Who's the Troll: But how much are Fair Trade Recycling staff Paid?

See April 2012 Post "Useless Lists of Jobs Beneath Wealthy People"

I confess I've lost interest in the "rate of pay" issue in voluntary trade. 

What drives participation in low-pay or exploitative or criminal activity is generally a lack of other opportunities. A system where USA or EU "moral agents" are expected to give their imprimatur to each potential activity, when the EU-USA agents of conscience don't know the context of the choice between opportunities, can ironically limit opportunities.  

The agent of conscience too often plays an unwitting role (or bears responsibility) when labor finds its own level, in the vacuum created by limits on trade opportunities.  

Not buying a recycled product, or not supplying a recycled feedstock, unless you know how much the maker is paid, is usually a terrible idea.  The more consumers buy (demand) the product, the more opportunities the "marginalized" workers will have.  If in doubt, let the affected worker of your concern choose their opportunity.  

So what is the root cause of this market interference by agents of conscience?  Writing below from my own experience (I coined the term "agent of conscience" in a high school journal, btw)...

The "agent of conscience" in the west is initially fed a righteousness-rush.  That's a little jolt of ethical dopamine, for having made a righteous purchase (see also "moral licensing"). The purchase may simply mean "cash" to the "marginalized" producer, e.g. the African women in the business of washing scrap plastic bags to make tapestry, rugs, and purses... they often don't "get" the moral angst angle.  Learn more by reading about "spiritual materialism" (Trungpa) or Steven Pinker if your goal is to know thyself.

Here is film of Africans taking used film plastic, like trash bags, washing them and using them in weaving (replacing cotton).  I posted it and someone immediately asked me how much the people were paid.  

My simpler answer is that if there is no western agent or certifier or profiteer in the video, no imported raw secondary material, whose business is it to ask the question?  

The complicated answer - Whoever is doing the work has pursued an opportunity.  Supply and demand are playing their role, and regulating those roles can have unintended consequences.  I'm fascinated how the question comes up, how the moral agency of the white savior got injected into this development picture.  By being ethically concerned, we are being appointed as 'regulators'.  

The demand to examine every trade as a potential global exploitation probably originated with, or is residual from, instances when organizations were making claims.  Like "fairly traded" product labels, the emphasis is on a past verb. The claims appear to leverage some added moral value of fairness and therefore, arguably, put themselves in the limelight and shouldn't be surprised by the question.  

Agents of conscience were trading in dopamine and moral licensing.  

In the film case above, there is no "Victoria's Secret" or "Fair Trade" or other claim to fault.  Women are just seen washing scrap bags and using rafia-weaving to make handbags.  Yet the question of moral fair pay appears, mysteriously, when I post the film.

With no soapbox braggart to throw tomatoes at.

So here I am asking a question back - back at the person who asked the question of how much the Africans making new stuff out of old stuff are paid.  I watched African women making these same purses from rafia weeds in the 80s, and no one asked the question before they started making them from old plastic bags.

The question is who has the presumption of authority, or of guilt.  If you have anti-capitalist tendencies, the burden of proof shifts anyone trading with Africa.  If you have anti-racist tendency, the burden of proof is on those who would ban interracial trade, or hold it to a different standard.

Choose your moral poison.

~ ~ ~

Someone at EScrap 2015 introduced me to someone else as our industry's "internet troll". 
From the perspective of the geographic and industry minority who drank BAN kool-aid and accept boycotting marginalized society workers as a means of protecting their big shredders from hand labor competition, I'm sure that calling me a troll makes perfect sense.  But people who do not know what they are talking about and making it up as they go along can't really defend their positions with ad hominem attacks on yours truly.  There are too many cameras taking too many pictures of too many Africans pursuing too many decent opportunities.

My hunch is that I'm not a troll so much as a moral buzz-kill.   Getting a high by signing a Pledge or Boycott or using a company which refuses to do business in countries where people need opportunity so badly they are potentially "exploited" is your thing, not ours. Your belief in your moral fetishes goes too far when it goes beyond boycott and involves arrest and seizure of property by Interpol, acting on your ENGO's bogus statistics.  The video above is in French, you could say that 80% of the bags they are recycling are imported as waste, and that the women are being poisoned, and that 80% of the plastic is burned and not reused.  It would all be a lie.  I may indeed be a troll, but not because I tell you that.

Definition of Internet Troll in the Urban Dictionary:
A person whose sole purpose in life is to seek out people to argue with on the internet over extremely trivial issues. Such arguments can happen on blogs, Facebook, Myspace and a host of others. 
So who's the troll?  The person trading with Africans, or the person impugning them?  Is how much these African women are paid a relevant question?  Or is it argumentative, trivial, and none of our business?

If I'm merely a gadfly, what is at stake is not trivial. What I'm about is increasing opportunity. 

Wire burning and acid baths are a symptom of lack of better opportunity, not just lack of environmental enforcement.  Depriving Tech Sector of reuse opportunities will not reduce the amount of scrap plastic litter in Africa or reduce by one iota the kilograms of automobile wire burned at Agbogbloshie. And I'm talking about fine-tuning the ethics of environmental movement, helping do gooders evolve in protecting earth health in the same way that medicine has evolved in human health - through scientific method.

(in fairness this question appeared from a friend who is involved in development in Africa, he wasn't necessarily submitting it as an "audit" or moral equivalency question, I'm just riffing on the question being asked by a white person when there's nothing in the video except what these African women do with scrap film plastic - which is a huge litter issue in Africa).

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