Tough times


Every time there is an economic crisis and the system seems about to collapse, the new miracle recipes in question are always about reforming the market labour, because   the cost of labour nowadays seems to be far too high to make good profit. I am pretty sure that many manufacturers or even rulers might be longing for the good old times when in the societies of the past, slavery was common practice. The state of servitude greatly increased the wealth the countries, because it meant no cost labour with a much higher productive rate. More slaves, more profit had always been the equation for centuries and centuries. For example when Virginia started to be colonized the labour forces were recruited thanks to indentures, that is, a form of white servitude. They were restrictive contracts of employment that usually lasted four or five years in exchange for passage, accommodation, clothing, food but no cash wages. Many people didn’t endure the appalling conditions of work and climate and died, but the very few who resisted to the end of the indenture gained their freedom and often started to begin their own farm, or go into business. Once the white slaves had become owners and needed new cheap workforce, they turned to black slavery, importing slaves from Africa. Certainly the great ideals that spread during the Enlightenment were enemies to that system. All that talking about the rights of men and even women brought to the spreading of movements against slavery in the colonies and at the same time to the improvement of the working conditions at home thanks to a body of laws which protected the labourers. That put an end to the old system of slavery, but behind that mask of reform and respectability the crave for exploiting working forces was still well alive, because the cost of labour was growing higher and higher.  As it was impossible to go back to the old practice of slavery just the way it was, one day somebody must have come up with the greatest idea ever: instead of moving the masses to the business, why not moving the business to the masses!!!!! Needy masses, of course, particularly in those nations where the laws don’t dare hinder the sake of profit. Therefore factories close and re-open somewhere else where the workers cost less and above all don’t complain. This modern trend, called delocalization, pauperizes the manufacturing system of the country of origin increasing its unemployment rate and the poverty of workers.The question is: if the trend is making all of us somehow the new slaves, who will buy all the goods produced one day ? We need a good recipe, I guess.



Some years ago, my husband and I had the great opportunity of joining a program of long distance adoptions in Paraguay. The idea of helping the minors of the poor countries and  their families providing them with an economical help, so that they may receive the primary goods, education and the medical care they need, made us feel, I don’t know, better people if possible. However, once subscribed, after few weeks we received a letter with all the personal data of the adopted child, which, unexpectedly, turned out to be a very exciting moment, because we hadn’t had the name of the kid yet. I still remember my husband slowly unfolding the letter, looking at the picture and saying with a big smile: “it’s a boy”. His name was Wilfrido. In the picture, a little brat of about five was doing his best to show us his gratitude with a big toothless smile, even if he seemed a kind of uncomfortable in his brand new school pinafore, maybe too large for the age. Once our adopted son had materialized in that picture, we started to be pervaded by a strange sort excitement. We began  to think that we might do many things for him, for example providing him with a high school education and even more, Harvard, Stanford, why not? At a closest inspection of the picture, the boy didn’t really look like the student type, but maybe I was wrong. Wilfrido didn’t pass the first grade that year. We were shattered. The following years went much better. He learnt to read and write, even Maths. One day he wrote to me, telling that he reached school on foot – seven miles!!!- or sometimes on horseback and that he liked studying after all.  But one day,Wilfrido and his family left the village and I have never heard from him since then. I was disappointed , maybe I could have done more to give him the opportunity of having a better future, maybe. Few years later I would have seen the whole experience from another angle. I  was in Costa Rica and I needed some directions, one boy offered to write down the address for me.  He picked a pen and slowly started to move it on a piece of paper as if he were drawing. It took him five endless minutes to write that piece of information, but somehow we didn’t dare hurry him. Eventually he handed me the note. His handwriting was incredibly neat and elegant and when I met his eyes I could clearly sees a sparkle, I saw his satisfaction, pride and dignity. He might be one of the many Wifrido that people the world. I had done something good after all.That’s why I teach. Because I think education can make people conscious, stronger and free and even because I feel useful every time I see that sparkle in the eyes of my students. Wish you a great new school year. 🙂