@luqui – Buy the change you wish to see in the world.
This Gandhi rip-off tweet is a summary of an idea that I would like to share in more detail. Last week I got sniped and swindled by a street peddler of Children International, a charity organization, largely due to a weakness of boundaries I had at the time. I wasn’t really feeling charitable, and I just wanted him to stop talking at me without being rude. The most immediate way out to my uncreative brain was to sign up and cancel later. I may have felt more charitable if it wasn’t so much money — $30 per month — but I was sure that I was going to cancel, and put it on my immediate to do list.
When I had a moment to clear off some items on the list, as I was looking up the number to call, I pictured the phone call. Having already done research and found that the organization was legitimate and even efficient, there was no excuse there. Then I was going to say “I just can’t afford it right now”… which would be a lie. I am a poor college student, but I am still privileged by college, and I spend about $300 per month on food. Saying I couldn’t afford $30 per month is just outright wrong. Lying to a charitable organization is beyond my (comparatively flexible) morals.
I couldn’t find a way out that was consistent with my self-image. Thus, I haven’t canceled, and I don’t think I’m going to. Faced with the inability to prove that I shouldn’t spend this money, I began to search for reasons why I should. And the above twitter quote is the one I found, in a nutshell.
America is a severely capitalist nation. It has a fair amount of socialism mixed in, but it is still one of the most money-driven countries on this planet. We criticize big corporations in general for being immoral, corrupt, greedy entities that are ruining the world. They have great power, and they wield it in offensive ways. Damn them! Clearly pure capitalism can’t support a humanitarian world.
I used to believe this. But let’s think about it: from where is their power derived? From the economy of their country, of the world. They have tons of money and power because we give it to them. They provide us with valuable services, and we in turn compensate them with money, which is essentially equal to power in a capitalist society. And then we complain when they use that power in a way that offends us. So we are not really unconditionally giving them power: we wish to say “you can have the power to do things we agree with”. Not really power at all. We want to use their services without compensating them.
A dollar is a vote! It is a unit not only of trade, but of trust. But we routinely buy products from companies we do not trust. And no wonder they do evil things… we gave them a symbol of our trust without actually trusting them. We “the proletariat” are the ones who are ultimately producing the value in this nation, and we are collectively being compensated for it. Taken as a whole, we have enough power to match or exceed any corporation (I haven’t done the research, but I think the principle is pretty easy to agree with). We are being very irresponsible with our money — our tokens of trust — giving it to people who we know are evil. We are creating the evil in the world, simply by being fast and loose with our money.
It is widespread knowledge at this point that Monsanto is a profoundly evil corporation. They produce genetically modified plants, and then claim ownership of any plant that crossbreeds with it (using their money to out-lawyer any farmer who disagrees). With the chaotic nature of seeds in the wind, left unchecked they could eventually claim ownership of every plant in the world by seeding a single field on every continent. They buy out politicians to allow them to pollute acres and acres of United States land. The world would be a better place without them — their technology is great, but their behavior as an entity is abhorrent.
A conversation comes up in a grocery store about the evil of Monsanto, and while complaining and loathing the evil in the world, they pick up the cheapest loaf of bread and put it in their basket, thereby handing the evil in the world another token of their trust. If the world refused to buy any Monsanto-derived food, Monsanto would die. Poof, evil extinguished! The choice in what food you buy is asking you a question — do you prefer cheap food, or a moral world? If you buy Monsanto-derived food, you are saying you prefer cheap food. And the world really does listen.
I want to live in a world in which every person has an equal shot at equal lives (if you want more, you get less of a shot). But that hardly describes the Earth. Is my desire for this ideal Earth greater than my desire for three SubWay sandwiches per month? Could I put up with putting in a little more effort to make my food in exchange for helping the world to achieve this goal? Would it be worth it to you? If you say yes but don’t pay for it, you are lying. This isn’t hyperbole. I consider failing to “put your money where your mouth is” an outright lie.
How many proud Americans lie every day? Are you one of them? I still am. I am working to change that in myself.
Do your research! Pay for things made by companies whose behavior is agreeable to you. Don’t just look at the price. Tell the truth about your vision for the rest of the world, the future, even just a little bit. We, the hard-working, moral people of this planet wield most of the power. Let’s use it responsibly.
Buy the change you wish to see in the world.