Sunday, June 1, 2008

From one imperalistic consumer to another

So Larry tagged me on a Meme and I must respond (originally from "A Living Alternative" blog). Of course, it doesn't help that these are VERY hard questions. So let me begin by saying "Ditto" to Larry's response. That being said, I'd love to revist this after a few months in Grant dealing with problems that may be a bit different from Huntsville--for instance the big problem with Meth and poverty of a more rural kind.
When asked why he did not rebuke the sinfulness of the people around him, St. Francis of Assisi responded:

“The life of the Christian should be burning with such a light of holiness that by their very example and conduct, their life will be a rebuke to the wicked.”

In an era where Christians are largely known for the sin they oppose, this wisdom could not be more timely. Francis calls us to face the compromises of our culture by becoming living alternatives with how we live. As sin is defined, not by what it is, but by what it fails to be (thus its meaning “to miss the mark”), so too our approach to facing the systemic sin in our world should be battled by becoming that which it fails to be. For example, in the face of rampant individualism, we must embrace radical community, not simply condemn it as wrong.

Along this line, I am starting this meme to challenge your creativity:

1. Consider aspects of our culture where we have too easily compromised, issues that you passionately oppose.

2. Then, ask yourself what it would mean for you, both as and individual and as a part of a community, to be a living alternative. Write about it.

3. Link back here to this post.

4. Tag others to participate.

1. As I mentioned before, while at Vanderbilt, I had the opportunity to spend a semester preparing for a 17 day trip to Thailand and a semester reflecting on the trip. We had rather lofty aspirations for what we would study: Buddhism, Christianity as a minority religion, sex trade, drug problems and globalization. Perhaps the most frustrating insights I had were about the problems related to globalization. (In fact, I plan to post my reflections on the trip to this blog later today.)
Two questions still resonate in my mind from that trip. One came from a fellow student, a Korean. We were sitting in the mall in Chang Mai looking at a cut out of Brittany Spears wearing little and holding a Pepsi, the Kentucky Fried Chicken, a Sizzler restaraunt and Kyung asked me if I felt power when I saw evidence of my culture every where I went. You know, I hadn't thought of it. Yet everywhere I've traveled--Germany, England, Thailand, Japan, Israel, and Egypt--the power of our culture is everywhere. It forms eating habits, shopping habits, and entertainment. Our culture is changing how young men in the Hill Tribes of Thailand view their lives. What is success? What do they need? And it isn't even the best of our culture that we are exporting. We are exporting Brittany Spears (even at her best), soft drinks, fast food, and violent movies. If you pay much attention while traveling, you could easily depressed and think that we are doing nothing but harm with our culture.

But that would be myopic because there are also wonderful things about our culture. In the midst of all the junk we are exporting, we are also exporting good things: respect for individuals regardless of class, race or gender; democracy; importance of access to education for all; improved health care; and that's just the beginning.

Which leads to the second question that haunts me. At our final meeting in Pattaya, our Thai travel guide Pong said, “You can’t save the world. So do the best you can do . . .We are only one village now . . . Globalization and Westernization began with Marco Polo . . .it can’t be stopped—the question is how do we live with it?”

So how do we live with it?

As a self-professed shop-a-holic, who likes to accumulate things--many of which are made at the expense of people half a word a way from me--how do I live with it?

2. Several years ago, I decided that the way to deal with it was to quit buying goods manufactured in countries where I felt people were being exploited (mainly China). That resolve didn't last long because the truth is that is almost impossible to simply purchase "American." In today's world of globalization, it is all but impossible to buy something that isn't at least partially manufactured in a third world country. Plus as many point out, those folks need the jobs.

So I have decided to be careful about which stores I buy items from. I try to only frequent those stores who have a good history of paying fairly and taking care of the environment. As a result, much to my daughter's dismay, we don't buy clothes from Gap or Old Navy. The website, Responsible Shopper, is very helpful in determining which businesses I will support and those I will not. Even at that it isn't easy because one company may have a great environmental record and a lousy human rights one and vice versa. But the companies I avoid are those with the worst records overall. (I must say that Gap is improving due to the scrutiny it has received over the years!)

4. And I'm linking this post to:

1 comment:

Jamie Arpin-Ricci said...

Great post! As the Meme originator, I was wondering if you could link back to the original? Thanks!