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Goldengirl

Starbucks and Slavery

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fwiw, the old saw "jeff has to feed his family" is tiring. He could stop remaking games tomorrow, look for and find a job (any job) and feed his family. And sometimes that is what people do when the creative spark is gone and they realize that they are selling the same thing in a different package to (mostly) the same group of people over and over. Patreon would be more honest.

 

Salmon gets at a deeper issue here that I've been grappling with a lot lately, namely the relationship between the consumer and the producer. Do costumers have a moral obligation to the people they buy from?

 

I've seen this concept a lot lately. The Ferguson protesters have called for boycotts on Black Friday and Cyber Monday to send a political message about the importance of their cause. Starbucks coffee, as well as many other corporations (eg. Toms Shoes) allows you to buy charity at the same time as you buy their product. Philosophy rock star Slavoj Zizek, in his characteristic manner, deconstructs that issue better than I can

. People call light to the worker's rights abuses of various companies and assign them ethical boycotts; I know a lot of my fellow women refuse to buy things at Hobby Lobby following the controversial Supreme Court decision they forwarded. I personally never would have bought anything from Hobby Lobby anyway.

 

I've gotten beaten over the head with the phrase, "There is no ethical consumption in late capitalism," by my friends; I run in odd social circles. I wonder, though. Sure, charities are abusive, and the system of capitalism as it now stands doesn't do well by a lot of people, but is there really no ethics?

 

When I buy my morning coffee, am I complicit in a system of slavery?

 

I hope that I can get some insight from my fellow Spiderwebbers.

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Part of this is the difference in corporate philosophy between Ford and Wal-Mart.

 

Henry Ford believed in paying his employees higher wages in order so they could afford to buy his cars. At a time when company towns like Pullman had employees working and living in towns they constructed and having their controlled stores for employee family to buy goods. A company could tie employees to them by keeping them in debt. Ford could have easily followed that model or even just paid prevailing wages to increase profits.

 

Wal-Mart model is to lower all costs from suppliers to employee wages to sell cheaper products than its rivals. They increase profits by not paying health care and according to lawsuits having employees work unpaid hours. You buy at Wal-Mart to save money because you don't have it to spend. Competitors have to lower their prices to compete and use loyalty rewards programs to encourage shopping with them for discounts. Suppliers cut their employee wages to undercut each other.

 

There is always the question of whether you want to encourage a corporate policy by buying from a company or you want the product and don't care how it got there. You have had several corporate boycotts when customers don't like policies of the company or its owner.

 

Back in the 1970s, Arab countries refused to buy from companies that did business with Israel. Pepsi wanted the larger Arab market and wouldn't sell in Israel and Jews retaliated by not buying Pepsi. Arabs will buy Israeli chocolate as long as it has no country of origin information and is shipped through a third country (Israeli chocolate melts at a higher temperature than Swiss and US chocolate).

 

More recently their was the Paula Deen racist remarks and Chick-A-Fil and its owner's homophobic remarks.

 

Their are other ethical questions with some companies.

 

Henry Ford supported Hitler and is considered anti-Semitic, but that is unrelated to his business model except to encourage sales in Germany before WW II.

 

Wal-Mart was successfully sued by Levi Strauss Company for selling Strauss Jeans in its stores that it bought in the grey market because Strauss didn't want to have their product sold at deep discounts. Later Wal-Mart was sued again for breaking the settlement by selling counterfeit jeans with the Strauss label.

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I've gotten beaten over the head with the phrase, "There is no ethical consumption in late capitalism," by my friends; I run in odd social circles. I wonder, though. Sure, charities are abusive, and the system of capitalism as it now stands doesn't do well by a lot of people, but is there really no ethics?

 

your friends have a point. consumer activism on an isolated individual level is like trying to empty out the ocean with a bucket: you'll never make meaningful progress and the water ends up back in the ocean in the long run anyway. organised group action like boycotts can be useful though.

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I think almost all human beings are complicit in evil. On the other hand

 

a) Dedicating your life to having zero negative impact is ultimately less helpful than accepting some negative impact, and trying to do more good by more people despite it. I realize that's very hard to stomach, and also very hard to live up to, but I think it's the only way to go. (Not that I do a particularly good job at it, mind...)

 

B) There are many degrees of "being complicit," and not all of them should qualify as crimes against humanity.

 

c) Likewise, I think there's a need to differentiate between "complicit in evil" and "deserves punishment." Especially when "punishment" necessarily consists of something harmful to a person. Seriously, I think the idea that justice == vengeance is incredibly dangerous; taken to its logical conclusion, everyone alive would deserve some kind of punishment. A healthy society needs a concept of forgiveness, as well as one of judgment.

 

Re charities, I know it's popular to point out (a la Oscar Wilde) that keeping the poor alive won't change the system that keeps them poor, but, but... it's still keeping them alive, and that counts for something. Also IMO, whether a charity qualifies as abusive depends on its practices and its efficacy, not on some ideological constant that all charities are bad.

 

(Sorry, not trying to be rude here; the Wilde thing is a sore point with me.)

 

Anyway, that's my thoughts on the matter.

 

[Disclaimer: I have clinical depression and OCD. The above may contain some rationalization in the interests of my own day-to-day survival. You have been warned.]

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I didn't know I'd miss hearing Zizek's voice as much as I did. What a guy.

 

Re charities, I know it's popular to point out (a la Oscar Wilde) that keeping the poor alive won't change the system that keeps them poor, but, but... it's still keeping them alive, and that counts for something.
I can only speak hypothetically here, but I'd much rather be allowed to die with nothing than have my miserable existence prolonged by the scraps of charity that are only being offered to me because somebody wanted to feel better about themselves for a while.

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Our relationship to Jeff is not the same as Jeff's relationship with us, much the same as the consumer relationship with any producer who is not a personal acquaintance. I don't owe Jeff anything, and he suffers the same encumbrance. Buying his games merely to keep him chained to a keyboard is cruel, but buying them to support him as an artist is the highest form of charity.

 

As far as the Wilde philosophy, I'm pretty sure the only thing that keeping the poor alive counts for is more opportunity to milk them for even more production. It's not like anyone thinks there is a chance of a socio-economic flip-flop.

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I suppose that the only form of economics in which choice is free from unwanted instruction or guidance is anarcho-communism. Is it truly in the best interest of humanity for individuals to have completely free choice? The goal of society should be to create and maintain a system in which suffering is minimized and everyone is ensured a state of well-being, as much as possible. This ultimately means that everyone has a responsibility for everyone else, and that one's choices will be instructed or guided in some way or another.

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Do costumers have a moral obligation to the people they buy from?

 

I like what Randomizer has said: "You buy at Wal-Mart to save money because you don't have it to spend." If you're going to hold people responsible for all direct and indirect consequences of their buyings, then consider that many people honestly do not know better or can't afford otherwise. The only reasonable thing to do is hold accountable those people who know better and can afford to purchase elsewhere. The real villains are the people who are perfectly aware and who have the wherewithal to vote with their wallet but instead choose to take the options that are convenient only to themselves ethical and moral considerations be damned.

 

Theory in practice: the BDS movement. If you have no idea what the BDS movement is or for that matter are clueless about the larger Israel/Palestine conflict then I don't blame you for buying products that either are produced by or directly support Israeli companies. What reason would anyone have to pay attention to such details anyways. If, however, you are informed about Israel's brutalistic inhumane military and political polices and despite this awareness you go buy a SodaStream machine than yeah you are a dirt bag because you know where your money is going.

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You have the same consumers don't know or care with most cheap clothing manufactured in sweat shops. In spite of companies' claims to only get clothes from shops that meet certain wage and safety conditions, in the last few years there have been deaths in factories that pay lower wages and collapsed due to fires or construction problems. The certified factories sub contract the work out to lower quality uncertified factories to meet demand deadlines and/or save money.

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If you do enough research and subscribe to enough social theories, you can find a reason not to buy anything from just about anyone. Everyone needs to pick the level of battle that they are comfortable with. I avoid Walmart because after Sam Walton died, the buy American kick that they were on died as well. As Randomizer said, there are a lot of people who can only afford Walmart, though I question if a 50" TV is a "want" as opposed to a "need".

 

Being occasionally cynical I enjoy watching certain politically outspoken groups having to either cancel their boycotts, amend their boycotts or find them ignored. One of my favorites was many years ago, the town that my University was in had a boycott against companies that had anything to do with the Nuclear Weapons R&D and industrial complex (this was as the cold war was ending). This boycott had already been twisted into a pretzel since my University managed key aspects of that same R&D complex. It finally became completed ridiculous when the police needed new radios and the town had to pass an exception to their boycott to allow for the purchase of a product from an "evil" company with all of the debate and gnashing of teeth that this entailed.

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Theory in practice: the BDS movement.

If, however, you are informed about Israel's brutalistic inhumane military and political polices and despite this awareness you go buy a SodaStream machine than yeah you are a dirt bag because you know where your money is going.

Or you know enough about the conflict that you know the BDS movement is focusing on a one-sided narrative that blames Israel for everything and is just a front for anti-Semitism.

Like soda-stream for example. They had a factory which was dedicated to providing jobs for Palestinians and employed close to a hundred Palestinian workers, who all lost their jobs when the BDS movement forced soda-stream to relocated their factory.

But that didn't matter for the BDS movement. They just wanted to punish Israeli companies where or not out would hurt Palestinians also

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Or you know enough about the conflict that you know the BDS movement is focusing on a one-sided narrative that blames Israel for everything and is just a front for anti-Semitism.

Like soda-stream for example. They had a factory which was dedicated to providing jobs for Palestinians and employed close to a hundred Palestinian workers, who all lost their jobs when the BDS movement forced soda-stream to relocated their factory.

But that didn't matter for the BDS movement. They just wanted to punish Israeli companies where or not out would hurt Palestinians also

 

It's a bit of an exaggeration to say that BDS is simply a "front for anti-Semtism" and you know that. And neither is anti-Zionism the same as anti-Semitism. Maybe 10 years ago you could silence discussion on Israeli's policies in the OPT by brandishing the anti-Semitism argumnent, but no longer is that the case. As a global grassroots movement it is not without its fair share of problems, iconsistancies, and venal and opportunistic stakeholders. But an anti-Semitic front it is not. As for the argument that to hurt Israel is to hurt the people that Israel occupies, that is true, but not a very persuasive argument against BDS. It's like saying do not throw the slave master in jail because then his slaves will be out of work. Clearly the end of Israel's occupation implies economic emancipation for the Palestinians. Loosing a couple of jobs in the process is a small sacrifice considering what is to be gained. In any case its up to the Palestinians to decide what they will sacrifice for their freedom.

 

Anyways, the point I was trying to make is that the "don't know, don't care" attitude is a moral disengagement from the world. So the answer to the question

 

When I buy my morning coffee, am I complicit in a system of slavery?

 

is: if you're asking the question then yes.

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Clearly the end of Israel's occupation implies economic emancipation for the Palestinians. Loosing a couple of jobs in the process is a small sacrifice considering what is to be gained. In any case its up to the Palestinians to decide what they will sacrifice for their freedom.

If this was true the the Gaza Strip would be economic success after Israel withdrew. Instead the first thing that the Palestinians did was destroy almost all businesses left behind and some that were originally Palestinian for good measure.

 

Claims that Israel blockade of Gaza is the sole cause of economic difficulties breaks down with the disclosure about the quantities of materials diverted to the tunnels. Shortages of building supplies were caused by making tunnels into Israel instead of improving circumstances in Gaza.

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"Late capitalism" would seem to imply a rather unjustified hope that it'll be over any time soon.

On a geological timescale, maybe.

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More recently their was the Paula Deen racist remarks and Chick-A-Fil and its owner's homophobic remarks.
(Note: both these cases deal with companies that don't have a presence in Canada, so I'm not fully up to date with them. As far as I know, these remarks don't extend to implemented practices, but I could be wrong).

 

I don't base my purchase decisions based on the beliefs and actions of the owners of a company. Yes, they benefit from my purchase, but so does every other employee in the company. Should we punish everyone in the company with a collaborative boycott just because of the beliefs of the person at the top? This is a personal decision, of course, but I'm willing to do business with someone I disagree with, so long as the product itself or the immediate results of doing business isn't 'tainted'.

 

The question of whether or not to do business with Israeli companies ties into this. Would I directly donate money to the Israeli government? No. Would I do business with companies that do so, or engage in the same oppressive practices? No. But would I do business with Israeli companies that didn't, but still paid corporate taxes to the Israeli government? Now the lines get blurry. And why stop there? Shouldn't you also boycott anyone who in turn does business with Israeli companies? Is guilt transitive in ethical consumerism? To bring this example closer to home, should I stop buying games from Spiderweb Software because Jeff pays taxes to the US government, and I disagree with many aspects of their foreign affairs policy?

 

Re charities, I know it's popular to point out (a la Oscar Wilde) that keeping the poor alive won't change the system that keeps them poor, but, but... it's still keeping them alive, and that counts for something. Also IMO, whether a charity qualifies as abusive depends on its practices and its efficacy, not on some ideological constant that all charities are bad.
I mostly agree. Most of the time, charities are a band-aid solution. But while bandages don't heal people, they do stop people from bleeding to death. And it's not as if it's choice between supporting charity and supporting social reform. You can donate to Habitat for Humanity and be an advocate in the political sphere when it comes to housing policies. Granted, progress in the latter is slow at best, but that should be all the more reason to support the former.

 

That all said, there is an argument that supporting charity disincentivizes governments from taking action, and I can see that. It's a tricky situation, but ultimately I'll continue donating time and money, making a little difference, rather than resort to brinkmanship and risk making no difference at all.

 

I can only speak hypothetically here, but I'd much rather be allowed to die with nothing than have my miserable existence prolonged by the scraps of charity that are only being offered to me because somebody wanted to feel better about themselves for a while.
*shrugs* Your opinion, of course, but it's not the opinion of everyone in need. And not all charity (or even most, in my opinion) is done for selfish reasons. And even if it was, would it really matter?

 

And neither is anti-Zionism the same as anti-Semitism. Maybe 10 years ago you could silence discussion on Israeli's policies in the OPT by brandishing the anti-Semitism argumnent, but no longer is that the case.
Heh. Don't read Hansard then. :p

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Saying that you are anti-Zionist and not anti-Semitic is false when you indiscriminately kill Jews for being in Israel or go to a Jewish institution like a synagague. Not every Jew is a Zionist and not every Zionist is a Jew. Why don't terrorists go after Christian groups that support Israel's existence to speed up the Second Coming.

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I like what Randomizer has said: "You buy at Wal-Mart to save money because you don't have it to spend." If you're going to hold people responsible for all direct and indirect consequences of their buyings, then consider that many people honestly do not know better or can't afford otherwise. The only reasonable thing to do is hold accountable those people who know better and can afford to purchase elsewhere. The real villains are the people who are perfectly aware and who have the wherewithal to vote with their wallet but instead choose to take the options that are convenient only to themselves ethical and moral considerations be damned.

 

Theory in practice: the BDS movement. If you have no idea what the BDS movement is or for that matter are clueless about the larger Israel/Palestine conflict then I don't blame you for buying products that either are produced by or directly support Israeli companies. What reason would anyone have to pay attention to such details anyways. If, however, you are informed about Israel's brutalistic inhumane military and political polices and despite this awareness you go buy a SodaStream machine than yeah you are a dirt bag because you know where your money is going.

 

The problem is that this really hinges heavily on the definitions of "dirt bag" and "holding people accountable." The intersection of "bad person" being too broad, and "punishment" being too harsh, is lots and lots and lots of people being harmed in the supposed name of justice; which gets you right back to square one.

 

So, I'm curious how you define those terms. What kind of accountability is warranted? If most people are criminals, and crime requires punishment, what do most people deserve as punishment?

 

I can only speak hypothetically here' date=' but I'd much rather be allowed to die with nothing than have my miserable existence prolonged by the scraps of charity that are only being offered to me because somebody wanted to feel better about themselves for a while.[/quote']

 

I'm... barely able to reply coherently to this. I've mulled over a lot of responses; but for now I'll just say that, yes, that is definitely speaking hypothetically.

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I didn't know I'd miss hearing Zizek's voice as much as I did. What a guy.

 

I can only speak hypothetically here, but I'd much rather be allowed to die with nothing than have my miserable existence prolonged by the scraps of charity that are only being offered to me because somebody wanted to feel better about themselves for a while. [/background][/font][/color]

 

People donate to charity for many reasons, for many, it is not to feel better about themselves. But if charity which is voluntary is so bad, then how is forced charity from taxes (welfare, dole, etc) better as opposed to worse?

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If someone asks if I'm into BDS, my first reaction is, "No, I'm not that kinky." Then I realize that they didn't say the fourth letter and mean something completely different.

 

I guess what I'm trying to say is that the acronym is a massive political communication fail.

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People donate to charity for many reasons, for many, it is not to feel better about themselves. But if charity which is voluntary is so bad, then how is forced charity from taxes (welfare, dole, etc) better as opposed to worse?

 

because between being paid what you're owed by society for being a member of it in need isn't charity, it's an acknowledgement of human dignity. forcing people to rely on voluntary charity makes human dignity conditional

 

also, frankly, because i don't trust voluntary private charity because most private charities are run by people who want me dead. the salvation army in particular has a history of leaving LGBT people to die in the streets rather than helping them.

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because between being paid what you're owed by society for being a member of it in need isn't charity, it's an acknowledgement of human dignity. forcing people to rely on voluntary charity makes human dignity conditional

 

I agree with this, but also feel that it runs into some practical problems for people living under a greedist system. Ideally the state would be competent and humane and actually deal with this stuff, but it isn't and doesn't, and that's not likely to change for some time. (Though gods know, better people than me are trying to change that.)

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Lilith, I believe that society owes opportunities not outcomes, but then I know that you and I have very different economic views. Not all charities espouse pseudo-Christian values (pseudo in the case that you are mentioning since leaving someone in the gutter because you do not like them is un-Christ like) but much of the charity that we are familiar with is inspired by Abrahamic religions. That said, the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) for US government employees is currently going on. In recent years, there have been as many as 25,000 charities participating, representing lots of different viewpoints including LGBT organizations, almost every imaginable ethnic group, animal advocacy, medical conditions, etc.

 

Randomizer, while there are charities that spend the majority of their funds on themselves, there are plenty of charities that do a very good job of helping people in an efficient and kind manner. In the CFC guide they publish the overhead rate for each charity, some of which are awful, some of which are great. There are special categories highlighting groups with overhead rates under 5% and under 1%.

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much of the charity that we are familiar with is inspired by Abrahamic religions

Well, much of what we are familiar with, period, is inspired by Abrahamic religions ;)

 

There are really wonderful strands of compassion and charity in all of the Abrahamic religions. Total agreement. There are the same kinds of strands in all the other heavily followed religions, too.

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Lilith, I believe that society owes opportunities not outcomes, but then I know that you and I have very different economic views. Not all charities espouse pseudo-Christian values (pseudo in the case that you are mentioning since leaving someone in the gutter because you do not like them is un-Christ like) but much of the charity that we are familiar with is inspired by Abrahamic religions. That said, the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) for US government employees is currently going on. In recent years, there have been as many as 25,000 charities participating, representing lots of different viewpoints including LGBT organizations, almost every imaginable ethnic group, animal advocacy, medical conditions, etc.

 

hey that's all very well in theory but in the time since my girlfriend got kicked out of her parents' home for being gay she's been turned away by every relevant charity in her city: either they can't help her or they won't. because of her disabilities she's been unable to find any kind of employment outside of sex work, which is emotionally destroying her and doesn't even earn her enough money to live independently. i'm the only person in the world right now standing between her and homelessness and that creates a power imbalance between us that's deeply uncomfortable for both of us and is straining our relationship, and i don't have enough money to support both of us indefinitely. at this point government assistance is pretty much her only hope, because private charity has decided that she's garbage and deserves to be thrown away

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Wow. That's horrible. I'm sorry. I would have thought Australia was better about that, too.

 

I hope things get better for her (and for you).

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I agree with Tevildo. I am of course completely unfamiliar with what anti-discrimination laws that Australia and its States/Territories have and whether any of them would be applicable in your girlfriend's case.

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Wow. That's horrible. I'm sorry. I would have thought Australia was better about that, too.

 

I hope things get better for her (and for you).

 

things would be a lot easier if she were australian; she could just live with me and i'd probably be able to support the two of us. unfortunately it's not so simple. she's not an australian citizen, so she can't stay here on a permanent basis, and i'm not a US citizen so i can't stay there on a permanent basis either. i'm paying her rent for her at the moment while still paying my own living expenses back here in australia as well. in the long term any solution that lets us stay together permanently is probably going to have to involve one of us immigrating to the other's country on a partner visa, but australia charges a fee of over $3000 just to apply for a partner visa and there's a waiting period of 12-15 months before it's typically granted (during which time the prospective immigrant isn't allowed to do any kind of paid work while remaining in Australia pending a decision), while immigrating to the US involves similarly long periods of waiting and uncertainty in addition to a test of her income plus our shared assets to prove that we'd be able to support ourselves. in theory it should be possible for us to meet the requirements with fairly significant financial help from my parents but i don't know whether or not we can count on that. the fact that australia doesn't recognise same-sex marriage makes things Complicated on that front as well, as it means the requirements for proving that we're in a genuine relationship are going to be a lot more stringent

 

i guess the take-home message from this post is that governments suck a lot of the time as well: this is a problem we wouldn't be having if we had open borders. smash capitalism, smash the state, smash patriarchy and heteronormativity

 

*drops mic by accident while gesturing wildly, walks away as if it was on purpose*

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I suppose the question I'm trying to get at here most clearly, is this,

 

Is it worth caring about what corporations do with my money after I buy a product from them? Specifically from an ethical and moral point of view.

 

And yeah, smash the patriarchy and all that.

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this is one reason why the US has so many illegal white immigrants coming in on tourist visas and staying to work. It's easier for them to get jobs since they blend into the acceptable population and companies are willing to pay them under the table since they don't pay the government taxes for those workers.

 

Good luck resolving your problems.

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I'm really sorry, Lilith. That must be hard like I can't imagine.

 

I've seen other people get messed over by absurd immigration policies as well, though not usually to such an extent.

 

I suppose the question I'm trying to get at here most clearly, is this,

 

Is it worth caring about what corporations do with my money after I buy a product from them? Specifically from an ethical and moral point of view.

 

I'd say it's definitely worth caring, but also worth recognizing that covering every single base is more or less impossible. But that is purely IMO.

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I suppose the question I'm trying to get at here most clearly, is this,

 

Is it worth caring about what corporations do with my money after I buy a product from them? Specifically from an ethical and moral point of view.

 

 

And yeah, smash the patriarchy and all that.

 

Yep. We are all morally responsible for all elements of the systems we are even the remotest part of. The best thing to do is to give up and despair.

 

dude, i answered your question in the first reply, come on, get on game.

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I suppose the question I'm trying to get at here most clearly, is this,

 

Is it worth caring about what corporations do with my money after I buy a product from them? Specifically from an ethical and moral point of view.

 

 

And yeah, smash the patriarchy and all that.

I tend to see this question as a positional matter, and Zizek's discussion of the impossibility of ethical consumption under capitalism as class-limited. (I feel a little cynically that Zizek's popularity among American leftists owes an awful lot to his willing role as the toothless court radical of the first-world petit bourgeoisie. He presumes the universality of 1WPB mores, resources, and narratives; as someone from outside of that background once I stopped reading exclusively 1WPB sources and thinkers I sort of stopped respecting him all that much.)

As someone who makes a living by performing work which is mostly stolen from me via structural violence, I'm part of the class that Walmart exists to extract value from. I might very well consider it in my interest to resist them in doing this, but this would necessarily require understanding a coherent political strategy.

But I don't see an alternative or an urgent reason to pursue one - I don't live anywhere near the infrastructure to feed myself without paying a component of monopoly capital with money. Ironically, Walmart literally is one of several more or less interchangeable options for my food budget, and in the absence of a mass political context for avoiding them it would only make me miserable, and the people it enriched instead of the Waltons and their lackeys would still be first-world capitalists.

There's been a labor struggle on with a local mall which has involved a boycott, and I'm not going to that mall for that reason, and if the topic ever came up I'd consider it worth talking about. But boycotts are different.

 

The boycott is a powerful and useful political tool, an assertion of political will by a mass movement - it's in fact one of the prototypes of resistance to imperialism in its modern form, developing in India and Ireland in struggle against British capitalists. But it's sort of been absorbed by capital and reinterpreted in its own logic as an individual choice mediated primarily by anxiety: e.g., an organized response to a call by the UFW to consciously and politically spurn purchasing grapes as part of a specific campaign percolates through layers of mass culture into a vague and nearly inchoate anxiety about purchasing grapes because of someone somewhere being exploited behind their production. (This conveniently erases the actual resistance and its human protagonists and recasts the struggle between exploiter and exploited as one between the consumer and the consumer's conscience.)

I know people who were alive then and avoid grapes even now, decades after the boycott, completely outside of its context. This robs the boycott of its historical particularity and removes the opportunity to examine its success or failure and learn lessons from either, and more prosaically is incredibly silly.

 

The move to boycott specific commercial holidays over the ongoing white supremacist state violence in Ferguson & around the country located in that context - it's a mass movement, and it's specifically one that's asked for a wider base of support to leverage pressure on companies involved in the prison-industrial complex.

 

I don't know how or if people who live by having money and using it to make more money, or by working for themselves and keeping whatever the state doesn't skim off the top, would manage to live politically radical lives; it's not a question that especially concerns me, and the answers they find for themselves don't make a lot of sense to me. Zizek seems to believe he's crafted a moral justification for inertia but it feels to me like he's at best proven it's equally as bad in his context as individual action.

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The most powerful vote we have today is with our dollar. Some might say it's the only vote we really have left.

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Because a threat to profits is the only thing corporations really respond to at this point, and "our" elected representatives represent corporate interests, not that of the citizens. If we want to change corporate behavior, we have to hit them directly—stop funding and rewarding their bad behavior with our money. Nothing gets their attention faster. It may be that nothing else gets their attention at all.

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Regulations, and other legal challenges, backed by a government that actually follows through on them -- or better yet, multiple governments, a la some of what the EU has done -- can't really be ignored. "Voting with your dollar" may be similarly effective if enough people do it, but depending on the issue at stake, it may have to be pretty epically widespread for it to make the problematic activity less than optimally profitable.

 

Also, some relationships with corporations mostly don't involve dollars -- or lack a comparable alternative. Facebook is the classic example here. The EU's (relatively) tough stance on its abuse of private information, and even some poking from US regulators, has at least done something about its practices. Whereas people aren't going to "vote with their dollar" and pull their information off Facebook in large numbers, because there's no comparable alternative.

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Regulations, and other legal challenges, backed by a government that actually follows through on them -- or better yet, multiple governments, a la some of what the EU has done -- can't really be ignored. "Voting with your dollar" may be similarly effective if enough people do it, but depending on the issue at stake, it may have to be pretty epically widespread for it to make the problematic activity less than optimally profitable.

 

Also, some relationships with corporations mostly don't involve dollars -- or lack a comparable alternative. Facebook is the classic example here. The EU's (relatively) tough stance on its abuse of private information, and even some poking from US regulators, has at least done something about its practices. Whereas people aren't going to "vote with their dollar" and pull their information off Facebook in large numbers, because there's no comparable alternative.

I think this is actually an excellent example of the class-determinedness of the whole situation. "Voting with your dollar" is an idea that presupposes you have control over your dollars. When I have a hundred dollars sitting in my hot little hand the main thing I do with it is eat it, and I have depressingly little choice as to how. If I had a thousand dollars it'd vanish almost as quickly because of debts and put-off necessities. Basically, every purchase in my life involves a crunch for time or resources that makes meaningful "choice" impossible and the amount of information I act on insufficient for an informed choice.

And even leaving all of that aside, I've been conditioned by life experience which isn't universal to expect that windfalls will be devoured not just by utilitarian purchases but by service and other fees and interests.

There's a significant contrast between this way of living and thinking and the way of living and thinking imposed by a situation where purchases can be considered carefully and left to wait, and money can also be left alone without disappearing.

 

This is why a lot of the discussion about privacy online always rings a little hollow - a large class of people in the discussion presume that everyone's presence in social media or the Internet is an opt-in, rather than being something foisted on us by a society that increasingly uses the Web to manage things we can't do without. The assumption is that people's relationships to capital are one in which they have individual power rather than being to a large extent individually powerless. You can opt out of a 401k but you can't opt out of calories.

 

As a sidenote, a boycott is way more than just individually not buying something - it's necessarily a propaganda campaign, and involves doing way, way more than voting with money. It involves voting as much as you vote for anything, with words and ballots and the real threat of social disorder. The day-to-day bottom line is not what moves the people targeted, it's the long-term stability of their way of doing business.

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Yeah, when money is tight "voting with your dollar" isn't really an option. Sorry, but if the choice between supporting a good business and the evil business is making rent, I do what I have to. If that makes me a part of the problem then so be it.

This is why a lot of the discussion about privacy online always rings a little hollow - a large class of people in the discussion presume that everyone's presence in social media or the Internet is an opt-in

Isn't it? I don't do social media, and I've been doing "fine". There's some stuff that you don't get a choice in, like online banking (or, for example, I have to get may paystubs and W-2 from a website), but for most of these cases either 1) available through other means, or 2) aren't of much use.

 

I mean, maybe I don't like the fact that my address is pretty trivial to find online. Yeah, it's worrisome, but for almost every one I had a choice in whether or not to allow that to happen (the major exception being colorado voter info. Thanks, whoever thought that was a good idea to be public record!).

 

Even if you're worried about the dragnet (which you should be), you still have a choice. The individual is certainly not powerless, in fact if one takes the time to research then you can effectively avoid the dragnet almost-altogether.

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I had a teacher, in middle school, who used to say "Remember, if you don't like the assignment, you do have a choice. You can choose not to do it, and get a zero. It's your choice!"

 

There are plenty of analogous situations with the Internet. I'm not sure "opt-in" describes those very usefully, regardless of whether it is technically accurate.

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I don't deny that they've done a pretty good job of putting a lot of us over a barrel, so that we have limited ability to "vote with our dollar." Believe me, I empathize deeply. Which is why it's becoming less and less hyperbolic to refer to the current developing socioeconomic situation (in America in particular) as neofeudalism. But it should be clear to anyone paying attention that in American politics, our representatives represent the corporations and banks. Witness the gutting of Dodd-Frank (the legislation that sought to protect us against Wall Street financial abuses), the "personalization" and influx of money into politics through the badly-titled Citizens United ruling, and just this week, Congress passing some dubious, if not sleazy last page legislation giving banks the privilege of gambling with federally insured money, and a tenfold increase in the amount individuals can donate to national parties.

 

Huge numbers of Americans have made clear they want the internet to remain unadulterated by corporate control in unprecedented write in campaigns and demonstration in favor of Title II - regulating the internet a public utility. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is only now starting to show signs the FCC might actually be listening to the population after initially thumbing his nose, essentially, at even the President's plea to do so. That is a hopeful sign. It takes mass direct effort by the populace to interject itself into the process. Our representatives aren't doing $@*! for us. I respect the efforts of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. That's a very short list.

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In order to make money in social media by reselling the user's information, the opt-out policy is buried in the agreement that most users will never read. Companies know that users won't usually opt-in unless there is an incentive to make them read an agreement. But those lists of names and consumer preferences that can be used by advertisers is valuable.

 

Back in the 1980s the student government at the University of Arizona sued the university over who had the rights to sell the list of students and their addresses to companies. Being able to sell 30,000 names is valuable and abusable when they get deluged with junk mail. Almost every time I join a group they resell my information and some groups that it goes to include Nigerian criminals based upon the misinformation in the address that got resold.

 

So do I go off the grid to protect myself from morally questionable organizations?

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FWIW, I'd look into Tom Wheeler's background (and his string of ridiculous decisions thus far) before you put any faith whatsoever in him.

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I can't say I'm expecting much from Mr. Wheeler, Slarty. I'll be amazed if he does the right thing. I think in the scenario, Obama gets to play good cop to Wheeler's bad cop, while their intention is to effectively hand the keys to the internet to Comcast and the like. But sufficient public pressure can force a hand, because he's still a man with a personal ego, who might not want to go down in history as one of America's most despised. It's possible.

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Yeah, people with egos DEFINITELY don't like making huge amounts of money.

There are other things than money, like POWER. Ask any politician.

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