For us westerners chocolate is just one more thing. It’s inconsequential. We like to eat it, sometimes we get delighted by it for a minute. … We don’t think about it and the incredible effort and resources that are required to make it. We take it for granted along with the other billion foods and the other billion other technologies and privileges we didn’t fight for. Jesus Diaz, Cocoa Farmers Trying Chocolate for the First Time is a Must Watch
A cursory glance through the comments on this video suggest the story says a lot of different things to a lot of different people. I see it as about more than food and our relationship with it, a complex enough issue by itself. I think it’s as much a story about “making” as it is about eating, yet another affirmation of the importance of being more deeply connected to our world, our shared commerce and each other.
The Maker movement drives us to a more meaningful utilitarianism; to a greater understanding about the everyday things we use, how they’re made and by whom. This awareness moves us – or at least I think it should move us – from passive consumption to conscious and active creation, to an intentional way of being that recognizes the physical, creative process of production.
In the case of cocoa, a product most of us savor in some way or another, this video is a reminder of the power of awareness, both for the Ivory Coast cocoa farmers who labor away for a pittance to harvest a product whose uses they little understand, to privileged and largely oblivious westerners mindlessly snacking away with little understanding of the labor – from harvesting to production- that satisfies our collective sweet tooth.
Diaz’ observation about taking chocolate for granted, “along with the billion foods and other billion technologies and privileges we didn’t fight for” is a salient one. Replace “we didn’t fight for” with “we didn’t create” or “we don’t understand” , and consider the destructive consequences, which we daily experience on the larger social scale, if not at an individual level: apathy, disconnectedness, waste, isolation, violence , cynicism, poverty.
Yeah, that’s investing a thoughtful little video on Ivory Coast cocoa farmers tasting chocolate for the first time with some heavy lifting introspection, but thoughtful awareness is the first step towards empowerment. Will knowing what chocolate tastes like change how the farmers feel about their work? Might it inspire them to make their own chocolate? Does it make the chocolate we eat more or less bittersweet?
NPR reports that growing awareness is leading to “a growing number of bean-to-bar chocolate entrepreneurs” helping redefine the chocolate business and giving growers better opportunities to benefit from their labors.
Our world is growing smaller, our resources are shrinking, and there are ever more of us sharing our crowded spaces and places. To make it all work, we need to know and appreciate our neighbors, and pull our own creative and economic weight equally and productively. If it helps, think of that Ivory Coast cocoa farmer’s first taste of chocolate next time you take a bite of yours.