Life & Debt

August 14th, 2009

This is the title of a movie which traces how the agricultural industry of Jamaica has been subsumed by NAFTA and the IMF. Local rice and potatoes have been replaced with imports from the US. Workers are paid substandard wages because the factories are on the shore in a special “trade zone” that benefits only the manufacturers and local government officials. Order it on Netflix

Not Made in China, only YOU can make it happen

July 18th, 2008

 A recent e-mail chain started:
“Are we Americans as dumb as we appear — or — is it that we just do not think?

While the Chinese, knowingly and intentionally, export inferior and even toxic products and dangerous toys and goods to be sold in American markets, the media wrings its hands and criticizes the Bush Administration for perceived errors.

Yet 70% of Americans believe that the trading privileges afforded to the Chinese should be suspended.
Well, duh..why do you need the government to suspend trading privileges?


It asks why not make real Easter eggs instead of purchasing plastic ones and goes on to propose an embargo on buying Chinese from 6/4/08-7/4/08.

The message above is somewhat reactionary and and oversimplifies the eco-political situation, but it has many nuggets of truth and guages the frustration of much of America.

As I see it:
Americans are not dumb but….. many do not think, many are not willing to do without having something cheap immediately despite the the fact that that it was made poorly or by captive slave labor.

We do not need plastic eggs or numerous other plastic tchotkes. Many won’t take the time (& receive the ultimate satisfaction) of creating an intricate Easter egg (or needlepoint holiday stocking). We have lots of inexpensive holiday decorations and then complain about how long it takes us to undecorate. We have too much. We are asking the government to legislate what we are unwilling to do for ourselves – say “no”.

We do not need the government to suspend trading privileges. That is the beauty of a market economy which China, India and the rest of the world have embraced. The power is all in our hands as consumers. We must find substitutes for incessant purchasing and become the pioneers we once were. Use the time we spend shopping to instead create something, cook something from scratch, learn a new skill, nurture relationships by our presence to others nearby or write a letter or e-mail to those far away.

Don’t stop on July 4. As you vacation this summer, don’t buy a souvenir unless it is made in the state or country you are visiting. At home seek out farmers markets, roadside food stands & small local shops for not only foods that directly benefit the farmers but also non-food items such as locally made soaps, crafts.

Repair: Fix it yourself, or trade skills with a friend or neighbor, keep local tailors & cobblers in business. We just went shopping for a suitcase and paid a little more for one with a true lifetime repair warranty (disclosure, it was made in Thailand). (Victorinox and Briggs & Riley both offer that warranty)

Re-think fashion: buy less but of better quality that lasts longer, shop local craft fairs (but look at labels) thrifts stores. Accessorize, trade. Learn to sew, knit, crochet, quilt. Let’s bring back old-fashioned American ingenuity & creativity. This may not always be easy but the important things in life never are.