A Rant On Fair Trade Coffee and the Hipsters Who Love It

When I was in college, I spent a short amount of time—as almost all collegians do—brainwashed into hippie liberalism, and the now-cringe-inducing “social justice movement.” [I literally did cringe and shiver when I typed that.] On my particular campus, a social “activist” group called JAPOT (Justice and Peace in Our Times) met one night per week to discuss a number of issues and injustices (usually billed as absolute atrocities) and other groundwork-of-hipster-but-without-the-damning-moniker agenda babble, like how to completely bastardize indie music into the absolute most corporate abomination in maybe the history of sound recording, the impossible-to-accept realization the Gap wasn’t yet carrying a large assortment of $45 shittily-fitting toboggans that are made to purposely look like they came from Goodwill, and the plight of the mustache and how to revive the 70s facial fashion.

One of the annoying-in-hindsight topics addressed was the “important” notion that the school’s cafeteria workers “needed” to unionize. Despite a number of attempts to convince the staff about the upsides to unionization, they were smart enough to shoot the proposal down, so the issue’s main champion was relegated to merely convincing the parent company of the cafeteria to offer only Fair Trade Coffee.

If you’re unfamiliar with Fair Trade, it basically hinges on the premise that growers are terribly exploited—I mean, they are, right? I mean, surely they’re an exploited workforce… they just grow coffee beans; they can’t possibly have their act together enough to avoid being taken advantage of, right? Right?

Note that this was the same condescending and presumptuous line of reasoning that had been rammed down the throats of the cafeteria staff, with their resounding “We don’t feel exploited in any way” counter argument slapping JAPOT and its leader in the face. At the time, I thought it was ridiculous, but over time I hadn’t thought too much about the whole thing. As it turns out, though, Fair Trade is an entity with a huge annual budget, paid for by a percentage of the prices its growers get for the beans they sell.

It doesn’t take a genius to see that the only one really exploiting these workers is Fair Trade. This is all very reminiscent of the labor union! “Unions will keep wages high!” is the promise, but then after a worker pays his dues and also high-prices himself right out of a job, what good is the union to the worker? But alas, the union bosses get paid either way! And so does Fair Trade.

I often read Cracked for intelligent comic relief, and for some insight into obscure and overlooked topics in pop culture. Their piece on Fair Trade Coffee, written by Gregory Myers, sent me on this rant in the first place. Please check it out here!!!

-J

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~ by hamiltonjacobs on December 1, 2012.

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