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So about that nice cuppa tea - Tactical Ninja

Jul. 25th, 2013

09:59 am - So about that nice cuppa tea

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This morning an article came through my feed about the tea trade, and how low wages paid to tea pickers in India fuel human trafficking. The reason this is of interest to me is that I often hear arguments about how the (particularly) US demand for marijuana and cocaine fuels violence in Central and South America, because there's big money in meeting that demand. The argument often goes on to suggest that people who choose to use these substances are in part responsible for the deaths of the innocent, and that the problem could be solved if these unethical folks would just choose not to use drugs. Which has a certain logic, right?

Except that the big money associated with the illegal drugs trade is mostly there because they are, well, illegal. The money is associated with the risks involved in production and distribution rather than the basic costs to grow or make the drugs. If the substances were legal, we'd get what? Less violence, more human trafficking? I suspect it'd end up being something like the article above suggests - growers exploiting the working class in order to maximise profits, and privileged Westerners trying to ease their consciences by working to improve conditions for said working class.

So, it seems that your cup of tea is pretty damn unethical too. It's another drug after all. Is there any less guilt attached to your morning fix of tea or coffee? Most people would say yes, I think. And I tend to agree. The reason I agree is that the legal status of these drugs allows work to be done legitimately to improve the conditions of their production and sale from a human rights perspective. In order to extend this logic to the illegal drugs, you have to accept that the "Just say no" approach to the ethics of drugs is unrealistic. And what better way to do that than to look at a drug that's so ubiquitous that most folks don't even consider it to be a drug - tea? How about we all "Just say no" to that? Why not? I dislike tea therefore I'd find it easy to give up, and you should too.

So I put to you that having a legal and regulated trade in drugs that are currently illegal would go a long way to resolving the violence currently associated with them. But I'm under no illusions that it'd solve all the problems, it may just shift them to other forms of exploitation and human rights abuses, the way things are with tea and coffee. But at least then governments would be able to start working together to address some of this. Have a think about this next time you're enjoying a cuppa...

There's a whole rant in here about ecstasy and endangered sassafras trees and what if people could legitimately farm them instead of setting up clandestine labs in the Vietnamese jungle, protected by armed guards and booby traps, and taking as many as possible in a scorched-earth approach before they're caught. But that's for another day.


At this time of year there's only about an hour of good light left after I get home in which to do things that require good light. This is improving slowly, but it means that if I want to do anything involving colour matching or fine detail, it has to happen in that hour. Last night was Yorick-carving, having allowed three times the suggested drying time for the expanding foam that forms his horns. It makes a mess:



This is as far as I got. There needs to be a bit of fining down and addition of detail, but the basic shape is there and I'm pretty happy with it. I'm less happy with the amount of gaps and air bubbles, but that's probably down to my lack of experience and skill with the stuff, and I can always fill them at the paper mache stage. Progress! Tomorrow I'll place the order with Mindkits for the gubbins to make his eyes light up, and then it'll be all on.

The daggers also got some attention - another round of sanding and shaping, and the addition of craft foam detail to the crossguards.



Next step for these is a coat of gesso, then a coat of black, and then painting and the addition of the leather binding to the handles. If I'm clever about it, these should be finished by the end of the weekend.

I also spent more time on leather prep. Leather is a lot of work but IMO the result makes it worth it. Leather can be punched, stitched, riveted and shaped like nothing else can, and it gets softer with working so it will mould to your body. But oh man the prep! So last night's effort was cutting the armour straps to length, punching holes for the buckles, and shaping the ends. I got all the breastplate and leg armour straps done, and started on the gauntlet ones. I still have most of the gauntlets and the knee guards to go. I've decided to do most of the joining with rivets, because if I tried to stitch all that strapping I might as well just bash the ends of my fingers with a hammer now. There is still at least 2 evenings' worth of stitching but it's mostly in the thin leather from the jacket and that, I can handle.

I will dye on the weekend, when all this fiddly stuff is done. That's one thing about endless leather prep - once it's done, the assembly job goes quite fast. That's kind of the point, I guess.


Also, I've decided to join the march against the GCSB on Saturday, standing in as proxy for Dr Wheel, who's flying out that day for OHM2013. I am ambivalent about protests after the Video Surveillance Bill one, because there seems to be a core group of activists who have a different approach to mine, and who turn out for everything. Unfortunately, they are the chanting, angry ones and they are the ones that make even me roll my eyes when I see them - the problem being that even when a cause is legitimate, their presence causes people to assume that it's just those people getting a bee in their bonnet again, and therefore it's unlikely to be anything worth taking seriously.

I'm not sure how to reconcile my belief that dissent and protest is important to democracy and that I should walk my talk, with my desire not to be associated with those people and my own feeling of (admittedly probably culturally conditioned) contempt for their methods. We've been trained in this country to invalidate protest and protestors, and I try very hard not to - but there is a certain element who don't help themselves at all in this respect. If they are there, I don't know how long I'll last. But I'll show up because it's important. And someone who's not those people has to, right?

Comments:

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From:pombagira
Date:July 24th, 2013 10:24 pm (UTC)
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will not give up tea. *clutches cup* but also get your point.. hooray!!


and yay Yorick.. he is awsome!! ♥

*is excite*
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From:tatjna
Date:July 24th, 2013 10:40 pm (UTC)
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I'm pretty pleased with him so far. ;-)
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From:tatjna
Date:July 24th, 2013 10:39 pm (UTC)
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I vaguely remember reading a paper on the economics of ethical coffee, and the willingess of the privileged to pay more for the assurance that it was produced in an ethical way. You may have even given it to me.

Of course, since then we have discovered that that little 'fair trade' stamp doesn't always mean 'ethical', but my point is that having these markets be legal and above board allows for more transparency, scrutiny and regulation, which is more likely to create an ethical environment than the clandestine ways these drugs are currently produced. I am wondering how 'ethical prostitution' could be similarly labelled for recognition. And of course, there's still a market among the less privileged for the cheap, unethical coffee, so, you know...

That Guardian article up there touches on how changing the treatment of tea pickers involves changing the culture of the country and how hard that is. And like all of these discussions, it eventually comes back to "Yes that would be nice but where is the will to do it?" And for currently illegal drugs, that's a long way away from where we are right now.
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From:ms_hecubus
Date:July 25th, 2013 01:00 am (UTC)
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I don't know if it's all due to your inexperience. I have a friend who is an art school graduate and still gets a lot of air pockets in that foam. I think it's just a difficult material.
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From:tatjna
Date:July 25th, 2013 01:35 am (UTC)
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Good to know, thanks! ;-)
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From:downwardlashes
Date:July 25th, 2013 03:02 am (UTC)
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I know exactly what you mean, with the protesters. Like when we had an Occupy group here, I wanted to do a little to join in, you know? But our Occupy people were poisonous assholes. They were angry at EVERYONE. You couldn't walk by without walking through a thick cloud of hatred in the air. There are groups to save the forests here and stuff, and I just hate the people, not the causes, so I feel guilty but also annoyed.
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From:tatjna
Date:July 25th, 2013 03:04 am (UTC)
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Yep. Our Occupy started off well, but it soon devolved into a group who saw themselves as some kind of activist army and the nice people all bailed, leaving a horrorshow of macho bullshit that ended up antagonising everyone. It was shameful, and hugely disappointing to those of us who saw its potential.

The problem with that was largely that the people who had the right attitude didn't have the time, because they were all at work. ;-/
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From:fairwells
Date:July 25th, 2013 04:15 am (UTC)

tea and human trafficking

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Well that article just ruined my enjoyment of a cup of tea or coffee.

It's unfortunate that in third world/developing countries that the cultural mindset and poverty levels produce conditions such as these. I know the article states that better rules and regulations among all involved in the tea production process will help eradicate the problems, but I don't think just throwing money at a bad situation will improve conditions in the long-run. I don't think just by giving them a living wage and better work conditions will make countries like India more progressive and modernized. But it is a good start and an important factor. Rape is epidemic in countries like India and it crosses all socio-economic levels. There have been reports of tourists being gang raped. I think eradicating financial poverty is important, but they also need to address the cultural/psychological poverty. So they need to improve education standards as well and health care systems. I realize now after reading this article that young girls are being trafficked and abducted for tea, but I have also read other articles where other girls are abducted and raped just because of diseased minds.

But I will try in the future not to drink any tea that was produced in India. Thank you for sharing that article. It was alarming and sad. But people should know about this.

ETA: Also I wanted to add that Human Trafficking is rampant all over South Asia, Southeast Asia, Middle East, parts of South America, and Africa. Also rape is epidemic globally. Even first world countries like the United States have far too many incidences of rape.

And thank you again for sharing the article. I've been reading about the problems of human trafficking in the Philippines and Indonesia last month.

Edited at 2013-07-25 07:48 pm (UTC)
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From:tatjna
Date:July 25th, 2013 08:26 pm (UTC)

Re: tea and human trafficking

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Yeah. I tend to be of the view that bringing these things into the light and raising folks' awareness of them is the first step to creating change - so even though I doubt legalising and regulating drugs would solve the problems associated with the trade, it would open a door to legitimately do something about some of the human rights abused going on.

However, changes in culture are a slow process - witness the way women are still treated even in Western countries - and as you say there isn't any one quick fix.
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From:meathiel
Date:July 25th, 2013 07:11 am (UTC)
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Ugh ... *stares at her coffee*

Did you have to post that? ;-)

And no, I'm not willing to give up my coffee or tea ...
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From:tatjna
Date:July 25th, 2013 08:28 pm (UTC)
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Me neither. Well, coffee anyway, I couldn't care less if all the tea on the planet disappeared tomorrow. ;-) But since I learned about what goes on in the coffee trade, I'm a lot more careful about my purchasing choices, and I think that's where the power of privileged Western nations is. We are the market for these commodities, so putting our money into products that we can check has been produced ethically is a way of encouraging ethical production, you know?

So yep, still drinking coffee, just making sure it's as fair trade as I can get it, and paying a bit extra for that.
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From:jaelle_n_gilla
Date:July 25th, 2013 07:38 am (UTC)
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Hm, agreed, making it legal would probably take the big bucks out of it, but I guess there would still be money in it somewhere? Probably less deaths though. See prohibition or tobacco.

When I read the first lines I immediately thought about an LJ discussion some time ago about rhinos and other endangered species being killed for their horns and basically for stupid superstition of rich people. Making that legal wouldn't do the rhinos any good, but it's still stupid rich people who make it possible and are responsible for the killings (amongst animals as well as humans) in the places these substances come from.

I'm not sure where I'm heading with this. I guess poor countries will always find methods to make a few bucks from countries that are richer. If it isn't drugs, it'll be other things.

I love Yorick, btw. and that Dremel bench looks awfully familiar :)
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From:tatjna
Date:July 25th, 2013 08:33 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, there's always an argument for those of us who are privileged enough to have a choice of recreational drugs, just stopping using them, and that would solve the problems. Because without the demand, there wouldn't be the race to supply the market.

However, there's an equally strong, evidence-based argument that the drive to alter one's mindstate is inherent in people and animals of all kinds, and that saying 'stop using drugs' is a bit like saying 'stop having sex'. It won't happen. And I can't help but wonder about what it would be like in a world where people could seek out ethically produced, locally grown/synthesised substances - or even produce their own - instead of having to buy on the black market. I doubt it'd fix everything, but I doubt it'd make it worse either.

I am inordinately pleased with how Yorick is turning out. ;-) And I love my little mini work bench! It came free with the Dremel and I probably use it more than the tool itself.
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From:kimeros
Date:July 25th, 2013 10:59 am (UTC)
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I'll be there on Saturday and I'm not chanty or angry. You can hang out with me (Thomas is speaking).
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From:tatjna
Date:July 25th, 2013 08:33 pm (UTC)
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Yay! ;-)

Also, I listened to Thomas speak last night. He was great!
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From:thesecondcircle
Date:July 25th, 2013 04:11 pm (UTC)
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All the coffee and chocolate we buy* are fair trade certified. I know it's not perfect, but I'm not ready to give them up entirely, so I feel like it's at least one thing we can do. We may have to do that with tea now too (though I understand that tea grows really well here in Oregon, so I might just be able to find local tea).

* In the spirit of full disclosure: all the coffee beans and chocolate we purchase outright, not necessarily as an ingredient for example in a container of ice cream and not when we're eating out.
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From:tatjna
Date:July 25th, 2013 08:36 pm (UTC)
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Fair Trade certified is better than not. We do the same thing.

It's an interesting balance, that. How far are people willing to go to ensure their luxuries are ethical? I mean, I'm happy to pay a couple of extra bucks for a packet of Fair Trade coffee, and I'm even willing to do some research to see what that little sticker actually means - to an extent, but probably not enough that I'm 100% sure, you know? I will always choose certified over non-certified, but if there wasn't a certified option, would I go without? I don't know.
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From:c_maxx
Date:July 26th, 2013 11:33 pm (UTC)
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It's the market system- whether free-range robbery, regulated(?) capitalism, or g-ddamed communism ;(,) - it's the system.

If we stop buying tea and coffee, will it help these people?

Raise consciousnesses! And prosecute the middlemen who are getting all the money anyway. Same reason that farmers go bankrupt and City people pay all they can afford for food.

Q: What 300 capitalists at the bottom of the ocean?

A: It's a start!
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