My union has spent (wasted?) many hours debating ‘responsible consumerism.’For example: do we buy our produce from the unionized and corporate Safeway or the all-organic local hippie shop down the street? Is our priority the lettuce or the people picking the lettuce? (Of course, it’s probably the truckers moving the lettuce who have the collective bargaining rights, and shame on us for that, btw.) Are those priorities inseparable? Should we stop trying to make informed decisions in the light of the fact that the idea of an ‘innocent’ purchase is off the table? Is ‘voting with your dollars’ an imbecilic attempt to ‘incentivize’ wolfish capitalism into cross-dressing as free range veal?
These debates are always case-specific and difficult to generalize about, but like barrooms, blogs are good places for abstract discussion on nuanced topics. What’s your ethical checklist? Here’s some for me, in no certain order:
Do my friends work there?
Where were the products made, and under what conditions?
I am put off by the model of ‘Green’ capitalism espoused by the Starbucks and Whole Foods models. The socialist in me would rather have these monoliths paying higher taxes than allowing them to acquit themselves through funnelling tiny bits of proceeds to “non-profits.” In short, I’d rather fix Medicaid than gesture vaguely towards ‘fair trade.’ Since these sorts of “ethical” asides function mainly as marketing ploys – that’s all they really are, regardless of good intentions, right? I’m not moralizing here – they are bound to be pretty goddam class-specific. This is the case of the bourge-ish motifs of WF and Starbucks, played out to the tune of ‘it’s organic to help brown people plow our future health food,” as though the people of the ‘developing world’ and their soil were metaphors for one another. And what’s with caring for faraway fields when you won’t at least adopt a position of neutrality in your workers’ union elections?
This is degenerating into “blue vs. green” crap that i oppose implicitly, so I’ll just shush up here. Please discuss.