the years. It also seems that it is the case that many modern agencies and organizations are using in the 21st century as it relates to chocolate. It is upon this assumption that one might conclude that help, as good as the thought may initially be, may be the last thing those connected to chocolate actually need.
First, help itself must be defined in a way that actually conceptualizes intent and results. When the Spaniards came to the Americas and decided that they wanted to help the natives, it is not so clear that they actually intended to help the natives. To gain a better insight to whether or not their intention were actually positive, one should really look critically at the word help from the perspective of intent and result. Defining help in this way will allow one to define the word and conceptualize the actions of others that may allow them to discern whether help is actually negative or positive. To look at a scenario where help was offered, but help turned wrong and say an individual never meant to help may be a bad judgment call. Moreover, it may be a case where one fails to see the good in one’s heart because of the bad that it produces. Conflicting or not, good can turn bad without negative intent.
So, how does one define help? How can its mechanisms be traced in such a way that positions the outsider to determine whether help is actually help? In order for help to be help it must first be selfless. Yes, help is help. But, overall, help has the most potential to go wrong when it is offered on a premise where the deliverer’s intent is to gain something from their action. It is even worst when this intent is held as a secret. In and of it self, it is nothing actually wrong with a benefactor gaining dividends from the assistance given to a beneficiary. Actually, that is when help is a two-fold win-win situation. However, when one begins the road to help with the intent to gain, it is the platform whereby the failure of help begins. Therefore, we propose that good help is the help that begins with the intention of a benefactor that has no intent to receive any dividends –be those dividends monetary, political, or social gain.
It may seem like a fruitless task defining the portion of help that addresses results. But, we can’t assume that the intended results of help are always good. Yes, it is directly connected with intent. But, one can intend not to benefit from a helpful deed while simultaneously hoping that the help that they are offering will cause one to fail. When the designed results are negative, one cannot truly be helping. Help, in it’s purest form is designed in a selfless frame that is constructed with materials that are prone to strengthen the beneficiaries, and the beneficiaries alone. Although help, and anything else has the potential to produce negative results, from its initial conception, in order for it to be considered help, it must set out to selflessly assistance, build, and expand its beneficiaries.
When looking at the history of slavery, the Spaniards, and the development of the western world, I am not so certain that we can say that they meant to actually help the natives. It seems that the leadership intended to help themselves more than anything else. The natives, who were so called devil worshippers, were the scapegoat used to cover the actual intent of the Spaniards. These individuals came across the world into an unknown territory that was filled with people and somehow ended up in control of the land. The question of all time is, how did Columbus discover America when America was an inhabited land? In the 21st century, one may actually question the intent of his journeys. Is it possible that Columbus and those he served actually knew that the Americas were inhabited and from the beginning intended to conquer it?
Take for instance this notion that the Spaniards were offering the natives protection. The first question that comes to my mind is, what are you protecting these people from? If the natives have lived in the lands for hundreds of years and the Spanish are new to the land, would not it seem more appropriate for the natives to be protecting the Spanish? Well, not if the Spanish were just covering up and attempting to compensate for their negative intents to expand their territory. If you are protecting me from you with the intent to only create a level of allegiance, you have not meant to help me at all. On the contrary, you have set out to manipulate me. It seems that the Spanish were great manipulators. It seems impossible for them to actually have set out to help the natives. The seemingly only plausible protection they could have offered them could have been the introduction to their technologies in warfare. Instead, the Spanish used their technological advancements in warfare to create fear and intimidation. The end result of that was the conquering of Latin America. No, this was not the sole reason and means by which the Spanish conquered that region of the world. But surely, help through protection was a major contributor to their success.
To think, if this kind of help did not take the case, let us consider religion. The Spaniards wanted to help the natives by offering them religion. The results of this help were neither good for the religion or the people it sought to help. Christianity, a religion based on love, took all the rights and humanity of the people it sought to help. If that was a religion that was meant to help people, I am not so sure many individuals would want that kind of help. This Christian help stripped hundreds of natives of their homes, culture, language, and livelihood. From the outset, this help was laced with selfishness and vile intent. As good as a religion may be, it must respect the context in which it is attempting to penetrate. Modern day Christians and disciples of Jesus Christ may even venture to say that the Spanish that set out to conquer the Americas were not good Christians at all. Even though much of Latin America is filled with Christians because of the Spanish conquest. Christians can’t look back and say they are totally proud of such an accomplishment.
The means whereby the Spanish converted Latin America were gruel. Thousands of lives were lost. Rich cultures were demonized and annihilated. This is not an overall good. This, in fact, is an overall bad that got some good out of it. From a Christian’s perspective, having a continent full of disciples of Jesus is very good. But, having hundreds of families, communities, and cultures destroyed was not good at all. In retrospect, the intent and the designed results of the Spanish were not good. Therefore, the help was not necessarily the help. This help was the means and the platform whereby the Spanish conquered nearly an entire continent. Good came from it. But, can we actually confirm that good for the natives were actually the intent?
The history suggests that help is not always help. When one decides that they want to offer help, one must take a deep look into the intentions and the determined results. Moreover, when one decides they would like to receive help, they must take all of these things into consideration. This is especially important when modern Latin American cacao farmers, who are yet being abused by Europeans, consider receiving help from Europeans who recognize that they are being abused.
After hundreds of years of oppression, Latinos in various countries have overcome the oppression of Europeans in many ways. Slavery is outlawed. But there is a new kind of oppression on the loose. It is called help. What is old has become new. The new has become old. Latinos in northern South America are yet producing cacao beans, sugar, and other commodity crops. Unfortunately, there has not been a mechanism created to ensure that cacao farmers are actually being treated fairly. It is just not the cacao growers in northern South America that are suffering, either. Cacao growers in West Africa experience is quite the same.
Each year the chocolate industry brings in millions upon millions of dollars. One would think that those individuals that are raising the raw materials needed to produce the chocolate would benefit as well. This is not the case. Of course we realize that the cacao farmers would not get equal shares of profits like heads of companies like Hershey’s or Mars. But, the average person would not imagine that these cacao farmers are actually making pennies a day relative to what executives are making in big chocolate companies. Maybe it is assumed that cacao farmers are making hundreds a day while the major chocolate companies are making thousands. But that is not the reality.
Over the years there has been a rising awareness of these unfair practices. Individuals in the United States have gained a passion for what they call suffering cacao farmers. From this passion movement, help has began to arise. But, it is not for certain that these movements are actually moving the needle. Dr. Carla Martin reports that in 2015 a study reported that the average income in Ghana for cacao farmers is 80 cents per day. For cacao farmers in Côte d’Ivoire it is even worst. Cacao farmers in Côte d’Ivoire only make 50 cent per day. Although cacao originated in Latin America, West Africa produces nearly 75 percent of the world’s cacao. “Three of the four million metric tons of cacao come from two countries in West Africa –Ghana and Cout D’voire”(Carla Martin). Humanitarians across the western world have a huge problem with this. These humanitarians cannot seem to understand why these countries in West Africa produces so much cacao and receive so little of the profits.
As a result of these findings, many organizations are rising to the surface to offer help. But the question yet remains, is help actually? One still wonders if these individuals are helping from the standpoint of pure compassion or are they hiding something. Hidden agendas have seemed to be the trend for hundreds of years. The Spaniards said they were helping the native Mesoamericans by offering them protection and Christianity. Now, you have many Americans seeking to help farmers in West Africa. But, it seems altogether to close to the help Mesoamericans received from the Spanish hundreds of years of ago –somebody from outside the culture coming in to save the day.
Some groups are working to make fair trade laws that will get more money into the hands of cacao farmers. Fair Trade Certified and it’s membership organizations agreed to basic fair trade principles.
- Long term, direct trading relationships.
- Prompt payment of fair prices and wages.
- No child or forced or otherwise exploited labor.
- Workplace, non-discrimination, and gender equality
- Safe working conditions and reasonable working hours
- Investments in community development.
- Traceability and transparency.
And while all of these terms are very promising it lacks one thing. These terms make the cacao farmer dependent upon Europeans and Americans for their livelihood. It fixes the problem to an extent. But it somehow recreates the exploitation of labor in another fashion. These programs do not position individuals producing cacao to have control of their lives. That is what is most important in a 21st century context. The age has seen enough help that leads to dependency rather than freedom.
The prospect of long term and direct trading relationships is promising. But, the question that remains is, who will control those relationships. Would it not be better to train these cacao farmers in commerce and trade in a way that empowers them to enjoy autonomy of a business in the world market? The tenets seem to keep the cacao famer holding the hand of a European or American. This is control in freedom. A promise to no longer delay payment is great as well. However, the farmers themselves, or someone they hire should be at the helm of payment transactions.
Number four is one of the most questionable tenets of them all. While in the western world we do not promote or agree that it is ethical to engage in child labor. Most fight for the rights of children across the globe. However, how far is too far when it comes to the respect of another people’s culture. This tenet goes beyond pure help. As questionable as the practice may be, it is cultural infringement to offer an ultimatumto a business. These groups are being a great help to cacao farmers across central Africa and northern South America. But, it may be that they are being more of a help to themselves and their agenda than they are to the cacao farmers. It is not beyond reasonable to assume that these individuals would like to change the cultures of others and are covering it up by offering to put more money in the hands of farmers. What would be more powerful is a system of help that empowered these farmers to create their own unions so that they can enjoy a great amount of the wealth of the product they produce. According to Sidney Mintz,“England fought the most, conquered the most colonies, imported the most slaves, and went furthest and fastest in creating a plantation system.” It is argued by many scholars that the very same plantation system exists in America today. It does not look the same. But, it holds the same values.
The question then becomes, are these new fair trade systems a part of the evolution of the original European plantation system? The system sought for control and power. Even in America, the descendants of slaves are free. But they are dependent upon a governmental system of power that, unless broken, will never allow them to experience the same freedom as their white counterparts. What cacao farmers need is a system that empowers them. A mechanism that allows cacao famers agility within a system of control is not true help. It is a cover up that keeps those in control on top and the farmers at the low end of the spectrum. It may be that these farmers don’t actually need the Fair Trade system as much as they need the education that farmers and companies in America and Europe have. Furthermore, it may not be the farmers that need the help. It may be the system.
Instead of attempting to help cacao farmers, it may be that the system itself is what really needs the help. Getting rid of the current system and creating a new system may be the best answer –a system that can be created by all who will be involved. Farmers and businessman alike can come to the table and create the system that benefits all. This is commerce. Therefore it is unreasonable to assume that everyone will be equal. The expectation is that everyone would be treated equally fair. For instance, the import tax for cacao beans is significantly lower than the import tax for chocolate. What does this do? This forces individual farmers to only make profit from the beans. It pushes them out of the chocolate business. Where are the humanitarians thought process at when it comes to this type of trade? Without an initiative to address these types of dilemmas, one cannot help but to think there are other motives.
Forcing or coercing companies into buying cacao beans consistently for pennies is one agenda. Forcing or coercing companies and commerce for equal trade rights for countries like Venezuala, Côte d’Ivoire, and Ghana is another. Over the past few hundreds help has too many times been realized as a selfish attribute. Those helping benefit the most in too many cases while those being helped benefit very little. Cacao farmers need access, not necessarily help. If these farmers had access to education and training, they could fight for their own rights. Truthfully, that is where the help can really step in. Once these farmers receive education and training an
d start to experience inequality in the system, that is when thee humanitarian groups can step in and use their political power for the benefit of the farmers. The help they are offering now is simply a crutch of dependency that does not offer the cacao farmer the independency and freedom his American and European counterparts experience.
Dr. Carla Martin (2016) Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Lecture Video. https://matterhorn.dce.harvard.edu/engage/player/watch.html?id=bbf932d0-696b-417b-811d-a9b3fc051aea Web. 9 March 2016
Mintz, Sidney. 1986. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin Books.