I consider myself about as decent as the next person. No more no less. Some, usually those of the Rightish persuasion suggest that I’m a bleeding-heart, commie sympathizing, swine of a Jesus hater, but hey, I consider myself just as human as the next woman.
The mind is endlessly fascinating and what motivates us will for some time to come dance between nature and nurture and bad drugs I suspect. We all wish (except for the truly a-social among us) to be thought reasonably well of, and we all succeed at least to enough people that we aren’t pariahs.
That being said, I’m fully aware that what I am about to discuss amounts in some minor or major respect a plea for permission to do what I wish to do, rather than the elegant highly flowered philosophical discourse that I am dribbling forth from my fingertips. (Wasn’t it ever so much more grand to say tip of my pen or even quill? Alas we all type now.)
I speak of the issue of boycotting companies. Not just any companies mind you, but all those whose policies for one reason or fifty offend our individual sensibilities. I speak of Wal-Mart and Hobby Lobby and Exxon-Mobile, and McDonald’s, and Papa Johns, and Pfizer, and General Mills and Monsanto and well, you can fill in five hundred more at your leisure.
We (collectively or singly) have our “issues” with some or all or and entirely different list of corporate monsters whom we claim our vision or version of human/American/women’s/children’s/animals/status/ethnicity rights. And most, perhaps all are laudable no doubt to those who hold them. I know, since I hold many. Anyone whose eager fingertips tremble in anticipation as they seek out my latest verbage knows I rail regularly about any number of corporate entities for their failures/limited visions/or omissions.
So. What the hell am I talking about?
What are our moral responsibilities in making known our opinions of the practices of businesses we disagree with? What should we be doing?
In other words, is boycotting the answer.
I for a long time avoided Wal-Mart for instance. That was easy in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where the local Hi-VEE offered up proper food at comparable prices. Not so here in Las Cruces. The local Albertson’s is a great store, but it’s wildly over priced on most everything. I mean seriously so. Such that I can save nearly $300 a month by doing the bulk of my shopping at Wal-Mart. I leave Albertson’s to do what it does best–provide me with the premium foods that Wal-Mart neglects in its one-size fits most everyone most of the time philosophy, or “tough, take it or leave it”.
I’m moreover well aware of the gimmicks Wal-Mart’s uses to get me to buy more of X which ends up costing me similar to what I would pay for the amount I really want. (Whatever you do Wal-Mart, I’m not buying twelve pre-packaged habaneros when I only need one!) Still, as I said, I’m saving a fair piece of change.
Say that I can afford this, which I can, but should I?
What of those who have not the financial luxury to do this? Are they to suffer their need to shop Wal-Mart in shame at betraying the cause?
Can I use the $300 more effectively in actually funding other things that matter in the world? Are my bigger checks to the local mission and to animal welfare, or to help a local family with expenses a better use of the money than wasting it on over-priced cabbage?
Is there some hierarchy of complaint that should guide me? Surely apartheid practices in South Africa was a serious motivation. Surely the use of chemical warfare on one’s own population should deter us singularly and collectively from contributing to the GNP of any country engaging in such things.
But lets take it down a notch.
Let’s speak of living wages and the attempt to impose personal religious beliefs on employees. Let’s speak of creating products that may turn out in decades to come to be hazardous to health. Let us talk of entire industries devoted to death–whether it be innocent animals or humans in large or small quantity. Let us speak of dangers to our planet, which impact the survival of generations long after we have turned to dust.
Is there some hierarchy where boycotting is essential for some, but convenience and finances may dictate a different choice for others?
I fully support the efforts of Wal-Mart employees to unionize. But does my boycott help that? Or is it, in the end, the responsibility of employees to get their act together? Wal-Mart will never give them permission, and like other industries in other times, will be as tough as it can be in order to stop their efforts. But in the end it is only the employees who can do this, the same way I made my decision some years ago and voted as I saw fit, and knew there would be consequences for that decision. Or does my boycott encourage and bolster their efforts? Do I change corporate minds?
We know that boycotting can work in some instances. Some companies have seen their fortunes fall for challenging the ACA, by threatening to up prices and lay-off workers. Hint: you don’t lay off workers if you have customers, and it helps to have a product worth buying. Did the boycotts cause the reversal or was it the lousy pizza?
The Right of course is spared these deeply troubling mental ponderings. They conveniently find all answers in a book and are thereby let off the hook–“hey, I don’t have a problem with gays, God does!” I rather suspect that our spiritual growth is directly tied to how willing we are to wrestle with these “no easy answer” questions.
So, I’m asking you.
What do you think?
Just what’s floating through my head these days.
Dianne Patrizzi said:
ever wonder who is doing the herding?
I think we all do what we can. We start a garden with heirloom seeds, choose another place to shop when we CAN, give as we are moved, eat eggs and toast at breakfast, buy a vehicle that uses less gas…
While everyone is so eager to tell us what’s right or wrong, we should just focus on our own integrity, and our own impact.
I guess that was mostly my point. I believe it’s not fair to judge, because everyone is making their contribution in their own ways and given their means. As long as we are aware, and make judgments based on facts…that’s the real concern..
Thought of this recent post I came across (http://mkpix.wordpress.com/2014/02/09/power-concedes-nothing/) while reading your post. Seems apros pro.
These days it’s not easy dealing with the huge corrupt corporations. I haven’t shopped at a WalMart in years, but then I’m lucky enough to have choices. Twenty-eight weeks out of the year I have a CSA that delivers farm fresh veggies. I seem to have far more choices than most in voting with my fork. I think the thing that scares me most is Monsanto’s lock on the GMO thing. I tend to suspect even organic grains these days because pollination doesn’t respect fences or property lines on maps. I also worry about the chemicals that are likely contributing to the decline in bees. Next issue will likely become water with the crazy droughts we’ve been having. Think WV, or even California and Oregon’s record busting drought… Oregon the state where it’s supposed to rain all winter…..? I could go on, but I’ll spare you! 🙂
a friend of mine works tirelessly promoting an end to GMO and accountability from Monsanto. I have learned from her, and share some of her concerns. I try to eat as much as I can locally and grow as much as I can of things we eat lots of. Other than that I cook mostly from whole foods. We buy very little that is boxed. I too am fearful of what is happening to our bee population. And I do agree, water will be the next war.
“The local Albertson’s is a great store, but it’s wildly over priced on most everything. I mean seriously so.”
What is more likely going on here Sherry is Walmart’s massive purchasing capabilities that allows them to under price their competitors, even at a loss, to run their competitors out of town. That’s is the story of their success.
The changes that a boycott will effect will not be on a grand scale and not occur rapidly. But boycotting and publicly displaying your complaints about Walmart will ultimately make an impact. It’s a huge conglomerate so it will take a lot whacks to knock it to its knees. Once they see people caving in and wearing down, then they have won.
You can tell Walmart is concerned currently because of all the ads they are spending a fortune on to make it look like they care about their workers, the environment and soft cuddly puppies. Don’t believe it. It’s sheer PR tactics but it does make it tougher to knock them to their knees quicker when so many gullible people will buy into this PR.
Albertson’s is no small operation and has a good following. I shop there for a lot of things that I can’t find elsewhere. And I do speak up and complain a lot when I am in Walmart whenever I find their practices wrong. I always tell the clerks that I support their efforts to improve their lot and I of course wouldn’t cross a picket line. I do hope they manage to successfully unionize.
Compared to Walmart it really is. Here’s an interesting article about Walmart policy I think you’ll appreciate Sherry.
A Walmart Worker Explains Why Walmart’s Customer Service Is Horrible
thanks Larry…very interesting read…I can relate! lol
Snoring Dog Studio said:
This is at least one of the benefits of social media – a person’s cause can spread wider and farther than ever before. So, I boycott and I tell people which stores I’m boycotting and why. I will never set foot in a WalMart store again. Or eat at Applebee’s or Papa John’s. And shop at Whole Foods. It might be a small thing coming from just one person, but I can confidently assume that others feel the same way.
Jean you are certainly right I think that boycotting works better than ever with social media to spur it on. I guess my other points were lost a bit in the comments…I recognize that everyone that thinks as we do wants to support boycotts and in a perfect world we all will, but its not always perfect. Not everyone has options and not everywhere has options. Sometimes our time and money can be better spent, is all I was pondering. 🙂 !END
Abbie's Tree House said:
I think ultimately America needs to find a way to put family-owned businesses back on equal footing with the big chains. I *always* choose the local business over the multinational conglomerates, but in most cases there isn’t a local alternative.
I live in a city with 100,000 people, and two chains control all of the grocery stories- each of them evil in their Own Special Way. So no matter where I spend my money, evil wins.
I live in a city of 100,000 people, and we have two grocery chains to choose from
Abbie's Tree House said:
(I have no idea why WP decided to re-insert a line I deleted. Just pretend that’s not there. 😉 )
This was much my point Thomas. People live in different places in different circumstances. Some can afford to shop at the high end and avoid say Wal-mart, but heck…Whole Foods has problems in my book too…It’s always a trade-off, and I realized that the problem is nuanced enough that its probably best not to judge what another decides…If we were to truly remove ourselves from every corporation we disagree with…I’m afraid it might be a very meager existence…lol..
List of X said:
I think that with the large companies like Walmart, a threat of boycott seems to work better than actual boycott. If the company has already calculated that a boycott will not have a serious impact, they’d just ignore it.
that could well be true….this is an interesting phenomenon…Course the million moms think they are effective…I think it had the opposite effect actually, but they are probably more of a minority than they think.. !END
List of X said:
As far as I know, they aren’t anywhere a million either.
I always vote with my pocketbook, and whenever possible, always buy from a local merchant, even if it costs a few pennies more. Monsanto is just plain evil!!!
I’d like to think we all do the best we can. I’m sure that you make a difference. I tell merchants what they are doing wrong always. I hope they appreciate the feedback. 🙂 !END