The Ugly Face of Beauty: Is Child Labour the Foundation for Your Makeup?

The Ugly Face of Beauty: Is Child Labour the Foundation for Your Makeup?

RT (2016)

Film Review

This documentary is about mica mining in the Jharkhand state in India, which produces 60% of the global mica supply. In addition to its use (as glitter) in cosmetics, mica is used to manufacture joint compound (for filling and seams in drywall), drilling fluids (in fracking), plastics, synthetic textiles and as an insulator in the electronics industry.

Although mica mining is technically illegal in India (owing to serious health risks, eg lung cancer and potential mine collapse), mica “processing” is legal and immensely profitable.

Rough 20,000 children (some as young as 3) are employed in mica mining in India. Adults can earn up to $3 per day, with lower caste workers earning less. They sell the mica they mine to processing plants or to the “mica mafia,” which sells it directly to exporters.

The Disposable People Who Process Our Toxic E-Waste

ToxiCity: A Graveyard for Electronics and People

RT (2017)

Film Review

Toxic e-waste is equally poisonous to the planet and the third world poor who are forced to process it for a living. The only truly humane and sustainable solution to toxic e-waste is to force big tech giants like Apple, Google and Dell (and the billionaires who run them) to assume responsibility for end-of-life disposal, instead of externalizing this cost to the rest of us.

This documentary is about Agbogbloshie in Acra Ghana, the largest toxic waste dump in the world, and the men, women and children who pick through electronic waste from Asia, the US, Australia and western Europe. Although it’s illegal to employ child labor or import e-waste in Ghana, these laws are never enforced.

The filmmakers interview various “waste managers” who run the site, as well as a 10 year old boy, a fifteen year old girl and the “waste site coordinator.”  The latter  adjudicates disputes and deals with the police when fights break out. The 10 year old (an orphan) earns about $8-10 a days from the scrap metal he collects. This is enough to buy two meals. The 15-year-old was forced to leave school because her parents had no money to pay for her school fees, uniform or textbooks. She prepares food to sell to other scavengers and hopes to return to school and become a nurse.

Scavenging e-waste among the burning rubber and plastics at Agbogbloshie is a highly dangerous occupation due to the high risk of cadmium and lead toxicity. Doctors at a nearly clinic also report an increased incidence of respiratory infection among children who live and work there.

 

The Fight Against a Jobless Economy and a Citizenless Democracy

People Get Ready: The Fight Against a Jobless Economy and a Citizenless Democracy

Robert McChesney and John Nichols (2016)

Film Review

An extremely inspiring public presentation in which McChesney and Nichols talk about their latest book (of the same name)

McChesney begins with research indicating that 50% of current jobs will be eliminated by robots and artificial intelligence in the next 10-20 years. He also talks about the inherent inability of a scarcity/profit based economic system to address this crisis.

For me, the most interesting part of his presentation was a discussion of Franklin D Roosevelt’s Second Bill of Rights.* According to McChesney, both Germany and Japan incorporated this Second Bill of Rights into their constitutions after World War II. This, in his view, explains why both countries have become economic powerhouses.

Both men talk about the crucial need to form a post-capitalist society and economic system. Nichols talks more about the large global movements which have formed to build this new system. He, like McChesney, has been surprised by the popular candidacies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. The book predicts the appearance of proto-fascist and democratic socialist candidates in response to growing popular resistance movements. However neither expected it to happen so quickly.

The best part of Nichols’ talk is his discussion of the massive Luddite and Chartist movements in Britain (and the populist and progressive movements in the US) that would ultimately lead to universal suffrage, honest elections and the rise of the trade union movement.

Nichols stresses that none of these reforms resulted from the heroic efforts of a political savior – they all resulted from the dedicated and persistent mass organizing of ordinary people.

 


*Roosevelt’s Second Bill of Rights included the basic right of all Americans to

• Employment (right to work)
• Food, clothing and leisure, via enough income to support them
• Farmers’ rights to a fair income
• Freedom from unfair competition and monopolies
• Housing
• Medical care
• Social security
• Education