The indigenous spiritual ancestors of Ireland counsel us to be in right relationship with the Earth, the sacred, and community. There is nothing particularly startling or revelatory in this. Echoing universal spiritual traditions and cosmologies, these are global truths for a global community. It is from our global community that I offer this story – as we approach Halloween a very appropriate tale of horror.
At night Drissa is locked into a small room along with 17 other boys. They have all been tricked into a life of slavery. They thought they were being offered good jobs. They thought they could buy bicycles, clothes, and food for their families. Some were released by their families who believed promises of a better life for their sons. Many families were paid $1.50 for their children, others were duped into paying the passage fee from the village. But the boys are all now slaves to the West African cocoa plantations. They are controlled through brutality. They are controlled through psychological terror, told that they are under a magic spell and if they try to run away they will be paralyzed. Still some dare to run as Drissa did. Once re-captured, as they most always are, they are stripped of their clothes, their hands tied behind their backs, and viciously whipped for several days – the captors shouting, “How did you break my spell?” Some boys do not survive. Those who do have infected wounds and, without medical attention, rely on the maggots feeding on their flesh to clean the wounds and save them from gangrene.
Horrific? Well, multiply this story by 1,817,000. For that is the number of children a Tulane University study reported to be enslaved in the cocoa industry between 2007 and 2008. Most of them young boys between the ages of 6 and 16.
Who, you might ask, would buy chocolate from these farmers? The $13 billion American chocolate industry imports 729,000 tons of cocoa beans and processed products each year. Although the supply chain is concealed, convoluted, and difficult to trace we know it’s a long list of companies that buy chocolate from these farmers. Hershey, Nestle, and Mars top the list but there are others – and when we purchase our Halloween candy from these companies we add our names to that list.
Being in right relationship with the sacred, we see the divine in ourselves and each other. Being in right relationship in community, we extend this vision to every person on this planet. This Halloween tale of horror is truly scary. But it’s not about being scared. Perhaps it’s about being scared sacred.