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.