The Price of Sugar Isn’t so Sweet

As I watched “The Price of Sugar”, it became very clear that the situation of the inhabitants of Haiti and the Dominican Republic could easily be related to the concepts of Enrique Dussel with regards to his notion of social sin. Due to the extreme poverty levels of the population of both countries, the people living there are easily taken advantage of and become instrumentalized by those higher in power. Furthermore, the powerful members of society are also able strip the dignity from these people by means of how desperate each family really is.

Through many of the acts seen in the movie, I found that “The Price of Sugar” strongly reflected the beliefs and ideas introduced by Enrique Dussel. To start, a prominent aspect of Dussel’s “Eclipse of the Other” theory is the instrumentalization of a human being. This phenomenon can be explained in terms of the “I” and “thou” relationship, developed by Martin Bueber. Normally, if you were to address another person, you would treat them on the same level as yourself, using an “I” and “thou” mentality.

The process of instrumentalization occurs when the “I” and “thou” method is no longer followed, and instead, switches to the “I” and “it” relationship. By referring to another human being as “it”, he/she is no longer being treated on the same level as you, but rather, on the same grounds as an object or an instrument. The perspective of instrumentalization in Dussel’s theory is evidently shown in several parts of the movie.

It is obvious that the people of Haiti are being treated as non-human beings simply after understanding their working conditions in the bateys. Each worker makes less than 90 cents per day, which is not nearly enough to support a child’s education or to feed a single family. This theme is also present when the narrator describes how all the new Haitians workers need to quickly scramble onto each loading bus, or the supervisors will proceed to injure them with clubs.

These harsh truths undoubtedly show the level in which the Haitian workers are mistreated at the bateys, clearly enough to be considered non-human. In addition to instrumentalization, another main factor that takes part in Dussel’s “Eclipse of the Other” theory is the negation of the dignity of another human being. By taking away any sort of dignity that another human has, he/she becomes much more easily controllable and used to fulfill whatever purpose necessary. Domination (beating or killing) and despoilation (stealing of freedom, property, etc. are the two most common ways of completing this. The angle to Dussel’s theory involving the negation of the dignity of another person is also shown a number of times during the movie. Obviously, the people of Haiti are having some form of their dignity taken away from them as the viewers are told that each worker, before crossing the border, has his/her identification taken away so that he/she will not be able to find another job other than the one at the plantation after crossing.

Moreover, at the end of the day, all the workers must stay in a very small residence containing 60-100 other workers, which is guarded at all times to prevent anyone from escaping. The audience can clearly understand that through illegalizing the workers before entering the plantations as well as abolishing their freedom, the batey workers are completely dismissed of all dignity.

As a result of all the strong and shocking realities shown in the movie “The Price of Sugar”, I discovered a very noticeable connection between situations described in the movie and Enrique Dussel’s notion of social sin. By reason that the family status of thousands of Haitians is so poor, Dussel’s main elements of instrumentalization and negation of dignity within his governing theory become a direct result to the batey workers. There is only one way to end the process of these workers and that is to make a change; within our lives and in our world today.