Tuesday, 26 May 2009

An ode to fair trade

With her two brothers this fair lady dwelt,
Enriched from ancestral merchandize,
And for them many a weary hand did swelt
In torched mines and noisy factories,
And many once proud-quiver'd loins did melt
In blood from stinging whip;--with hollow eyes
Many all day in dazzling river stood,
To take the rich-ored driftings of the flood.

For them the Ceylon diver held his breath,
And went all naked to the hungry shark;
For them his ears gush'd blood; for them in death
The seal on the cold ice with piteous bark
Lay full of darts; for them alone did seethe
A thousand men in troubles wide and dark:
Half-ignorant, they turn'd an easy wheel,
That set sharp racks at work, to pinch and peel.

Why were they proud? Because their marble founts
Gush'd with more pride than do a wretch's tears?--
Why were they proud? Because fair orange-mounts
Were of more soft ascent than lazar stairs?--
Why were they proud? Because red-lin'd accounts
Were richer than the songs of Grecian years?--
Why were they proud? again we ask aloud,
Why in the name of Glory were they proud?

from Isabella or the Pot of Basil, by John Keats
The latest post at CAUTE, about money and relationships, reminded me in part of these stanzas by Keats, which make the connections between trade and exploitation explicit. As Andrew Brown suggests,
The challenge we have in this modern society is how we (you and me) might reconnect our moral and ethical selves with our money [and] see anew that our money's value is always tied up in how it is used.
If we buy clothes that have been made in a third world sweatshop, or invest in funds that support the purchase of tanks and guns, or experimentation on animals, isn't our money turning an easy wheel, that sets sharp racks at work, to pinch and peel?

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