Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons user AMagill – Use of image does not constitute endorsement by the artist.
We are about to hit the biggest shopping season of the year, at least in the USA. This year, with all the changes that have been (and are still!) occurring in my life, I feel prompted to ask myself to clarify what I value. I have always loved giving gifts and looking for something the recipient will truly appreciate, so I am seeing that this new perspective of mine simply adds another layer to my personal shopping filter.
It is easy to say that I value people over things, intention over object, and ethics over greed. The real question is whether or not I live it out. No matter what words I formulate in my mind or out loud, the real test is in what I do. I am always fond of saying that our lives are much like riding a bicycle in that we always wind up aiming for whatever we are looking at. So, what my heart believes directs the course of my actions as surely as the mythical siren song lured sailors to places their logical minds did not want to go.
Being the change …
We talk about change and how we want the economy to be less greed-driven, less competition based, more empathy-driven, more service based. I suddenly realized that the idea of being the change I want to see applies to everything, even this. If I want to be part of the solution in terms of changing what drives the economy, then I need to be really clear on what drives me!
How do I decide where I am going to shop? Is it just about prices? Getting the most for your money isn’t a bad thing, but if that is the only criteria I were to use to determine where I shop, wouldn’t that be a greed-driven decision? Do I really need to give multiple gifts, or expensive ones to those I love, for them to know how much I care?
Of course not. Consciously, I know this.
I still hesitate, so I dig a little deeper. I realize that there is a part of me that knows my idealism isn’t shared (yet!) by all those I love. So, I am concerned about how to live out this philosophy of mine. I can make things. I can offer skills. I reflect on the idea that I want to give them things they will appreciate, and my concern is for those who still seem caught up in the consumerism of the old paradigm. How do I find the right gift for them, and still remain true to this shift within me?
At some point, even if it is just for materials, I will need to go out and purchase some things.
In a capitalist society, your money is your sphere of influence
An awful lot of businesses have recently had their leadership say and do things with which I disagree strongly. They have the right to freedom of speech, and I would never want to take that away from them. On the other hand, I too have freedoms. If they are going to do things I perceive to be against my personal ethics, I don’t have to support them and their business by shopping there. This concept of the ethical shopper is one that I have seen popping up all over the place.
Thanks to various boycott movements, consumers are discovering how powerful their shopping habits truly are. If a boycott can influence behavior, then I have the power to bestow my vote of confidence upon any business, simply by shopping there. Realizing this, and wanting to change how businesses are run, I know there are some behaviors I want to reward and others I don’t. Companies that treat their employees like more than just a resource to be used and discarded need to be encouraged. Those that want to act ethically, do minimal damage to the environment, support their local communities and are responsive to the impacts their decisions make in the world – those businesses deserve my support. On the other hand, those who don’t do these things need to be sent to the time out corner. There are only two practical ways to express my disapproval: one is to write them a letter (and yes, I frequently do this), and the other is to simply refuse to give them any of my money.
This is how any of us can influence the ethics of capitalism. In retail, the people’s mandate is defined in profits. If a company is profitable, they think that we are OK with how they do business. We each have the power to influence that bottom line of profitability with every purchase we make. Frankly, as we awaken into our personal power I believe we will be seeing this trend continue to grow.
I am looking forward to this year’s gift giving, partly because I plan on being extra creative about it. I do admit, however, that trying to determine where a company falls on my naughty or nice list could be a lot of work. I wonder if there is an app for that? Imagine something that gives every store a score based on how they treat their employees, the environment, and their community. Maybe with links to more info if it is available. Too bad I am not a developer. Anyone out there want to take this on? 🙂