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A Sociological Way To Look At A Banana Mango Smoothie-Exploitation Of Farm Workers

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

A banana mango smoothie is a refreshing beverage that people enjoy drinking; however, there are many hidden relations to think about when referring to it. People in developed countries buy a banana mango smoothie because they enjoy the taste of it; they do not think about the process included in order for them to enjoy the drink and disregard how the bananas and mangos got here. This is an example of commodity fetishism which refers to people only thinking about the object in front of them when they purchase something and not thinking about the history of the product or how it was made; people look at the objects essence and its monetary worth as one and the same. When a person is drinking a banana mango smoothie, they are thinking about how good the smoothie tastes and how good it is making them feel; they are not considering the exploitation the workers in the developing countries went through in order for people to enjoy a beverage.

 Hidden Power Relations

There are hidden power relations present in this as well; the people with power and the people with money are benefiting from being owners of production as well as from enjoying a nice beverage. On the other hand, the workers and farmers are being exploited with poor working conditions and poor pay and are trapped in a cycle of poverty.

 Chiquita Bananas And Their Take On Exploitation

Chiquita brands, a well known banana brand, have exposed themselves as environmental leaders; they proudly represent themselves as being green through advertisement. Chiquita's "Environmental Charter" states that the company works "to protect the rainforest, to maintain clean water, to minimize the use of agrochemicals, to reduce, re-use and recycle waste, to support environmental education, and to ensure our workforce is well-trained and works safely.” However, an Enquirer investigation into Chiquita's use of pesticides on plantations shows that this is false information because there are no actions taken to ensure that not only the company's stated environmental guidelines and partnership agreements with the alliance are followed, but also that safety of its tens of thousands of field workers are accounted for. Thus, Chiquita is using false advertisement; since they have a lot of money and are owners of production, they hold power and try to become a stronger company.

 Chiquita’s Attempt To Improve Working Conditions

Furthermore, in the beginning of the 1990s, Chiquita joined the Rainforest Alliance to improve working conditions, to minimize the environmental impact of its farms and to conserve the rainforest around their plantations.  However, the Enquirer has found that Chiquita subsidiaries have sprayed toxic cocktails and varying mixtures of potent chemicals on their plantations without removing workers first; often these pesticides fall on workers, nearby villages and rivers or forests which could potentially cause cancer for humans. This is an example of power because power entails one person making another person do something that this other person would not normally do; force or manipulation is always involved. The people in power, who are the owners of production, have control over the workers since the workers need to make money to survive. It is easier for the company to spray the pesticides at anytime that benefits them, not considering where it is going and what it is affecting, such as the workers’ health.

 Moreover, on the north coast of Honduras, Chiquita also seeks to make drastic changes to the work environment, which would result in the reduction of the workforce and increased work load for the remaining workers. The company profits grow due to layoffs, speedups, and low wages; the poor living conditions and health problems that the workers and their families suffer due to low wages are a cause of this. In addition, the pesticides and other chemicals that are sprayed on workers and their living areas cause severe rashes for the workers.  Health care is crucial for workers and their families since there are many respiratory conditions and dermatological illnesses caused by the same chemicals the company sprays on the fields and uses in the packing areas. Also, there are a large number of women working in the packing areas that have developed cancer form exposure. The owners do not care about the workers; all they care about is their profit. Power is the property of individuals; the owners are controlling the workers and disregard the effects on them. Health care is very expensive for workers who only make minimum wage. The workers admit that great improvement over the years has been achieved in their lives because of their own struggle and efforts. 

 Let’s Educate People! PREDA

People around the world need to be aware of the situation and need to be educated in order for any progress to be made.  Once people with the opportunity to help are aware, there will be a better chance for a solution, such as PREDA.  PREDA is a Philippine Non-Government Organization that helps farmers and other craft people to overcome the exploitation that causes poverty. It is a Fair trade organization that believes social change for the poor and the oppressed can come about through the practice of fair trade. Preda exports dried mangos sourced from poor farmers at fair trade prices and provides other development projects to the producers. Many poor farmers have few mango trees and Preda is encouraging them to plant more mango trees on eroding land because it could help them out of poverty. The mango trees have a network of roots that hold the soil and the water; it also improves their irrigation and earnings. More and more farmers are putting small paper bags over the fruit when the fruit is a week old so they are protected and there is no need for pesticides, which is what they were told by Preda, others are encouraged to plant Neem trees near their mangos to ward off insects. 

 Mango Buying Stations That Are Owned By The Wealthy

Additionally, most towns in mango growing areas have a mango buying station usually owned by a wealthy family or by an export company. They set the buying price by size and weight and poor farmers do not have the contacts or transportation to sell their fruit in the urban wholesale market or to exporters.  Those farmers who are exploited by both the contract sprayer and the monopoly and who insist on spraying their trees to induce blossoms also want help from Preda. Preda, while encouraging farmers to grow in a traditional way with natural fertilizer still helps them by giving them low interest production loans and training in how to bag the fruit so they have no need for pesticides. Preda also buys their fruit, not by contract pricing, but by the kilo. If the farmer cannot reach the processing factory to sell directly the farmer still gets the same high price from Preda.  “This is one example of how FAIR TRADE directly benefits small producers who are victims of cartels and monopolies in The South and helps break the cycle of exploitation and poverty.”

 Banana Mango Smoothie Being Represented Wrongly

A banana mango smoothie is represented through discourses, such as through the media and advertisement. Representation through language is central to the process by which meaning is produced, and meaning is what shapes our knowledge of the world. Meaning organizes and regulates our conduct and practices, and it also helps to set the rules, norms and conventions by which social life is ordered and governed. This is depicted through the leisure of people in the developed countries who have the comfort of going to a Booster Juice and buying a banana mango smoothie as refreshment or because they want one; representation through discourses persuades the consumer to “want” a smoothie, this is because people are governed (Hall, Foucault). People believe they have freedom and choices in their lives, however it is an illusion because the choices are given to them; nevertheless, this is a very effective way of power. 

 Foucault’s View On The Smoothies

Furthermore, according to Foucault, there are three types of governing which include how we are governed, how we govern each other and how we govern ourselves. This leads to normalization, which is the most effective way that power is conducted. We are always located inside of power relations. Power shapes our field of vision; what we can see, think and do. Power signals the existence of an enormous range of social beliefs, discourses, and practices; however, usually we are only aware of power when it involves coercion. The workers who are harvesting the bananas and mangos are under power relations as well as the people who are buying the smoothie; both groups are governed. The two groups experience different types of governing since one who buys the smoothie is considered to be in the “The West” and the group who is harvesting the fruit is considered “The Rest”. The West differentiates, homogenizes and creates normalization; the West refers to modern, industrialized, developed, urban, capitalist and secularized societies.  This suggests that the people who are buying the smoothie, in the developed countries are contributing to the cycle of poverty that the farmers are in.

 Mainstream View Of Banana Mango Smoothies, And Participating Companies

A banana mango smoothie has become normalized in “The West”; it starts in the developing countries where the fruit is harvested by farmers who endure poor wages and poor working conditions. These farmers are being exploited by the people who own the means of production, the people in power. When a person goes to buy a smoothie, they are contributing to the cycle the farmers are trapped in because they do not think about how the fruit got here in order to make the smoothie. This is also an example of McDonaldization, depicted through a company such as Booster Juice or Freshly Squeezed who sell smoothies. These companies are only considering their costs and benefits and not acknowledging how they received the fruit. They are only considering the four dimensions of McDonaldization which are efficiency, calculability, predictability and control. They are reflecting on how much profit they produce, and this could be higher if their costs of getting the fruit are lower. 

 To conclude, people experience their life differently depending on their standpoint and their position in society. Some people have a social advantage, these are the people who occupy the centre, control the normative order of things and they use representation and discourses to hold their power. Normalization is the most effective way of regulation; this is how people in power guide societies and people’s views with their power.  The farm workers of bananas and mangos are being exploited everyday because of their social position; the people who are exploiting them are the people who are in power and in control. Since the farmers have a very little voice, they can only improve their conditions to a certain extent; they need other people who are also in power to help them. People around the world have to be educated about the exploitation the farmers are experiencing for any improvement to occur; this is seen through Preda as they assist the mango farmers to overcome their cycle of poverty and provide better working conditions.


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