Searching for Conscience – The Reality of a Cup of Tea
This summer we had the privilege to go on a private retreat with twenty-nine other families, including sixty kids of various ages, to a ranch in Wyoming. It was a very American Western “yee-haw” type of experience complete with a rodeo and real cowboys.
The Ranch was in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by rolling hills and distant mountains — it was simply stunning. There wasn’t much time for rest though because every morning was packed with work and learning as we spent the mornings divided into two groups facilitated by the renowned Washington D.C. Aspen Institute. Spouses were separated into the two mixed groups and we discussed the pre-retreat reading that covered Plato, Machiavelli, Monnet, Hobbes and many more.
Every morning we convened after our early morning hikes or horseback riding to unpack and expand our knowledge and awareness about human nature, society and leadership. I had really enjoyed the reading before the group discussions, and I soon realized the group discussion gave me a lot more.
There was one of the pieces that really got to me. It was a fictional short story called “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” by Ursula LeGuin.
The story describes a perfect society where everyone is happy, but as the author paints a picture of perfection, you start wondering what the catch is. It simply seems too good to be true. The story does indeed turn dark as LeGuin reveals the secret — a child who is kept in a dark basement and deprived nutrition, affection and love. Everyone in Omelas knows that the child is there, and sometimes the people of the town come to see the child. Even the young children of Omelas are taken to see the child. Everybody knows about the suffering child, yet nobody does anything about it.
Some get angry and some get upset, but they don’t do anything about it because if they do everyone’s happiness would crumble. But some, after seeing the child, just walk away in the middle of the night, without knowing where they are going, and they never come back.
After discussing the story in my group it hit me — we are all guilty of ignoring things in our society. We are all living in Omelas. Even when opening a simple package we have impacted someone on the other side of the world.
A few days ago listened to a story on BBC radio. There was a story about the reality of the tea industry in India, covering how badly the workers were treated at the plantations. Bad living conditions, low wages, food shortages and malnutrition issues. Kids were forced to work to support their parents while being exposed to dangerous chemicals. Major companies like PG Tips, Tetley’s and Twinings, major producers, were named in the report. Even though I don’t use these particular brands, I can’t stop thinking about these people when I have my cup of tea in my comfort home every morning.
What is a product or service that you use that may have a bad impact in another part of the world?
Gonan is the originator of the philosophies behind Gozamm, the home of the Parentology, Trust and Open Heart workshops. An industry thought-leader and a perennial innovator, Gonan is setting trends in the realms of families and business worldwide. Her eclectic background; being born in Turkey, married to a Swede, having lived in the Middle East for 25 years and now living in California, she truly brings a new dynamic perspective to an important field. -- view all articles