Sunday, March 25, 2007

Easter thoughts....

Today at church, we were reflecting on 200 years since the end of the trans-atlantic slave trade. So one of the things we did, was look at slavery today, and how most of us benefit from it.

Especially as we're coming up to Easter, I thought it was poignant that my pastor decided to do a presentation on the chocolate industry and slavery. An estimated 15,000 Malian children work as slaves on Ivorian cocoa plantations. Cote D'Ivoire supplies 43% of the world cocoa to the main chocolate producers in Europe and America. Chances are the chocolate that you will eat this Easter, much of it will have been at the cost of forced labour and beating of children.

I'm sure this isn't shocking to most people as this made big news back in 2001. Then there was supposed to have been a voluntary code set up by the Chocolate manufacturers to ensure that child slavery was ended on cocoa farms by 2005. Sadly this hasn't been met. Here's a excerpt from the american Global Exchange (fair trade) website:

"In 2001, this unacceptable practice caught the attention of the media and the government, and the American public began to voice their abhorrence of the use of child slave labor in the production of one of their most beloved treats: chocolate. In response, the US chocolate industry agreed (via the Harken-Engel Protocol) to voluntarily take steps to end child slavery on cocoa farms by July of 2005.

Unfortunately, this deadline has now passed, and the chocolate industry has failed to comply with the terms of this agreement. As a result, Global Exchange is spearheading a campaign that will provide an opportunity for communities nationwide to voice their concerns about the chocolate industry's abuse of children's rights."

This is still an important issue! In the words of one Malian child slave, "Tell your children that they have bought something that I suffered to make. When they are eating chocolate they are eating my flesh." (this quote come s from Stop the

Okay, so is there anything we can do about it? Pray, that's a good start. When you see easter eggs for sale in the shops (or chocolate bunnies if you're in america) stop and pray.

But there's more that we can also do, sometimes I think we use prayer as a way to take away personal responsibility, I know I do, but there is a lot that we can actually do. doesn't recommend boycotts of buying chocolate, as this often does more harm than good, hurting already poor farmers who don't use slaves, and encouraging more farmers to use slave labour as the demand for their goods (and their income) falls.

Instead they recommend supporting fair and ethical trade initiatives. Although I don't think Fair Trade is a viable long term solution, as it is too controlled in terms of market forces, for the moment it seems a good way to guarantee, and encourage fair working conditions. If the world was free and equal, then free trade would be the way to go, but without common respect for human rights (and general love of neighbour), free trade leads to exploitative practices with increasingly lower wages and higher profits. Buying Fair Trade on the other hand, guarantees good fair wages for those who have produced and sees them through times of market fluctuation. Although the fair trade component of Cote d'Ivoire's cocoa production makes up only 1.3% of the market it is growing. The more larger producers see the rise of Fair Trade chocolate sales the more they will be be compelled to look at their own buying practices in order to retain their share of the market.

Other than that we can support Ethical Trade Initiatives, by encouraging your family to sit down this easter and write a letter to one of the chocolate producers, encouraging them to increase their efforts to guarantee just labour practices. (I've put a few addresses at the end but local ones shouldn't be too hard to find.)

On Easter we choose to celebrate the crux of our faith, there is victory over death and the destructive pattern that we are part of in this world will not prevail. Let's continue to try and live that way now, and in God's power (through Christ's ressurection) we know that it's possible.

Corporate Affairs Manager
Nestlé UK Ltd.
St. George's House

External Relations Department
Mars Confectionery
Dundee Road

Terry's Suchard/ Kraft Foods
Consumer Care
St. George's house
Bayshill Road
GL50 3AE

Consumer Relations Department
Cadbury Ltd.
PO Box 12
B30 2LU

Monday, March 19, 2007

Bored of essays already....

One of the funniest articles I've read recently was today in a link from the Drudge Report.
It's entitled "Global Warming: Moving Towards Metrosexuals" (click here to read it).

Basically the author feels outraged that methane produced by cattle is being targetted by Global Warming activists. He feels this is part of the "liberal" attack on all things masculine as this would mean we now want to criminalize eating charcoal-grilled Steak. Here's an excerpt or two:

"So now, steaks and hamburgers are classified as instruments of destruction, along with large vehicles, lawn mowers, and charcoal grills. It can't be much longer before cowboy movies, cigars and hockey are held to be enemies of the earth as well."

"This has got to be the most blatant assault on guyhood since ABC moved Coach to the same night as Roseanne, and turned Hayden Fox into Phil Donahue. It's a wonder that liberals don't cut to the chase, by simply claiming that global warming is caused by testosterone. Then, they could make public school nurses siphon the offending fluid from the boys during health class."

He may have a point.... I'm always up for a good conspiracy theory. But besides from being well written polemic, it does raise some interesting points about this guys view of "guyhood". What's sadder and probably more an affront to masculinity (rather than global warming activists) is the fact that the manhood this guy is holding on to has been completely emasculated. His paradigm of masculinity has no substance, no balls.

Basically manhood in our day and age boils down to believing what the ads tell you to. Men have yet to recover from years of feminist ideological domination and so hold strongly on to whatever images they can. This means the XL-Whopper at Burger King, or bigger fuel-guzzling engines (with "Like a rock" playing in the background), pure aggression from the 6-nations or March Madness (although even basketball is a bit iffy cause women do that too...right?) American Football...that's a man's sport. I love that the author described other affronts on masculinity in terms of moving TV programmes around. Isn't the fact that most Western men spend their evenings sitting in front of the TV more the affront to manhood? Testosterone can't do much when we're sitting on our asses.

Basically, we've lost the battle already. We've got no concept of any sort of healthy manhood, so we play into two feminist imposed expectations and roles: 1) man as uni-dimensional brute aggressor, or 2) man as metro-sexual image conscious wanna-be sex-icon (when in history were so many guys so concerned about having rock-hard abs?)... i guess there should be a third category often seen in media and real life....3) man as completely apathetic self-absorbed couch-potato/internet junkie....(i've got a lot of this in me).

Something to think about....not saying that the feminists (do you like my stereotyping...and I do mean "ALL" feminists) were wrong, they've done well. And most were probably ignorant at the effect they were having at emasculating society. But since us men put up no fight of our own, maybe it's our own fault.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Happy St. Patricks Day to everyone! I'm still sadly in England for the moment, needing to do some essays before I can officially enjoy the easter holidays, but I'll arrive back in Dublin a week from Monday.

Just an update... the course is going well enough. Some weeks I feel like i'm getting a handle on things and other weeks (usually) I feel like I'm just keeping from drowning. I know that's how you're supposed to feel in medical school, but it does keep the stress level a bit high. Anyway, the summer is looking ever more in sight, meaning both exams and freedom. Dreading the exams, but the freedom is seeming to diminish my fears.

We've just finished our 4 week Respiritaory course and our 4 week Cardiovascular course. We had a random week on gerontology and now when we come back from the holidays we'll be studying the Locomotor System. Fun a way. Anyway, that's my life for now. I'll post again soon when there is something worthwhile to say, or (more likely) when I get bored of writing my essays.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


So we've finally done it! After years of maintaining peer pressure, the government ensuring that there's nothing better to do, and a healthy dose of advertising by Diageo...we've finally secured the top spot of the EU's most binge-drinking nation.

Aparently 34% of Irish people replied in a survey that they binge drink (more than 5 drinks in 1 sitting- hardly "binge drinking" if you ask me) regularly. We beat Finland with 27% and the UK with 24%. Not bad. Well done to all those involved in making this such a success.

Sunday, March 04, 2007


addendum: I realize in my last post, I refer to Arafat's trademark scarf as the Palestinian headscarf. This is not strictly the case. Although the black and white scarf in this pattern is mostly associated with the Palestinian people (both still in Palestine or refugees throughout the Arab world and beyond) the scarf is also presently in use in other Arab countries.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

A day of thoughts....

So today was one of those days that was full of thoughts. This morning I spent at a global health conference put on by MEDSIN which is the global health awareness group in most UK medical schols. We had a couple good speakers and a couple so-so speakers. But as my dad is famous for saying about conferences he goes to, I mainly went to see if there were people I could collaberate with and learn from (i.e. networking). And to my delight I think I did find some. There's a project in the work that is seeking to form partnerships between UK medical schools and Medical schools in the Global South, and that's something that I really want to get behind, so watch this space.

Okay so one of the things that I've been wanting to rant about recently, actually since I got to the UK, is the way that our global society has comodified things that used to hold meaning, and made them into commercialized symbols of chic fashion. An example of this that I've noticed especially since I came to the UK was the Palestinian Hatta or Keffiyeh (as seen on Mr. Yasser Arafat to the right). It would be an odd day in southampton to walk around and not see this scarf being worn by at least 3 or 4 fashionable young women. I recently asked two of my coursemates who also wear this scarf (well one actually wears a sylized hat made from the same colours and pattern) what they thought about the whole palestinian situation. They both revealed that they were not wearing them out of political motivation, or a human rights statement. One of the them didn't even know it had any palestinian meaning. The other told me her scarf was her mother's from the 70s when she used to campaign.

I don't have a problem really with the people who wear it without knowing its deeper significance or really caring, but it just saddens me that our society is so set up that may symbols quickly lose any meaning. People wear Che Guevara t-shirts without knowing who he was or what he did (or if they acutally would agree with him). I don't know, it's also evident in how some people wear religious jewelry (although this is meaningful for many people). I just wonder if any symbols can last anymore? Or if our society cares about anything more than the lates fashions and looking good?

African-Carribean Cultural Night:

I went to the African-Carribean cultural night tonight. It's put on by the African-Caribean Christian Fellowship here in Uni of Southampton. It was an interesting night. I managed to convince 3 friends that it would be a good event to go to and give support to. The first half of the night was a bit strange and I think especially uncomforable for my friends. The night was advertised as a night to celebrate African and Carribean culture, but the second half of the 1st half they had this all-white southampton teenage "urban dance" troup. They did a few songs including Michael Jackson's thriller (in full zombie gear, quite freaky). They were very intense, and sort of were a complete change from the hearfelt and genuine acts shown before (such as a medley of Amazing grace to celebrate 200 years of emancipation). I felt very uncomfortable during this group, we weren't really told why they were performing and they're intensity was really weird. This was just too much for my friends who sadly left after the inter-mission...although I couldn't really blame them.

The second half was much better thouh, it was full of drama, singing, poetry, dancing and even a fashion show (not to mention free food at the end...good stuff). The drama and poetry dealt with issues of diaspora life such as the brain drain, longing to return home, the homeland longing for its children to come back. There was drama about elders and poetry about things I wish I could understand. But mostly it was celebratory. The president of the ACCF, a medic, got up towards the end to explain why there was need of such night. She talked of how the vast majority of things we hear in the media about Africa and Africans are negative and how if you ask people what the first things they think of when you say Africa, the response you get is usually war, famine, AIDS. She said that although these are part of the story they are not the things that she thinks of. She mentioned so many wonderful memories, sounds, smells and people. She was a really elegant and gifted speaker and I thought her talk was maybe the best part of the night.

Anyway, I wish my friends could have known what was coming in the 2nd half cause it may have convinced them to stay, but honestly I probably would have left in the first half as well if I hadn't told myself that I would stay because of the 7 pound cost of the ticket for the night. I'm glad i did though, it very much made me miss being in circles of people with a wide diversity of life experience, with open expectations and understandings of what's important in life.