Saturday, January 10, 2009

An impassioned plea

read more | digg story
I include this item from "digg" not because I support its contention per se. Of course, most people are horrified by the deaths of innocents occurring in Gaza at the moment. Whatever the justifications and posturing on both sides, these killings are to be deplored.

I include the item because I think it makes an important point about the complicity of consumers, one that has troubled me for years. In fact, to ensure that your money is not used by some nefarious cause somewhere it would be necessary to withdraw nearly absolutely from the world. The cluttered presentation of corporate logos makes that point pretty effectively. Don't burn gasoline, certainly. Don't drink Starbucks coffee. Don't read the Times. Hell, you probably shouldn't even use the Internet.

I first became seriously bothered by this during the US war on Nicaragua. I deplored what my country was doing in that region, but in fact I was supporting it by paying taxes. Really eliminating personal support for the policy would endanger my own personal freedom. I was unwilling to take that step, and instead responded by becoming more politically active in opposing the war in Central America.

Of course, some people do sacrifice their freedom for a moral cause, and I respect them for it. I have friends who were imprisoned, for example, for their non-violent resistance to the Iraq War. Another friend was recently jailed for protesting at Fort Benning, known in the movement as the "School of Assassins." But when these protestors rejoin our so-called "civilization," they too are bound to contribute in some way to activities that they deplore.

It is the paradox of the globalized world in which we live. On one hand, we are more aware of all the injustices and cruelties in the world. On the other, we are effectively bound in a system where we must fund these cruelties and horrors - to a greater or lesser extent - whether we like it or not.


Ani said...

The story you linked to is hopelessly naïve and fact-deprived, so let’s just talk about what we as consumers and concerned citizens actually can do. Boycotts can be effective, but they have to be focused, local, and show direct cause-and-effect to succeed. And many of the corporations shown in the linked post do a great many positive things in the world.

Consumers who control their consumption habits, buy what they need and a bit of what they really want but not lots of things they don’t need, and don’t make themselves into indentured servants to banks, then have the money they have thus gained to make charitable contributions to those organizations and causes that can more effectively bring about positive change. And the more charitable contributions you can make, the less taxes you pay.

Perhaps we all need to go back and read (or re-read) some Emerson and Thoreau—practicing civil disobedience and self-reliance, and not ripping off others in one’s own work, keeps the conscience clear and the mind sharp.

And since it fits the point, I quote I made up myself: “All simple truths are simply falsehoods in disguise.”-- Ani

Eric said...

You make some very good points. As I noted, I included the Digg piece not because I support its contention ("You're all child murderers!") but because it raises interesting and troubling issues of moral complicity in a globalized world. I like your point especially about reducing consumption in general. Hard to argue with the morality of that policy.

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