Inspiration or exploitation?

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In researching a forthcoming post, I stumbled across this remarkable video about rural Kenyans who have gotten the rights from the corporation that owns the Simpsons to produce and sell handmade soapstone carvings of characters on the show.  They receive $6 for each carving, which they use to support and educate their families.  The spokesman from the group is very pleased about the work and the impact it has had on the community. 

But then we find that the carvings can be sold in the UK for ten times that amount, $60 a piece.  Does it really cost $54 to ship a small bust of Homer Simpson from Kenya to Britain?  Perhaps, but I am skeptical.  But I’ll refrain from complaining too loudly since if the project were ended for some reason, the Kenyan artisans would clearly be worse off than they are now. 

As an educated Westerner, objectively I have little to complain about compared to most people in the world.  But when thinking about the trenchant problems people in the Global South face and will likely face for the rest of their lives, lately I’ve been dangerously short on optimism.  It’s just so depressing.  It’s easy to understand why often the first response to such widescale suffering is to pretend that these challenges don’t exist or that they’re primarily unsolvable and of people’s own making. 

So it lifts me up to see people like videoreporter Ruud Elmendorp, who made the piece I’ve embedded here, publicizing daily life in Kenya and elsewhere on his website.  He has some reports on the recent unrest in Kenya.  Check it out

Update: I'm still working on the embed here--sorry to all inconvenienced by the automatic start on the video. I need a tutorial or something ...

Later update: Ok, hopefully it'll work now through YouTube.  Embedding the clip through Typepad proved to be beyond my meager abilities. 


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1 Comments

Changeseeker said:

I agree, yave. I find this depressing. While I'm glad to see the workers able to provide for their families, the arrangement is such blatant exploitation, in my view, that I have to shake my head ruefully. The worker they interviewed knows what going on. So not only are they being exploited, but it's without apology. As usual. Thanks for posting this. It'll give me something else to talk about in Social Problems class.

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This page contains a single entry by David Bennion published on January 19, 2008 12:39 PM.

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