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A Great Man Got Me Thinking – Tuesday October 30th, 2007

July 26, 2008
This week Canada has been blessed by the visit of the Dalai Lama. I have to give kudus to Prime Minister Harper and President Bush for meeting this man in public. The Chinese government is obviously not pleased by these public meetings, but they should be ashamed of their oppression of the Tibetan people.

Quite honestly, the Dalai Lama is a man that I would certainly jump at the chance to sit down and have a beer or two with. If he wanted to join ‘the league of gentlemen' I'm sure that there wouldn't be a problem. Wisdom, intelligence and a great sense of humour. We could all learn something from this great man.

He talks about our greater social responsibility and here I would like to speak. As a wealthy nation we have the ability and the obligation to make sure that our purchases do not go to support corrupt, oppressive regimes or corporations.

This is one reason that I fully believe in buying local. I see the migrant farm workers daily and they don't appear to be oppressed. But what about food from Central America? These people have had several rebellions and risk death to take menial jobs in North America. Things must not be great there.

Coffee is one area where care must be taken. Like oil, it seems the best comes from horrible regimes. I love coffee from the Horn of Africa. Yemen, Ethiopia and Somalia produce wonderful coffee, but I will not support these regimes. I hope Kenya and Tanzania are ok, as this is where I choose to make my purchases from. But in reality do the producers get treated fairly?

Hence, Fair Trade products. I have purchased a lot of Fair Trade coffee and chocolate and yes, it seems better. It should, as it costs more, but why support the oppressors and their death squads. To this I suggest a visit to 10000 Villages, which is a charity that sells Fair Trade and has helped nurture the concept of micro financing. This is where very small loans are given to peasants to start businesses. Their government often oppresses them so this is their way out. Charity yes, but it is a way for the poor to pull themselves up by their bootstraps rather than getting a handout.

With the latest scandal at the GAP, where they allegedly bought clothes from a sweatshop, only emphasises what I am talking about. Everybody does it, and I bet most buyers just close their eyes and buy from the cheapest supplier then charge top dollars at retail. We as consumers have the obligation to be as vigilant as we can be. Why do we trade with such enlightened regimes such as Sudan, Burma (I like the old name), or Zimbabwe?  If you don't want to support narco-revolutionaries maybe quit doing cocaine from Columbia, because you are supporting the death squads. Its simple. Buy clothes made in third world countries and I bet you have about a 50-50 chance of having it made by a child. Like the environment….. check out China's enlightened environmental policies ( they have no Kyoto responsibilities no do they have any concerns about poisoning themselves or us). We can vote with our dollars and fulfill our obligation to the oppressed and maybe bring a smile to a great man's face.

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