What price do others pay to keep us comfortable and happy? Recently, I read that rains in Colombia were hurting flower farms, which could lead to a loss in Mother’s Day export sales. This reminded me of the movie “Maria Full of Grace,” a story of a pregnant Colombian teenager who became a mule (drug runner) by swallowing heroin packets only to vomit them up after carrying them to New York. Maria survived her perilous travels. The friend who accompanied her did not. In the opening scene Maria was working on a flower farm. Her job? Removing thorns from roses, work that shredded her fingers and hands. Apparently plucking thorns was not going to pay enough to support Maria and her child, which is why she undertook her dangerous journey. Until I saw that movie I never wondered why the roses I bought at QFC or Safeway had no thorns when those from the garden did. If I had thought about it, I would have speculated that a machine had removed them, not a Colombian farm worker. Would all the moms receiving roses next Sunday be so happy if they knew what so many Marias and others like her did so they could feel special one day a year?
The roses are only one example of inequities that have emerged from our global economy. Just last week I read about cell phone assemblers in a factory in China, who made little money, had no breaks, lived in crowded dormitories and suffered greatly from their working conditions.
Interestingly, I haven’t been able to find much current commentary on the social effects of globalization. Maybe we have all become oblivious to the consequences since the global economy is now the norm. It would be impossible to track the origins of all the products in our households. But when we learn about a particularly egregious situation, we could stop buying that product. This week I have a beautiful vase of Peruvian lilies on my countertop. (I wonder where these came from.)