The contemplative practice on international trade, global inequities and chocolate stands out to me. I am a fan of chocolate. Less so of the fact that having the privilege to eat chocolate on a relatively frequent basis is one of the signs of the inequality in wealth that pervades the international system of trade, and the world in general.
Readily available, “cheap” chocolate is a privilege available to countries wealthy enough to allocate time and resources into the sugar industry. Chocolate is produced using cacao, which by itself is not very sweet. When Professor Litfin had the little cups of raw cacao chips and sweetened chocolate passed around, I tasted the cacao first. Holding it in my mouth, it was not a particularly crazy sensory experience. It is mild, almost bitter, with most of the sense being from the shape and texture of it, rather than the taste. Having taste buds exposed to chocolate and other sweets throughout my life likely played a part in its less than thrilling experience in my mouth. I was also aware of the fact that nutritionally, cacao wouldn’t really keep me alive, or sustain me. Chocolate can’t do that either, although I have tried all the same.
Despite the fact that chocolate isn’t very useful in terms of nutritional value, the production of cacao drives the economies of the countries it is grown in, due to its major demand in developed countries. The most contradictory aspect of this chocolate reality is the fact that in countries where cacao is such a big part of the economy, cacao producers usually don’t have the economic means to buy chocolate. We watched a video while eating the chocolate of cacao producers who, long into their cacao producing careers, hadn’t tried chocolate before in their entire lives.
They spoke about how it was a privilege to experience the chocolate, and also noted how the chocolate industry must be connected with why western countries are full of such healthy people.