Ignorance is Bliss

When I read about U.S. history, slavery, and the Civil Rights Movement, I often wonder how we could have been complacent for so long in our discrimination and the inhumane treatment of other human beings.  However, I recognize judgment is always easy when looking in from the outside!

I recently listened to an editorial on NPR that mentions Thomas Jefferson and his ability to value freedom yet own hundreds of slaves – seems hypocritical, yes? But how often do we do the same? I think most people would say they do not support slavery or animal cruelty, but how often are we willing to overlook information so that we are able to maintain more comfortable lives?

Since starting the Humane Education program, I realize there are many times that I have chosen to remain blissfully unaware so that I can maintain a lifestyle that is more fun and convenient for me. I have tried to make improvements, but it’s a slow process of change. I have educated myself about how animals are treated in factory farms and done my best to match my actions with my values. However, I have been slower to change some of my other habits.

I have a pretty insane sweet tooth. There is no chocolate too sweet or too rich! I think it’s genetic – so thanks, Mom and Dad. Almost half of the world’s cocoa supply comes from the Ivory Coast in West Africa. Unfortunately, the workers on the cocoa farms are frequently children who are sold into this trade at a young age. Although it is difficult to know which companies purchase chocolate that was produced using child labor or slavery, many of the major companies purchase chocolate from the Ivory Coast, so it is likely they are supporting these practices. We may not be supporting slavery in the U.S., but when we purchase this chocolate, we are unknowingly doing so in other countries.

In Utah, there is a proposed farm bill, HB 187, which would make it a misdemeanor to take pictures or video on a farmer’s property because it interferes with the operation of the agricultural industry. Don’t we have the right to know about the businesses we’re supporting with our money? Do we want to know how the animals are treated on farms before they end up on our plate? Maybe not – after all, ignorance is bliss and the agricultural industry relies on this to continue to make a profit.

I think most people would say they care about children and that they would prefer the animals they eat are treated humanely and with respect.  I hope that when it comes to many of these issues we will stop overlooking information and start aligning our actions with our values.

As Michel Martin asks in her NPR editorial, I will start asking myself, “To what am I enslaved? And what or whom is it my duty to set free?”

References and more information:
“What Enslaves Us That We Won’t Give Up?”
American University Trade and Environment Database
Directory of Ethical Chocolate Companies

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3 Responses to Ignorance is Bliss

  1. Melissa Feldman says:

    I heard the same NPR story about Jefferson, who by so much of what we know today was indeed an exceptional visionary, but one who also fell short, as most of us do. Likewise, I love reading Charles Dickens because of his writing brilliance and his forward thinking, for the time. He did much on behalf of child laborers–he had been one after all–and on behalf of people in prisons. Yet his views also shows signs of racism and sexism, to my eye at least. Like Jefferson he pushed hard at the boundaries and paradigms of his times, but was also a product of those times, and could only see so far.

    I do wonder what future generations will muse about us and our inability to recognize the oppression and violence in front of our own eyes.

    PS. What’s the photo of?

    • Thanks for your wonderful insight, Melissa. And yes, I guess I forgot to label the picture! It’s the top of the hike that was behind my apartment in Utah. A beautiful hike to have out my back door!

  2. Melissa Feldman says:

    Lucky you and Slaw!

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