10 June 2010

The Real Dark Side?

At some point in our lives we are faced with moral dilemmas not the collective we but the real we - you and me.

Should you take advantage of someone or some situation that you didn't create but will continue to support a bad thing happening.

Boycotts of products from different repressive regimes are often the case.
Should we buy food that is a luxury coming from far places that contributes to global warming? Kiwis for example. Should we trade in blood diamonds? Should we support brands that employ sweatshop labour? The Fair Trade movement is founded on the principal that we can buy our coffee (and other products) from companies that are performing properly and responsibly.

We face the dilemma in travel of what comprises "Fair Trade". Because Travel is a very personal experience - we are exposed to the dilemma at least twice - who you buy from and where you go - Should we visit China or Myanmar?

For the past few months I have been following the issue of the suicides among China's industrial complex workers. There are some gut wrenching stories of workers throwing themselves out the window.

A good story appeared in Infoworld this week.

However scratching below the surface one has to examine why the suicide rate is rising among the workers (largely male) who are producing our gadgets. Its easy to point the finger at a corporation that is so large. But also consider the plight of the individuals. With a one child policy and China's cultural heritage favoring males over females - the chances of a young healthy average worker male to find his mate and live happily ever after is significantly less in China than just about anywhere else.

And let's not just think that its the worker bees in factories who are similarly either disadvantaged or where the corporation takes advantage of their workers in this manner. I cite the case of Expedia who owns eLong. This week they upp'd their ownership stake to 16.9%. That makes Expedia powerful enough to influence how the workers are treated. In eLong the delivery and financial fulfillment vehicle is often a bicycle and a human who gets minimum wages and sleeps in a huge dormitory complex. I am not picking on Expedia for being particularly bad. They are doing what is conventional in China.

So do we have a moral dilemma in travel? Should we support our fixes of iPhones and Expedia based travel?

I know that for sure I have to do this willingly. And from now on I will knowingly make those sort of decisions. Ignorance is no excuse for resolving the truly personal dilemma.


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