At What Cost?

It is no question that we currently live in a capitalistic society. Whether we are oblivious to the fact we are supporting companies that operate with immoral business ethics, or we simply turn a blind eye. Many are unaware of the fact that a shocking 11% of the entire world’s overall child population is engaged in forced, illegal labor exploitation. Many industries world wide seek cheap labor in order to increase profit margins, despite the well-being of young children. Here in America, there are strict laws in place to avoid child labor exploitation at all costs. In many states, you must be at least 14 years of age to legally work within the guidelines set from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This includes numerous restrictions, such as; only allowed a certain amount of hours to work a week (especially during school years), and prohibiting any employment of a minor in occupations declared “hazardous” by the Secretary of Labor. (US DOL) As we are surrounded by these laws, it can be easy to simply assume they are the same throughout the world. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Numerous countries aren’t given the privileges of these child labor laws, which we take for granted. Ironically, we remain to fund companies that utilize the same methods of production that we believe are unjust. In 2007, an alternative rock band “Radiohead” releaseda controversial music video for their song “All I Need”. They appeal to pathos with providing their viewers a powerful message concerning the horrible reality of child exploitation. Unknown

The entire video is aside-by-side comparison of a day in the life of two boys, appearing to be the same age. Sunlight peers through the window and greets the boy on the left side of the video (who, for clarification purposes, will be referred to as “Boy #1”), as he peacefully wakes up in a cozy bed. The boy on the right side of the video (“Boy #2”), lies asleep on a concrete floor, nestled in a small nook in between two walls. Several other boys share the same cramped space, uncomfortably overlapping each other until they’re abruptly woken up by a woman. She summons them in a loud and harsh voice, kicking them until they rise. Boy #1 then changes into fresh clothes and proceeds to brush his teeth. He is then shown enjoying cartoons and eating a wholesome breakfast, while accompanied by his mother who is in the kitchen. Parallel to that, Boy #2 (along with the others) stagger up from the floor, clothing themselves in the same tattered rags they had used as make-shift blankets during the night. They fill their small hands with water from an old faucet protruding from a wall and each splash their faces once before moving along. In the next scene, Boy #2 is sitting in a dingy work room alongside the others. His malnourished, thin torso lies hidden within his filthy oversized clothing. Without having had a single bite to eat, they all begin to work. I believe this gives the viewer a new perspective on their own every-day lives. It is so easy to be ungrateful for something you’ve always had, or have been given in life. Whether it’s a warm place to sleep, clean clothing, or even a simple toothbrush to maintain basic dental hygiene, it’s important to realize that not everyone is as privileged as others. There are so many things that most people in our society take for granted. While to some, these are merely insignificant “necessities”. To others, however, they are nothing short of wondrous luxuries. maxresdefault

After walking to school in his neighborhood, Boy #1 finally makes it to class. With a book in his hand, he mentions something about the reading, to which his teacher responds by giving him an encouraging nudge on the head. Although many can closely relate to Boy #1’s life, it’s naive to assume this is the reality for all children. On the other hand, Boy #2 continues to work alongwith the others. The same woman that had woken them up earlier, is now closely supervising their work. By carefully gluing several thin layers of fabric together, it becomes apparent he is creating shoes. The woman slaps him on the back of the head, and sternly urges him to preform at a quicker pace. 168 million children are involved in these industries world wide, and approximately half of them are engaged in “hazardous work”.(ILO) However, physical abuse plays just one factor in these poorly operated environments. American Psychologist Yvonne Rafferty shared information collected on abuse towards exploited children and shared that, “Health and safety standards in exploitative settings are generally extremely low, and the degree of experienced violence has been linked with adverse physical, psychological, and social‐emotional development.” One should also take note of that both these boys are roughly the same age, but only one is attending school. In the book ‘Sweatshops in the Sun’, the author states that,“The education of migrant children is far below the norm since many of them work when they should be in school.”(Ronald, Taylor) This claim is further validated by a separate source containing extensive research on the cognitive effects of child labor. It revealed that, “Five years subsequent to the child labor experience we find significant negative impacts on education, and also find a higher probability of wage work for those young adults who worked as children while attending school.” (Beegle, Dehejia, Gatti) As a result, many of the children who are exploited in such a manner are tragically being robbed of an opportunity to grow and flourish intellectually.

The final scene in the music video is Boy #1 coming home after school and removing his shoes, which are revealed to be the exact same shoes Boy #2 had spent the entire video crafting. This, I believe, isthe most powerful scene yet. It displays ethos through the ugly truth about how we as Americans are guilty of supporting child labor ourselves, whether we realize it or not. Numerous well-known companies have recently been discovered by the American public, to have been harboring sweatshops internationally. It has been reported that, “Nike and other American companies have been hammered in the Western press over the last decade for producing shoes, toys and other products in grim little factories with dismal conditions.”(Kristof, WuDunn) Unfortunately, thousands are leaning in the direction that “ignorance is bliss”. Countless continue to disregard any undeniable evidence that their favorite companies and brands are manufacturing their beloved products in such an ill-full manner. The video finalizes their use of logos clearly through the quote, “some things cost more than you realize”. What I truly believe they mean by that is not the amount of money one spends on a pair of shoes, but rather the well-being of millions and millions of children. The cost of their education. The cost of both their mental and physical health. The amount of willingness people have to throw their money and support into such anunjustifiable and unlawful company/business for just a pair of shoes. Sure you’re getting a new pair of sneakers, but at what cost?


Annotated Bibliography

Beegle, K. Dehejia, R. Gatti, R. (2009) University of Wisconsin. Why Should We Care About Child Labor? The Education, Labor Market, and Health Consequences of Child Labor.
This source is incredibly helpful to my rhetorical analysis, beginning with the fact that it is entirely scholarly. It provides amazing research that substantiates one of my points within this paper concerning the intellectual changes that take place within a young individual’s mind who is involved in labor exploitation. It contains research found over a course of several years that not only gives insight on the issue as a whole, but also information of its long-term educational effects.

International Labor Organization. World Report on Child Labor in 2015. Compassion. Geneva: ILO, 2015.
This source was arguably the most insightful out of all my research completed on this rhetorical analysis. It provided me with the most recent estimated percentages of the children trafficked and exploited worldwide. It also depicted every aspect of the industry clearly and factually. This is a completely scholarly source, as I thankfully came across it on Google Scholar.
Rafferty, Y. (2013). Child trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation: A review of promising prevention policies and programs. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 83(4), 559-575.
I picked this source because the author clearly explains in detail what child trafficking is. I’m able to relate this to my rhetorical analysis because it corresponds to the message I’m depicting from a music video which revolves around child trafficking (specifically labor exploitation amongst children and adolescents). This source is very credible because I came upon it while surfing Google Scholar.

Ronald, B. Taylor. (1973). Sweatshops In The Sun – Child Labor on the Farm.
This book is very helpful to my rhetorical analysis, as it has opened up an abundance of information on the topic I’m discussing. It is not only a scholarly source, but it’s also rich in exemplifying informational research about sweatshops and child labor exploitation. It contains extensive research on exactly how children from all over the world are mistreated through abuse and negligence. I found this source to relay a myriad of factual information concerning all aspects of the trials and tribulations that these undeserving children endure.

The Structure and Function of Communication in Society, Lasswell Harold D. 1, 2007. PDF.
The final source I decided to cite is titled “The Structure and Function of Communication in Society”, because it clearly depicts how society as a whole can remain ignorant to other world issues that they’re not directly associated with, apart from seeing or learning about them in the news. It helps my argument by support my claim that many remain unaware and unaffected by the conflicts others endure throughout the world. This source is credible, I found this book full of legitimacy on Google Scholar.

Kristof, Nicholas. WuDunn, Sheryl. Two Cheers for Sweatshops. New York Times Archives, Sep 2000.

Photo credits:—RADIOHEAD—All-I-NEED