You know the Declaration of Human Rights? Could you live in line with it for a day? I started to ponder that when I was planning (again) what PODprovider I would use for my books. Many vote for CreateSpace, but Amazon have been caught redhanded several times treating their employees badly. Using neo-nazi guards to control temporary immigrant staff this winter is just the high profile case in a string of incidents. It doesn’t matter if they literally whipped their staff or ”just” tweaked the law (example from 2011), I don’t want to help someone who is splitting hairs and bending rules to treat others bad. And when you look closer it’s a breach of the first part of article 23 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
”(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.” (my emphasis)
What I don’t know if the others, like Lightning Source and Lulu are better, I just know that Amazon have hazy morals. Considering ‘hazy morals’ is a plague among big corporates, chance is they’re bending rules too, they just haven’t been caught yet. Now, you could say it doesn’t make much difference if one tiny fantasy author choses the one company caring about its employees – it won’t make a dent in that flood of books the others are churning out twentyfour-seven. But if you have the possibility to do something right, you sometimes have to ignore facts like that.
Not that I’m perfect. I’m far from it. My writing is fueled by hot cocoa. I drink two cups a day, and use conventionally produced cocoapowder. In other words I’m using food grown by slaves, often kids who risks mutilation and death. Those nineteen grams I consume could just as well be blood. (I’m dieting, that’s why I know exactly how much I use.) I can’t afford the fairtrade cocoa if I wan’t my family to eat healthy between paying days. Still, it feels like a lame excuse – by using the cheaper cocoa I’m helping someone break several articles of UDHR:
- All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
- Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
- Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
- No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
- No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
It’s tempting to make the Universal Declaration of Human Race a question for the government only, ie. the authorities should honour them when governing the land. But it’s as much a question for corporates, mum and dad companies, organisations and every individual. Why? Because we all are humans – both the beneficiaries from these rights and not-monsters (only a monster would follow a reversed UDHC). True, we are veeery good at stomp on each others’ feet, troll each other and be downright murderous, but when you have the chance to do right you sometimes have to ignore those facts and start somewhere.
So, if you read through the declaration and check your providers of food, shelter, energy and communications you’ll soon despair. At a closer look there are murky morals everywhere, often cleverly hidden behind gilded phrases and convenient silences. And sometimes there are no viable alternative. For example not one company making computers and smartphones cares much about things like workers’ rights, good working environment and a salary to live on. Every now and then we’re treated to horror stories about cramped living baracks and worn out workers comitting suicide. So if you, like me, are trying to carve out a living from your writings online and in ebooks you’re left with the less desirable alternative of making your own paper and ink, write your texts, paste them onto nearest bus stop together with a donation jar.
The other thing you’ll soon discover is that when there are alternatives these are too expensive. If you want to eat food produced by people being fairly treated and payed and wear clothes made by companies caring for the environment and their workers you have to be rich. To add insult to injury other people give you goody-two-shoes comments about how it’s possible for you to do the same – if you eat less and use less clothes. Yes, thankyou, I’d love to add another one to those who walks around naked and hungry! As if only those who are überhuman perfect or rich are allowed to do good things.
So I guess the answer is no – you can’t live entirely in line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for a day, especially not if you are short on money. Still, that’s no good excuse to keep from working on it. Anyone who does will get better, and I can’t see why being better at keeping the human rights should be a bad thing.
I can’t leave you without adding a few good links and tips to help you start. The list is not complete, so I’ll probably put it up here and add to it as soon as I find stuff for it.
Buying clothes, electronics and stuff
Buy second hand. It’s not an optimal solution, but you get cheap stuff and won’t add to the buying-new-stuff-hysteria. As for clothes some second hand shops administer back-to-work programs for long time jobless (at least in Sweden) and channel their profits to charity. If you’re somewhat computer savvy you can buy a three year old computer and swap Windows for a linux distro (ubuntu is my favourite, but I have to admit I’m using Windows + Open Office right now). Linux distros are in general stable and comes with a lot of good free programs – you’re price is to add value to the community, so find a way to do it.
Stable and fun linuxdistro – available for free in several languages.
European project to raise awareness on the methods of the electronical gadget industri. Lots of good fact sheets and action advice.
Independent non-profit organization reporting on swedish business, focusing on social and environmental concerns.
Thrift shop listings for the US, and (of course) community and extras.
When you’re pondering wether you can eat every day or have to cut it down to every other day you should buy what you can afford. If you have a little more money you have some choices (and it’s you who decide when you’re rich enough to afford those choices). Spices and sweets are were you get your best bang for the buck; spices since you use little of them (even if you make dragon stews like I used to do), sweets since sweets are the one thing you should eat small amounts of. Beans, cabbage and root vegetables are cheap, and sometimes it’s possible to find sustainably grown items within your pricerange – unfortunately there’s no ”fair grown” label to look for (I wish there was).
The best fairtrade chocolate there is.
What it says…
POD-services and distributors of ebooks
I’m sorry, I have no clue here, except for the knowledge of the ‘bad boys’. I’m navigating around the net trying to get a better picture, and am testing some interesting alternatives right now – I’ll put them up when I know more.
Small service where indie authors can post serialized podcast versions of their books. Listeners can download the books for free, but are urged to donate to authors and staff. This provides you with a middle alternative to provide books for free, since listeners who likes the books can pay after they’ve listened, and have an easy way to do so.
Like the blog? You can support it by shopping in my zazzle-shop. (A donations-button will be up soon, I’m working on thankyou gifts.)
Have I checked Zazzle’s treatment of their employees? Nope, but I sense a future blog post coming on…