I’ve written previously about the Cambodian government’s campaigns of land theft, extortion and violence in the name of selling off the country’s resources to our beloved High Street companies and supermarket retailers. Here’s the latest sorry example in the form of forced evictions and child labour by suppliers for the sugar company Tate & Lyle, facilitated by the European Union. It’s a beautifully-shot film by my good friend Chris Kelly for The Guardian with an excellent accompanying print piece by Kate Hodal, to which a boycott of Tate & Lyle’s products seems an appropriate response. The outsourcing of human misery continues at pace but rarely has it appeared so benign as in the age in which we live.
An interesting side-note is the high probability of Cambodian sugar, grown on stolen land and harvested by children, being marketed as Fairtrade here due to the opacity of the trade. Whilst not denigrating the many admirable Fairtrade projects around the world, it does foster a healthy degree of scepticism about the caring, sharing face of consumerism and what lies beneath its claims of emancipating the developing world. We might take a look at our own complicity in the process, the smug token benevolence involved and, particularly, the motives of its evangelists. The EU preferential trade scheme with Cambodia shows that the road to hell may be paved with good intentions but more acutely we might ask, for whose good are these intentions? Ours? Theirs? Or some third party? Here’s Slavoj Žižek, and Oscar Wilde, with some thoughts worth considering: