Friday, March 24, 2006

My ethics are bigger than YOUR ethics.

Much merriment and smugness has been evident on the part of the officials in charge of the King's College London Student Union recently about their recently granted status as a "fair trade university" by whoever it is grants that sort of thing. As far as I know none of the other London universities have been granted that accolade, so justifiably the people in charge of KCL are feeling mighty superior. The results of this is that "unethical" produce has been increased in price and large banners extolling how wholesome and ethical the union is have been draped everywhere, not to mention an upturn in third rate Coldplay/Smiths/Radiohead clone bands being dragged in to play in the club at the top of the building. Meh. It's survivable.

Or is it.

Part of me can't help but wonder if Matt Pusey (pronounced like the icky greenish colour puce but with a y on the end, not like a slang term for a female genital) and his fellow popularity contest winners who became "Student Officers 2005-6" actually believe in the whole fair trade malarky or if they just decided to push it more just so they could score radical brownie points off SOAS and UCL and all the other colleges. My vote's with the latter on this, to be fair.

You see, fair trade and whatnot is all very admirable, even though it's a bit of a scam really, since you have no way of knowing that it is, in fact, from raw materials for which the manufacturers paid a fair price to, and it's a little bit radical in that it revolves around throwing out an older modus operandi for the industries in question and replacing it, but it's nice and safe. It doesn't need any images of kids who, unable to acquire clean water, have shite running down their legs from chronic dysentery. It doesn't have any tangible effect on people's lives over here other than their preference to pay over the odds for stuff. And it gives them a nice warm, fuzzy feeling that they're doing something goodly. Thus it's a perfect candidate for seeming ethical and conspicuously compassionate while, in actuality, not having to do anything at all, so many of those who tout it and eulogise about how great it is that Luis from Venezuela isn't living in abject poverty so much as mild impecuniousness nowadays can happily alternate between ranting about how mass consumerism is, like, so evil and begging for sips of their mate's frappucino.

I've no problem if you want to go in for fair trade produce, it's your choice, and if you want to pay 65p for a gritty chocolate bar which tastes of rust then it's your choice. However, I have infintely more respect for those who do it because they believe it's the right thing to do and are willing to get their hands dirty, so to speak, with going out there and helping the less well off in today's world directly rather than just posing with the officially sanctioned brand of coffee and holding forth about why they're so great and why Costa or Starbucks whoever is the devil incarnate.

Alas, I fear the KCLSU mob are of the latter category.


At 12:38 am, Blogger kedazzle said...

I will respond to this properly later. What's your actual name, sir? There's a chance I might actually know you.

At 1:38 am, Blogger Sable X. Veins said...

Too far, Mr. Hazlenut.

I was behind you on Make Poverty History, because the cause was vague, the implementation was spurious, the product was pointless, reminiscent of Medieval indlugences, and Holier-than-Thou-inducing, and the bandwaggoning and self-aggrandisement was nauseating.

However, the Fairtrade movement is sustainable, comparatively low-key, and produces a product that, whilst I am not conoisseur of teas and coffees, I find eminantly pallatable. As far as the "rusty" chocolate is concerned, I couldn't say, I haven't sampled it. It is all very well to attack your plastic SU leaders for phonyism, but Fairtrade is a meme I want to see propogated.

At 10:41 am, Blogger Oscillating Hazelnut said...

I have no problem with the fair trade movement, Veins, it's just that it, like many other charitable initiative today, attracts more than its fair share of bandwagon jumpers and the KCLSU brass hats are those bandwagon jumpers.

I shall choose to stick to ultra-exploitation-ware, so to speak, for my part. I can still do that without the SU's moral totalitarianism coming down on me, can't I?

Kedazzle, my name is Johnny S.

At 12:50 pm, Blogger Withiel said...

Well, although Fair Trade et al might attract "bandwagon-jumpers", and they can be annoying, it still means that someone else is regularly buying Fair Trade produce. Which cannot but be a good thing. I fail to see your wider point at the moment - elucidation?


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