Monday, April 24, 2006

We live in a free world...but I want my jeans cheap!

Extensive reliance on a "slave population" for subsistence and economic prosperity has been probably the biggest criticism for such ancient ("great") civilizations as the one that blossomed in ancient Athens around the 5th century B.C. Slavery is bad we have been told because enslaved populations do not enjoy the same fundamental rights that the rest of the population considers as graned. Days, years, centuries (even millennia) have gone by: we have abolished slavery, we have formulated theories regarding "exploitation and equality" as well as "free markets" and more generally, we consider ourselves well in advance with respect to promoting equality. But, in reality, can we claim we have gone that far?

In a world where democracy is almost universally espoused, we speak rather frequently of "freedom", the antidote to slavery. Yet most of the times we choose to focus almost entirely on political freedom, whereby we embrace democracy and condemn non-democratic regimes. One in fact must concede the importance of political freedom and democracy given that it guarantees, in theory, a certain level of respect for other fundamental human rights for all people.

But let us pause for a moment. We the peoples that inhabit "the democratic lands" can we honestly claim to have attained freedom for everyone in our country? Yes, if we go by the Constitutions, all people are created free and equal. But what about real-life terms? When those responsible for cultivating our strawberries and tomatoes get infinitely small salaries, that are worth almost nothing compared with their needs, can we not talk of another type of slavery? When immigrants, minorities, indigenous people or other such groups are either discriminated against, can we be satisfied with our own level of freedom and equality?

But there is more into that. Everytime we enjoy a cup of coffee that is not labelled as "free-trade coffee" we contribute further to the enslavement of the men and the children that were involved in its production. For the sweatshops that produce our jeans and clothing to become "normal factories", that is to demonstrate what in economic terms we call "corporate responsibility" and in plain english "respect for their employees" change of the status-quo is of paramount importance. Certainly. When we, the fervent proponents of democracy and equality, decide not to tolerate such situations anymore we can protest and rest assured that our voices will be heard- because we live in a democracy and our opinions matter. But wait a moment. If we are a little individualistic (jeans can be very expensive!) can we still be good democrats?

6 comments:

nihnahades said...

He entendido perfectamente tus post..los cuales me parecen inteligentes y criticos
me gustaria comentarte en ingles, pero no quiero errar,

"democracia e igualdad" el binomio seguir'a siendo épico

M. Atitar de la Fuente said...

¡No sabía que tenías un blog!Tiene muy buena pinta.
Respecto al post, la situación es dificil porque los jóvenes nos movemos con salarios que solo permiten esos "jeans cheap", y con una cultura que te dice que cada año tienes que tener "new jeans".
¡Un saludo!

Anastasia said...

Ja verdad así es, pero lo que es dificil no es siempre imposible.

paragrafos said...

Άσχετο, αλλά με αγάπη: Σας ευχαριστώ για την εγκάρδια συμπαράσταση.

Με ευγνωμοσύνη

Παράγραφος

Elpidia García said...

Excelente reflexión sobre la relación entre democracia e igualdad. La falta de igualdad de oportunidades es precisamente la causa de esa esclavitud moderna. Mientras no se reduzca la miseria y se emparejen los extremos entre el millonario y el mendigo no habrá igualdad económica ni de oportunidades, sin embargo, los esfuerzos por reducir la pobreza serán insuficientes si no se tratan a la vez las cuestiones relacionadas con los derechos humanos. Según Giovanni Sartori, en su libro Qué es la Democracia?, dice al respecto: "...después de Tocqueville es Bryce quien mejor representa la democracia como ethos, como un modo de vivir y convivir y, en consecuencia, como una condición general de la sociedad. Para Bryce, (1888) democracia es, prioritariamente, un concepto político; pero también para él la democracia estadounidense se caracterizaba por una igualdad de estima, por un ethos igualitario que se resuelve en el valor igual con el que las personas se reconocen las unas a las otras. Entonces, en la acepción genral del término, "democracia social" revela una sociedad cuyo ethos exige a sus propios miembros verse y tratarse socialmente como iguales."
En este sentido Anastasia, creo que una sociedad no se puede asumir como democrática solamente por el hecho de que sus gobernantes son elegidos por el pueblo. Democracia en el amplio sentido de la palabra significa también Democracia Política, Social y Económica y creo que todavía estamos lejos de alcanzarla.

"La desigualdad es fácil porque exige solamente flotar con la corriente, allá en donde la igualdad es difícil porque nos pide nadar contra ella" Tawney

Abrazos. (Perdona por la longitud del comentario y por escribir en Español, sólo quise ahorrarme algo de tiempo)

Scott Stirling said...

I have made a 6 figure income for the past few years. Even I feel like an indentured servant most of the time. Is it just me? I got where I am, by which I mean a college educated home owner, with the aid of lots of loans -- student loans, credit cards, mortgages . . .

Freedom is an excellent topic for semantic exploration. Economist Friedrich Hayek wrote about it a lot and argued strongly for its necessity for the good of economies. From what I recall, he seemed to take for granted that freedom is somewhat relative to socio-economic status. It's always been this way, apparently. Maybe it's time to start teaching kids at an early age that freedom is not just an abstraction or a lack of constraint, but is a state achieved by the balance of a variety of factors grounded in reality, such as your age, income, education level, etc.

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