February 9 - Spoiled
Do I have a heart of darkness?
What is something you take for granted?
The “something” I take for granted is everything, constantly.
This fact stares me in the face tonight after I watched The Joe Rogan Experience interview with Siddharth Kara, author of the new book Cobalt Red, about the cobalt mines. I like to think of myself as a pretty good person until I realize that in order to be a functioning member of the Western world I have to ignore a lot of harm I’m causing and my hypocrisy—because I’m actually a piece of shit for ignoring and abetting these atrocities.
And it is horrific, like staring into the abyss. At one point Siddharth tells the story of speaking to a mother who was beating her chest because she lost her son in a cobalt mine collapse—and that she would have to imagine what his last moments were like, forever, so he could make a $1 that day for the family.
A DOLLAR. There are thousands of horror stories like this.
I take it for granted that I’m not a slave and that my life is in large part provided for by a massive population of modern slaves I have to willfully disregard or pretend don’t exist. The despair and violence at the bottom of the supply chain is something that I hope future generations look back in horror on us for unless we can summon the strength and conviction to face the degradation of these people head on now.
We’ve heard about the Nike shoes, the iPhone workers who are suicidal, the sweatshops, child labor, and slave labor. It should be intolerable to all of us by now that in order to have the newest gadgets, we have ignore that the Chinese companies are leaving behind a destroyed and contaminated environment, a displaced population of Congolese, death and destruction. I can tell myself, “Oh well it’s not like there is an American presence there” but it doesn’t wash the blood off my hands that currently grip my cell phone.
My blood phone.
On Siddharth’s Twitter page there is an image of a woman putting her child in a box to take a nap at the cobalt mine, inhaling toxic dust.
The child looks about the same age as my daughter. I think about the difference in their lives—and the difference in my life and the life of that mother. And it’s nothing but luck. I easily could have ended up in the heart of the Congo, in a village with no electricity, providing materials for batteries to power electric vehicles and phones and computers to women like me all over the world. But I was born here in America and therefore I’m writing and she’s mining.
Do I have a heart of darkness? Or do I have to dissociate from that part of my heart in order to function?
None of this should be acceptable. Artisanal mining? The video Siddharth played for Rogan looked like a scene from Indiana Jones. How could this possibly be real in 2023? And more importantly—what can I realistically do about it? There must be something.