Monday, February 17, 2014

Every Cash Register is a Polling Booth

Harrisonburg Farmers Market
"Deciding we won't drive to that chain grocery store and buy that imported pineapple is a path to liberation. Deciding to walk to the farmers' market and buy fresh, local peas is like spitting in the eye of the industries that control us. Every act of refusal is also an act of assent. Every time we way no to consumer culture, we say yes to something more beautiful and sustaining. Life is not something we go through or that happens to us; it's something we create by our own decisions."
- Kathleen Dean Moore, If Your House Is On Fire

When it comes to making all of my purchases in light of my professed values, I still have a long way to go. Too often I am lured into simply buying what or where things are the least expensive. But I realize that every purchase is also a vote in favor of the kind of causes, people and policies I really want to support. Do I want to invest in more family-run enterprises or in Wall Street-related corporate ones? Do I want to support more locally produced (native) foods and other products or more of those imported from long distances (exotic ones)? Do I choose to support businesses that pay fair wages or those that exploit workers?

I wrote this little limerick some time ago:

Instead of our shopping at mall-marts,
and thus lend support to more sprawl-marts,
      Let's choose Red Front, local shops,
      The Little Grill and Friendly City Co-ops,
And shun box store chains like our Wal-marts.

As Justin Shull writes in a 1/14/14 Daily News-Record op-ed piece: 

"Our culture is focused on more for less. Most advertisements focus on providing the consumer with a greater quantity of a product for a lower price. There is, however, no mention of quality. Let’s say you spend $40 at a chain restaurant a week. A significant portion of that $40 is outsourced to major corporations from distant states (or countries) whose food is of a lower quality and whose employees may be severely under-compensated. The food and agriculture industries are a great example of the centralized power problem. By outsourcing our spending to large, distant corporations, we are personally dismantling our local economies.

"This may seem like a lofty ideal. It is well known that buying American-made products is more expensive. However, if we could withdraw our more-for-less attitudes and redirect even a portion of our spending into our struggling local economies, the politicians and their corporate counterparts would listen. Shifting these attitudes could lead to an economic Renaissance. Also, we could avoid the malignancies of our current super-capitalist system: unhealthy people and communities. It is time to regain control of our political system through our collective purchasing power."  

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

"Strawberries were too delicate to be picked by machine. The perfectly ripe ones bruised at even too heavy a human touch. It hit her then that every strawberry she had ever eaten--every piece of fruit--had been picked by calloused human hands. Every piece of toast with jelly represented someone's knees, someones aching back and hips, someone with a bandana on her wrist to wipe away the seat. Why had no one told her that before?"
- Alison Lauterman, What We Came For
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