Utne’s Readers: Deepinder Mayell

In the summer of 2000, Deepinder Mayell saw the face of
globalization up close. While visiting Indonesia, the Boston
College sophomore shared tiny rooms with young garment workers in
Jakarta (a 10-foot-by-10-foot ‘apartment’ might house five) and
accompanied them to the gigantic factories where they sew clothing
for American companies. He listened to their stories: how the $1
per day they earned for 10 to 12 hours of work barely covered their
basic needs, leaving nothing for savings. Mayell was there on
behalf of the Worker Rights Consortium, which pressures American
colleges to be more conscious of how the apparel bearing their
logos is made.

It was an eye-opening trip, but Mayell was already a committed
activist. Born to a Sikh American family on Long Island, he grew up
hearing stories of relatives and friends embroiled in the Sikh
struggle for autonomy in India — a struggle punctuated by brutal
acts like the killing of innocent people at prayer during the
Indian army’s assault on the Golden Temple at Amritsar in 1984.
‘Stories like these,’ he says, ‘opened my eyes to the simple fact
that governments do not always do what is best for their
citizens.’

Armed with this paradigm-shifting awareness, Mayell, 23, threw
himself into work for social justice. He demonstrated against the
notorious School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia, as a
freshman, then joined a World Bank protest in Washington, D.C. The
Indonesia trip came next, and in the summer of 2001 he interned
with a well-established activist group, Boston Mobilization. Within
two years, Mayell had cofounded a free magazine for Boston Mobe
(Spark), and eventually became director of the group,
working against the Iraq war before its opening shots. ‘I think in
certain ways the whole world is still recovering from the shock of
that war,’ he says.

Mayell’s way of recovering is to move to the next level of
education and commitment — he’s applied to law school as part of
his plan to develop a new model of global justice, ‘a model of
healthy trade and mutually beneficial sustainable growth for the
world,’ as he puts it. It may sound utopian, but with a dreamer and
doer like Mayell pushing it forward, it could turn real sooner than
anyone thinks.

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