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!
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.