Bittersweet

Few things are as universally loved as chocolate, given the myriad of forms it takes: liquid, solid, as a topping, as dip, you get the idea. Its ubiquitous consumption around the globe leads one to conclude that those involved in its production would naturally also be exposed to final finished product. In all my globe-trotting, I’ve managed to find the humble chocolate bar in most grocery stores, and I usually snag a few because they make for a delicious and relatively lightweight souvenir for the folks back at home.

So when I came across the video below, I couldn’t help but think it was anything other than bittersweet:

It was sweet to see that the workers savored their first taste of chocolate, and particularly touching that their first inclination would be to share the experience with each other. Is there anything more human than the urge to share with others our discoveries? We are a social species, and part of what’s made these past few decades so interesting is how quickly we can now share new information with each other, so much data lies at our fingertips.

And yet, there’s some aspects that are sad about this video, too. The fact that these workers do not even know what their hard manual labor produces, and the inescapable conjoining of racial and class divisions that lead to certain assumptions. That the consumption of chocolate, a luxury, is what makes white people healthy (and their guest, who they perceive as fairer skinned than themselves). The desire to save the wrapping to show to their children, a physical token that indeed they were able to partake in the grand chocolate experience at least once in their lives.

It’s what makes growing up so difficult, I imagine, this realization that very few things can be simply enjoyed because everything is interconnected. Both “good” and “bad” coexist and are inseparably twined together, and one is often left feeling powerless to do much of anything to change the status quo. The world seems so full of flaws that should be easy to fix, like this problem of workers separated from the end product.

Would it really be so hard for the cocoa bean buyers to pay these workers just a bit more, so that they can actually purchase what it is they make?

Would we, as global consumers, really mind it so much if we paid just a little more for the chocolate we enjoy, if we knew those making it continents away were living better lives because of it?

 

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