Thursday, November 09, 2006

CS who?

This is Trinidad and Tobago, land of contrast and contradiction. Land of a thousand faces, a thousand gods, a thousand ways to please the eye and the spirit and the palate.
Where we confuse freedom and freeness. Where we expect people to take responsibility for us in ways that we don’t take for ourselves.
More than ever now we stand at a kind of social and political crossroads.
This is manifest in the burgeoning social movements; constitutional reform, mobilization around crime and child protection and of course the anti-smelter lobby which has taken everyone by surprise, I daresay even the Honourable Prime Minister Patrick Manning who seems finally to be heeding the call for transparency in deals that of such great national importance.
The truth is that we cannot begin to have a discussion about Corporate Social Responsibility in Trinidad and Tobago without recognizing that the state must be the first point of social responsibility.
It was state force that Alcoa called upon to crush the protests of women and children on Foodcrop Road, Chatham in August. The police officers who protect the Bechtel and Trintoplan workers are representatives of the state.
How then, can we trust corporate entities to have our best interests at heart?
All the evidence, from the glowing tributes suggest that we natives of Trinidad and Tobago must be either illiterate or stark staring mad to want to fight against the most benevolent and sustainable company that alcoa is.
We ungrateful natives, how dare we refuse their trinkets?
multinationals operating in trinidad have done their homework and they understand the notion of freeness taking precedence over freedom.
they've learned it from the political parties: give them a t-shirt and they'll vote for you. Give them a ten day employment and they'll love you forever.
If we make the distinction between CSR and charity then we see that we in T&T have a problem. Because people love to give.
Every PR person wants their picture in the paper handing over a nice fat check to some grateful priest or elderly nun.
They love to be seen as generous. Never mind the company has atrocious labour relations, dodgy environmental records and openly and apologetically discriminates along gender and race lines.
CSR, in theory sounds good. These nice companies want to be your friends. This is why they come into your community with armed guards to have meetings with women and children.
This is why they endorse unsubstantiated reports of rape in a community.
CSR especially when it comes to multi-nationals, is a legitimisation of modern day conquistadors with shining glass beads to a post-colonial, rapidly industrializing small island state, still reeling from the inherited and un-dealt with burdens of slavery, indentureship and an economy that is still set up to reflect the privileged ones who own the plantations.
In this part of the world, we HAVE to make companies act responsibly. We demand that they do, or we will, by any means necessary get them out.


Anonymous Professor Zero said...

Great post.

5:57 PM  

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