Author Archives: glover

Eric or Cartman?

I’m a proud fan of South Park, an American animated sitcom which plays on satirical humour that’s often dark, extremely crude and sometimes slightly cynical. I don’t get how some people don’t find it funny or just don’t get it at all but that’s not the point.

Last night I was watching Whale Whores (s13e11) which addresses Japanese whaling and condemns both the whalers and animal activists who profit from fighting against them.

Paul Watson, a controversial animal and environmental rights activist who also founded the reality television series Whale Wars, is featured in that episode rather critically.

Since Paul Watson is of great relevance to Social Entrepreneurship and its ethics (or the lack of it), here are some things you should know about him:

  • 60 years old
  • president of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
  • advocates using violence and unethical means in stopping whaling activities (for e.g. sinking of whaling ships)
  • labelled “eco-terrorist” by some
  • quoted saying “There’s nothing wrong with being a terrorist, as long as you win. Then you write the history.”
  • arrogant leadership style
  • extensive list of activism and activities

You can watch the entire episode at South Park Studios.

In South Park, it turns out that the Japanese are killing dolphins and whales because they were misled by an American-doctored photograph (the above) into believing those sea animals were responsible for the bombing of Hiroshima in World War II. To resolve the enmity the South Park heroes photoshopped the picture so the sea animals are replaced by  a cow and a chicken. The Japanese now become infuriated, believing cows and chickens have framed the innocent whales and dolphins. The Japanese decide to cease their whaling efforts and start slaughtering cows and chickens, storming farms full of the animals. The episode ends as hero Stan’s father, Randy, congratulates him for making the Japanese “normal, like us.”

What makes killing of cows and chickens more righteous than the killing of whales and dolphins? Because the former is in more abundance than the latter, that is why?

Is the capturing and enclosing of dolphins and whales in marine parks and aquariums any better than the act of killing them for human food consumption?

What can or cannot an activist do? What is much, or too far an extent? What is ethical and what is not? Should the strength of numbers be at all a determinant to a moral complicit?

What is the media’s role in social entrepreneurship?

South Park is a fairly light-hearted approach to austere and loaded issues, but it will for sure strike a chord – no, make that play a melancholic melody in your hearts.

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Do intentions matter? Yes. In court they are the determinants as to whether the crime committed is a first or second-degree murder. No. If you do not do your homework even if you swear you meant to, your teacher will still send you out of class.

In social entrepreneurship, is it of importance if the entrepreneur had set out to do good for the society with monetary gain at the bottom of its totem pole, or if he had meant to exploit the needs of the people knowing it could cash in?

Have your say

  • In Haiti, just two months back, more than 10% of donated food supplies, clothing and aid items did not reach its intended recipients, and were instead sold at black markets. What went wrong?
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  • What happens when social entrepreneurship becomes more of an economic investment than an act of philanthropy? Do the entrepreneurs’ motivations, intentions and values matter?
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  • The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund (Singapore) raises money to support poorer school children’s education fees, to subsidize the price of their textbooks and uniforms, as well as provide for their pocket money. Will it cause a systematic division between social classes in children at their tender age? What lasting effects will they have on the psychology of children who have benefited from this organisation?
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  • In the heart-crushing documentary The Cove, Ric O’ Barry and his team installed hidden cameras to capture never-before-seen devastating, dolorous and literally bloody scenes of dolphins being killed in Taiji, Wakayama, Japan; which begets the question – is it ethical to transcend the fine line of morality for social entrepreneurship projects?
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What do you think?

– lightningpore

Sharing is caring

Malnutrition is a social issue most are familiar with. However,  the rising rate of obesity  has been commonly overlooked although it is almost just as pressing a problem, and is thus now an epidemic. More often than not, it leads to life threatening and transforming diseases –  hypertension, diabetes, cancer and a variety of cardiac problems, just to name a few from a disturbingly extensive list. It affects more than just an individual’s health and arguably, aesthetic appeal – it even perturbs society as a whole. America spent well over $147 billion in 2009 on healthcare for this entirely preventable condition – the result of fast-food chains dominating the food industry and reduction of food prices which has led to products for consumption becoming increasingly unhealthy and highly processed.

After decades of aborted attempts and debate, The United States Senate has, alas, passed a healthcare reform bill. With so much importance placed on healthcare in America by her President Barack Obama, what better time than now for social enterprises to step into the open market to make a truly remarkable difference? As obesity and food consumption share an undeniably intimate relationship, it is really no wonder that obesity rates have shot up significantly since unhealthily convenient meals and snacks with lesser nutrition have become so easily attainable and I admit, tempting.

While the recently passed bill deals with the consequences of obesity, prevention is always better than cure, and this is where social enterprises can play their part. Social entrepreneurs or enterprises can set up small businesses or if possible even come together to start a chain of eateries  to sell organic or healthier food. While merely one shop at the crook of a street might at best only marginally improve the health of its few frequent customers who live nearby, there is certain strength in numbers. When organic food eateries start populating the food industry, popping up in every town, city, and state, there is a high chance that an organic food commodity and frenzy might catch on. It might take years or even decades for these eateries to be of any challenge to fastfood powerhouses like Macdonalds, Burger King or Hungry Jacks, and Pizza Hut, but there is a good chance it might happen if the proposed healthier food alternatives are marketed well enough, and if they are as convenient and delicious-tasting as those oil-teeming burgers and fries are.

Possible fast-food deterrence.

We cannot forget that social entrepreneurs are still entrepreneurs after all, and the idea of setting up a business from scratch is rather risky monetarily. For entrepreneurs who do not want to jump into an open sea with unpredictable tide, they can invest in local food systems which produce more organic crops or food that is more beneficial to the human body, so the fastfood giants will less monopolize the food industry.

It is important that the rate of obesity declines, for if it does not, it will decrease general productivity of a society and lower rates of mortality. It puzzles me as much as it saddens me, how one side of this incomprehensible world has too much calories and how the other has none. It is very heartcrushing, when there is obviously enough to go around. Sharing is a virtue. It is.

Just sharing my two cents worth.
– lightningpore

Transcription

This is a video of an interview done with Mr Shaun Koh of Syinc, a social enterprise.

SHAUN KOH: I didn’t really really really get involved until I watched a film actually. The short story I told you about you know, about this young person watching the film and gets to ____, that was actually me.

PERSON: okay.

SHAUN KOH: Yeah, um, um, two years ago, two three years ago, yeah three years ago before i went into the army I had some time in between JC and the army and I er, watch this vid called BLACK GOLD it’s about uh, about friendshipscourt happenings?! It’s like oh companies like starbucks, at that point of time, will pay very little to bargain and it would end up, you know, not making enough money to sustain themselves and end up doing drugs, and and that in turns destructs the community and i was like wow, i gotta do something about this.

When I watched that, I was naive enough to get out of my chair, go to my neighbourhood uh coffee bean and tea leaves, walk up to the four waitresses down there, and asked them “Hey um, under what social economic condition were your coffee beans grown under?” And um, she was like “What?” You know and I, I didn’t ask like “Um um wait, are you being fair trade? You know fair trade? ” And they’re like “Uhhhh, sorry, can’t really help you, I’m not sure what you’re talking about.” And I’m like “Will you, will you be growing a bean sprout?”. “Oh I can help you with this,” and she drag out the garbage bin bag and um, she brought out the tablet and all that kind of thing and it’s not what i need .

Forgive me if I’m young, for speaking out of turn

To those who don’t know better, Uganda is a “success story” – a country saved by it’s democratic system and by large amounts of donations, a country who managed to reduce her HIV infection rates to just a one-figure percentage, a country with a literacy rate of 68% (in 2009).

There is, however, a much more despairing side of Uganda rarely broadcasted for the world to see.  (A side I doubt I would ever have known had I not stumbled on First Kill Your Family by Peter Eichstaedt, a recount of his experience in Uganda, where he was trying to set up her first independent news agency.) Nearly 95% of innocent civilians in North Uganda have been driven from their pastoral existence into refugee camps, and most of them live off food rations by the United Nations (UN). Due to poor living conditions and lack of sanitation and soap, people die from various diseases and illness by the second. That, or they eventually get killed. Unsettling fear sits permanently in their broken hearts; every single day is a battle of survival. And the most victimized people of the lot are the children of Uganda.

Why?

Because civil war between the government and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has been going on for twenty years now. The LRA is a pseudo-christian militia led by a sadomasochistic self-proclaimed prophet, Joseph Kony. Its fighting units consist of mostly children. (Yes, children who are involved in actual warfare and firing of arms while you play Counterstrike in an air-conditioned room.) These children are recruited by force, and are made to commit atrocious acts like murdering of their very own parents and slicing off lips or limbs of their enemies. This is the LRA’s common practice: They raid a house, take their crops and food, kidnap the children, and sometimes kill their parents and relatives; the boys are then trained to become soldiers, while the girls are given to other soldiers as child brides (to put it crudely, sex slaves). These children know not what they are fighting for, only that they have to. They become accustomed to shooting with their guns, prodding with their bayonets, torturing to achieve their means. It is a violent world they live in, and violence is the only way to live.

Child soldiers from Uganda who look like any other children asleep.

The LRA and the Ugandan government are still unable to come to a peaceful settlement. The LRA continues on their rampage, and the government continues in its mostly futile attempt to annihilate the rebels. The people believe that the cessation of war will come only when either one party is overthrown by the other – but even that will not guarantee peace. When two elephants fight, the grass suffers most.

Surely, something must and can be done by the global community. An international intervention maybe? The growing gap between better-developed and third-world countries is apparent in every nook and cranny, every corner of the street, every road and every city. Generous donations that come pouring into Uganda are but tiny plasters on a gaping, infected wound. We live on the very same Earth but our children grow up in utterly different worlds. The discrepancy is crushing.

Why is it that discomforting skin conditions brought about by spa centres with substandard hygiene can make the headlines, but a state of affairs as disconsolating and wrenched as this receive so little notoriety?

I just…. wanted to raise an awareness.
– sombre sarah, livid lightningpore

Failed post-quake relief in Haiti

Unless you live in your very own dim, little cave ten thousand miles away from civilisation, i reckon you should have read or at least heard about Haiti’s 7.0 magnitude earthquake and it’s post-tragedy efforts – Ellen TheGenerous’ eBay Charity auction and George Clooney’s high profile telethon, which involved many of today’s popular artistes, are just two amongst many other things which have been done. Not all help that has been rendered to Haiti has proved to be constructive and effectual, though. The case in point is the arrest of 10 U.S. church missionaries.

These 10 U.S. church missionaries, whose ages range from 18 to 55, were arrested at the borders of Haiti on the basis that they were taking 33 children out of Haiti without proper and legal paperwork. The missionaries are now being charged with kidnapping.

The missionaries have claimed that they only and simply wanted to help the children. (Wait… what’s that saying again? Ah… yes! The road to hell is often paved with good intentions.) However, the UN Law states that orphaned children should only be put up for adoption two years post-quake, after all methods exhausted to search for living family has failed. Also, unorphaned children have to go through different legal proceedings to be adopted. The missionaries failed to comply with these two regulations by taking with them children who were still under parental care or had guardians.

Whisking children – young citizens, no less – out of their own country without legal papers, albeit to a safer place, sounds to me like driving without a license with people in the backseat. It is common sense that I need a child’s custody and perhaps a passport or a document of sorts to move him or her someplace else; likewise I need a permit to use a vehicle. Also, given that human or child trafficking peaks when a country is in a state of instability and chaos, being without important papers put the missionaries at a high risk of being accused of the crime. They should have known better. Unless, of course, the horrendous above-mentioned act was exactly what they were trying to do.

I would like to believe so, so let’s just say they were really trying to turn things around for those helpless children affected by the quake – I suppose they could have gone about doing things differently. For one, they should have done the required background work and research because taking charge of 33 lives is a tremendously big thing to do. Not knowing that legal papers and custody rights were needed should never have been an excuse. It was in every aspect dangerous for a team of inexperienced and uninformed people to export the kids elsewhere without legal consent. Yes, even if they were missionaries. Also, no short-cuts should have been taken. If it was neccessary, they could have waited till the storm calmed, till things became more settled before they stepped in to do their good work. It is understandable they were concerned and anxious about the children’s well-being, but what translated through their actions were carelessness and hastiness. While all these extra steps might be troublesome and time-consuming, they are fundamentally essential. The missionaries would then not be providing the most efficient relief, but compromises have to be made for stability and effectiveness.

The missionaries’ or “missionaries'” negligence or “negligence” has brought about slight but superfluous friction between the U.S. and Haiti, it has also gotten them detained in Haiti for a week now. On the brighter note, it’s not all that bad: spurious missionaries or holy helpers, they sure will teach other organisations to do a more thorough job.

– lightningpore