Ya Basta Media | 27.07.2010 11:00
That said, let me begin. What I want to address is the ‘contradictions’ in lifestyle choice that is present in all, but particularly in politically active people. Why is it that we choose not to buy certain products or to buy according to an ethical code? And, why do we choose to follow the ‘ethics’ and avoid some products, but ignore them at other times? People will provided with a choice of similar things to consume, select the one they want and ethics a long with other factors may come into it.The contradictions which are evident enter when some products are rejected because they are not ethical, but others are happily consumed in spite of their ethical origins.
Perhaps the most evident contradiction is in the consumption of cheap food which has very often involved the exploitation of people, let alone the treatment of animals/the environment (The Human Cost of Cheap Food). Even those organic strawberries from Kent may well have been picked by Ukrainian workers on less than minimum wage. Another is in the clothes we buy, plenty of which has involved sweat-shop and/or child labour but they are cheap.
For example, lets take Coca-Cola, who’s annual revenue is over $7 billion. There are lots of reasons not to buy Coca-Cola, whether its because you dislike all multi-nationals, because of the anti-Israeli BDS campaign, for solidarity with Colombian workers or maybe for health or environmental reasons you can make the choice not to buy and consume it. So, thats fine, youve chosen to boycott, abstain from drinking Coke. But what I really want to bring out is, whats the point of making that lifestyle choice to avoid this product? Why are you doing it? And are you maintaining the same standards in all aspects of life? Do you make sure that you avoid all products and companies on the BDS list, who persecute foreign workers, which have a negative impact on the environment.
Also, in many instances (where we are concerned with essentials) to be in the position to be able to make such an ethical choice, it presupposes that you have enough money to be able to make the ‘ethical’ choice, which is almost without exception also the more expensive one. If you don’t earn much money and have 3 children to put in school uniforms are you going to make sure that they are all wearing fair-trade cotton sweat-shop free garms for school? I think it more likely that Primark would be the destination of choice and I wouldn’t question that at all.
Capitalism makes it hard for you to live a completely ‘ethical’ lifestyle, we could pick ethical holes in so many prodcuts, even the idea of the likes of fair-trade is not to give people a fair deal, but only to give them a fairer deal. Its still not an ethical product, its just a bit less worse. Without a relative degree of affluence you probably can’t afford to buy completely ‘ethical’ clothes, consume completely organic and fair trade food and drink all the time, never fly anywhere and even if you could and did, does such an individualistic approach to the world really have a positive effect? Surely to really change things you must be part of a mass movement not just be content that you are doing your bit by avoiding drinking Coke. So sometimes, I get the feeling that the whole ethical living idea is a way in which people (with a reasonable level of disposable income) are able to make themselves feel better about their consumption of food and drink or about the amount of clothes they buy without actually doing anything other than buying something else.
Although, mass boycotting of goods can put pressure on companies and governments, I don’t really believe the individual actions of those who buy fair-trade, organic and sweat-shop free are a substitute for any kind of collective action. Of course its better, but its also not possible for everyone. What do you think?