Thursday, August 23, 2012

Morality Play

Ed:

In our plutocracy corporate-dominated economy we dump our money into black boxes all day, every day without any knowledge of what happens to it down the line. Can you even imagine what the money ends up doing when you buy gas? Coke? Anything from Wal-Mart? A car? Clothing? You're funding everything from gay-bashing to Koch Bros. style Teabagging to environmental degradation here and abroad to ethnic conflicts in underdeveloped countries to child slavery. The CEO of Chik-fil-A is either brave or dumb enough to have told you the specific ways in which he is a loathsome person. But you're not naive enough to think that the others about whom you know nothing (Quick! Name Target's CEO. You can't. His name is Gregg Steinhafel and he hates the gays too) are using your money to plant flowers, feed the poor, and teach blind children how to read.

I question the logic or effectiveness of targeting a specific fast food chain with a loose boycott (which is unlikely to accomplish much) when it is merely a symptom of an entire system that is rotten to the core. Unless you're living the college activist completely-off-the-grid lifestyle you are going to continue to funnel money to awful, awful people. Most of us deal with that through willful ignorance. Can you even imagine what oil companies and their executives are doing with the billions they've made? I don't want to know, and if it's anything less than murdering endangered seals with weapons fashioned from the bones of slightly less endangered seals I would be stunned. I don't say that to guilt anyone into feeling bad about their buying habits; it is only to emphasize that cutting one head off of the hydra isn't going to kill it.

Willful ignorance, exactly. Boycotts over the political outrage du jour are just like so many other self-serving, public performances of moral indignation, though. How many people did you see online last month gnashing their teeth and wailing over the horror of gun violence after the Aurora shooting? How many of those people were so deeply affected by what they proclaimed to be the unforgivable, unacceptable tragedy of it all that they've begun seriously devoting their spare time and money to the cause of gun control? And how many of them eventually shrugged and quietly went back to their normal routine once they realized that the problem wasn't going to be solved by forwarding a few petitions, retweeting some links, and demanding cosmetic responses?

There's nothing wrong with not being a hero. No one is obligated to sacrifice their health, happiness and personal pleasure for a cause. Almost all of us would refuse to seriously inconvenience ourselves for the sake of being the change we wish to see in the world, even if only a fraction of us would ever publicly admit it. But perhaps people should be guilted into recognition of the extent of their complicity, by virtue of their mere existence, in this amoral global economy, if only so as to disabuse them of the notion that personal indulgences can be granted them for their superficial displays of moral sentiment.