Some times going shopping is very difficult. Not because of lack of money, though we are a long way short of well off, but because we are increasingly aware of the fact that every financial decision is a political decision.
I am a great fan of orang-utans. I am aware that their habitat is being destroyed in order to grown more palms to process to make palm oil. Therefore I do not want to eat anything with palm oil or palm fat in it. This means that almost any processed food is out. That’s not so bad, processed food is seriously lacking in nutritional value.
But what about tea or coffee? As a confirmed caffeine addict I can’t do without it, but how fair is Fairtrade? I know Fairtrade insists that local people get paid a reasonable amount for their work, but what about other issues like, is this a crop that should be grown in this area or not? Do the farmers embrace sustainable farming practices? Do they treat their animals and other human beings well? What is their dependence on oil? And should we really be importing goods from countries that would benefit far more from feeding their own people than from gaining western currency so that they can import food from other places that probably need it even more than they do?
I hope you read that previous paragraph very carefully, because I don’t want to be accused of being unfair to Fairtrade. I’m just using them as an example to help illustrate how complex the whole nonsense of buying has become.
Additionally there is the problem of which corporations do you really want to give your money too? Nestlé is mining water from various drought stricken states in America. Then selling the water back in bottles.
Very often even when you think you have made a good decision in spending your money you will discover that the company you trusted has been bought by one of the mega-corporations, sometimes directly, other times through one of their subsidiaries that most people don’t realise has any links with the mega-corporations.
But even on a small local scale, what about having your hair cut? Do you go to your local hairdresser? Is it part of a national chain? Which companies do they get their supplies from? Are these companies you want to support? Do you really want to support the “beauty” industry (I think it should be called the “insecurity” industry, it exploits peoples feelings of insecurity about their appearance).
And so it goes on… nothing is without links to other things. Making choices is very difficult today. You could spend hours each day researching whether a company is one you want to support or not. Or you could do what most people do, ignore where your money is going and buy what you think you want. Both are still political decisions. One is exhausting and potentially very frustrating (though I guess sometimes you might find a real winner), the other is an abdication of responsibility that actually supports the status quo.
When I talk about the status quo (not the band), I do not mean a system that will protect our lifestyles, I do not mean a system that will keep us safe and comfortable. I mean the system (or culture) that has gradually moved us away from the lives we knew as children, I mean the system that is changing increasingly quickly, and becoming more and more inequitable. It is both a political and a financial system, and it exploits anyone without the wealth to protect themselves.
The financial and political systems are interlinked to a frightening degree. In America the latest election was more or less bought by the party that had the wealthiest corporations backing them. In the UK the Conservative Party and UKIP are supported by huge financial injections from people who have a vested interest (they think) in keeping the poor poor and divided.
They are people who have very little understanding of just what they are supporting. They tend to see things in terms of right or wrong. They have never stood on their desk in the classroom to discover that your perspective changes both what you see and how you see it. Life is complex, everything is interlinked, every choice can either support the current system or help to ease things in a slightly different, and possibly better, direction.