They Are Trying to Trick You by Xochitl Alvizo


These chocolates embody a truth — the truth that resources are valuable, that living ethically is not ‘cheap,’ and that cheap is an illusion…

Information is everywhere and is being collected about each one of us every minute of every day. If you are reading this post on your computer you have just fed the information gathering machine new information about yourself, your interests, your trends – and if you click on any of the links embedded within this post – all the more so. Welcome to the 21st Century.

In a way it sounds terribly “Big Brother-ish.” And maybe so, but I don’t think of it that way as that would be terribly overwhelming and perhaps even paralyzing. Instead, I simply see it as capitalism in full force. Capitalism depends on a consumer economy – the more we buy the more profit a small percentage of people make. And the consumption of goods is heavily reliant on marketing, which nowadays is being streamlined more and more so that it can to be targeted and personalized for each individual. In order to do this the powers that be need information about us – detailed information and lots of it! Here enter Google and Facebook – the great gatherers of all the personal information we freely give them. They gather information and share it with corporations so that these may in turn more effectively market products to us that we are more likely to buy. We are now in what is called the Google Age, the great servant of capitalism and our consumer economy.

So what does a feminist do in the face of such an overwhelming reality? I have a few suggestions of course. First, you remember that they are trying to trick you. Seriously, they are! Remember the food ads Stefanie Goyette highlighted in her post “Eating Our Words”? These ads, as all ads, are trying to make you believe something about yourself that can then be remedied or improved on by the very product being marketed. What actually is being sold to us are lies, perceptions/images/beliefs about who we are as humans so that then we will go out and buy the thing that will supposedly make us “better” humans – stronger, thinner, more powerful, beautiful, and fulfilled. Once we buy into the particular lie being sold,  we then also end up buying the product that makes it all better….until the next lie, and the next product, and the one after that! The system is dependent on an ever repeating cycle of deficiency and lack that propels us to continually seek the next perfect product or service that promises to bring us happiness and fulfillment. Do not give in! And remember, they are trying to trick you.

The next thing to do is think differently and creatively. I have values by which I aim to live – you probably do also – who are the people, the companies, alternative economies, and providers of services that integrate similar values into their business practices and way of doing things? Choose them. The key is to not simply rely on that which is being mass marketed, instead think creatively and be on the lookout for alternative options. Cell phones, for example, most of us have them and know all the major service providers and likely use one of them.  But there are also small companies to choose from that are committed to progressive social change and give a percentage of their finances to organizations such as The Feminist Majority and Planned Parenthood. Or another example, let’s think chocolate! I love chocolate, especially dark chocolate, but I also know that almost all the chocolate found in stores is produced by way of child labor that involves human trafficking and slavery. Not the kind of chocolate I can enjoy. But there are also companies that make chocolate in accordance with the values I want to live by – and to top it off, the chocolate is amazingly delicious!

Image from Lagusta’s Luscious

This brings me to the last point I want to make about how we respond to the overwhelming reality of the Google Age and the information gathering machines that serve our capitalistic world: Respond by thinking small and thinking sustainably. Our predominant economy depends on us always wanting more and never being satisfied. It functions as if the earth is disposable and its resources limitless – but we know this is not the case. Our earth is precious in and of itself; Carol Christ’s writing repeatedly calls our attentionto this truth – a truth that is too often suppressed. The resources and nourishment the earth offers us must be valued and protected. We can be satisfied with so much less and can live in ways that honor and recognize the preciousness and limits of our earth’s resources, as well as the labor that people all over the world contribute toward making the products we depend on for our everyday living. If you followed the link to my favorite source of chocolate– “chocolate made in a manner in which all are paid a fair price for fair jobs and only include ingredients grown and manufactured with as much care for the finite resources on our planet as possible” – you will see that they are indeed a treat one can only indulge in occasionally, for their price is pricey. The reason though is that these chocolates embody a truth, the truth that resources are valuable and that living ethically is not ‘cheap’ – nor should it be. Cheap is an illusion that is largely made possible by exploitation, slavery, overindulgence, and greed.

Next time you get all those personally targeted ads based on all that information collected about you and your life, just remember that they are trying to trick you. Don’t believe the lies. Instead, go ahead and eat some chocolate responsibly, buy clothes and trade dresses sustainably, choose services smartly, and celebrate life creatively. It’s not just a feminist response, it is a human response. We can take responsibility for and creatively participate in all of our interrelated well-being – especially on this U.S. holiday that would have us thinking in exclusive and nationalistic terms. The reality is that we are all in this world together and we can all make choices to live in ways that honor that interrelatedness and also honor our planet and the whole source of Life. Therefore, I recommend that we all learn to think small, sustainably, creatively, and smartly! It does not have to be overwhelming; taking small steps and creative actions makes a big difference –  really, it makes all the difference. Now, what creative ideas and resources would you like to share?

Xochitl Alvizo is a feminist Christian-identified woman and theologian currently completing her PhD at Boston University School of Theology in practical theology with a focus on ecclesiology. Finding herself on the boundary of different social and cultural contexts, she works hard to develop her voice and to hear and encourage the voice of others. Her work is inspired by the conviction that all people are inextricably interconnected and the good one can do in any one area inevitably and positively impacts all others. 

Advertisements


Categories: Activism, consumerism, Ecofeminism, Ecojustice, Ethics, General, Resistance, shopping, sustainability

Tags: , , ,

9 replies

  1. Brava! These are important issues and need to be addressed by every conscious person. We are obviously not all very conscious, alas, but we can indeed wake up and pay attention.

    Like

  2. It’s so easy to get paralyzed, to think that one person’s daily choices don’t make a difference. But they add up.

    Like

  3. I just returned from a bike ride with a friend in which we exchanged resources on sustainable living. One of the larger issues facing us globally is and will be water. Wars will be fought in our lifetime over this precious resource. She recommended the movie “Tapped,” which exposes bottled water and large corporations in developing lands. I have just begun reading “Consuming the Congo: War and Conflict Minerals in the World’s Deadliest Place,” which argues the use of cell phone & computers is contributing to the civil war (read as rape & child slavery) in the DRCongo due to the minerals required for our consumption of technology. The last two chapters offer hope and ways of navigating through this dismal situation.

    Thanks Xochitl for a well crafted reminder of ethical alternatives to our everyday consumption.

    Like

  4. Thank you all for your comments. Cynthie, last summer when I took a class at Claremont with John Cobb, he was saying the same thing – water will be the reason for wars. And there will be much conflict between those who are in areas that have the resource and those who aren’t in such areas and don’t have the access. Thanks for the movie and book reference – I will have to get to those as well. Hey – this topic would make an excellent post!

    Thanks again!

    Like

  5. Are Fairtrade products available in the USA? There are widely available in British supermarkets. Trouble is, that they often more expensive than big brands. I can afford the cost, and usually do, but for many people they are a luxury.

    Like

    • Yes, there are Fairtrade products for sure, and just as you say, they are also usually pricier. I think that for those of us who can afford it, the more we buy Fairtrade over the conventionally choices, the more we change the supply and demand balance of the market, and eventually the prices will come down. I recognize that not all people can make these choices, or have the option to…it’s a work in process but one well on its way. The availability of Fairtrade and organic products has already increased significantly in the last few years over here.

      Like

      • This is so true – and a way people with privilege can use that privilege to help build more just systems. I have also found that buying into Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm shares of fresh, local vegetables can help in a few ways. Not only are they fair trade, by nature; and not only do they support your local economy and ecosystem in a variety of ways; but they also often provide much more vegetables for the same dollar amount than any grocery store! It really contributes to an attitude, theology, and philosophy of abundance. That is not even including how most CSA farms I know donate quite a bit of fresh produce to soup kitchens, food pantries, and other food ministries, as a matter of course.

        I also have a womanist friend who tells her kids, we eat beans and rice, organic, fairly traded beans and rice; because that is what we can afford, and we are in solidarity with the people around the world eating beans and rice. I thought that was inspiring, too.

        Like

  6. …and if nothing else works, think like a saleperson–crafty, marketing for the next big sale or eyeing that gullible person who walks through the door or lands on a webpage that looks too good ot be true. If you know their tactics, you’ll never be taken in because you really ‘can’t sell a salesperson’. There are really good sellers out there, but you have to look for them and check them out. (Been selling in the consumer business myself for over 40 years, so I’ve seen and know a trick ot two. Some of it is not so pretty, for sure.)

    Also I think we need ot look closer to home because certain companies may say they are fair trade abroad, but what are they paying their employees here at home? Do they provide a living wage and decent benefits or depend on your extra tips in the tip box at the register to supplement what the company is not paying them? Extraordinary service apart.

    I just heard recently on the news that there is trend back to part-time labor so benefits can be eliminated or reduced. Just as we gain ground in one aspect of employment, it appears we backtrack in another. What will this mean for those fair trade companies, I wonder.

    Like

  7. I remember one I gave up buying anything for Lent, except very basic needs, such as food (not prepared food, just food supplies). (I always try to support local, sustainable food already.) It was a very eye-opening experience for me. I find Lent can be a helpful spiritual practice for introducing spiritual disciplines that help raise my awareness, self-awareness, and build new kinds of holy habits into my life.

    Like

Please familiarize yourself with our Comment Policy before posting.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: