Convenient child abuse: the acceptable social consciousness

When I make an “environmentally-” or “socially-conscious” choice, I feel such a sense of accomplishment and personal pride. I have made such a difference this time, I think. Yes, I buy mass-produced clothes from the mall, but I also shop at Value Village. Yes, I throw out my faded curtains and get a new phone when my old one turns staticky, but I also compost apple cores and sometimes even fish plastic bottles out of the garbage to transfer them to a recycling bin. Yes, I will still buy Nestlé chocolate, but I also buy Fair Trade Cocoa Camino once in awhile.

Why have I never realized that what is in question is not a product, but a person? When I buy Nestlé chocolate or a new pair of jeans made who-knows-where; when there is no convenient recycling bin so I throw out a bottle instead of bringing it home to recycle (or better yet, when I buy a disposable drink bottle in the first place) …

These choices I am making are socially-conscious choices. I am consciously and deliberately choosing to support abusive labour policies and the destruction of the earth.

Making the choice to “shop fair trade” and “live green” are not actions to be praised. They are not actions that should fill me with pride. When a parent doesn’t beat their child senseless, we don’t consider them to be an exceptional parent. That seems to be behaviour that we simply expect from any rational human being.

So why am I so proud of myself when I don’t support child labour, when I don’t actively contribute to the mutilation of my surrounding environment? These are not extraordinary feats. These are things that simply meet the bar of decency and common sense.

There are people dying because I expect them to provide me with a standard of living that is impossible to sustain, and even more impossible to share. And yet I expect a pat on the back when, once a week, I sip some fair trade tea (oh, and the kitschy mug I’m using was bought second-hand!)

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3 thoughts on “Convenient child abuse: the acceptable social consciousness

  1. I am frequently amused by the backwards sense of “green” ethics. An Orange County soccer mom I know drives an oversized, gas-guzzling Suburban while boasting to others that is doing her part because she stopped using the plastic bags at Ralphs. Another friend of mine refuses to eat from any container made of styrofoam because it is “bad for the environment.” This is the same girl who unnecessarily leaves her home air conditioner on all day and night at full blast so it will feel good when she gets home.

    You make an interesting and upsetting argument. Sometimes I feel good about my choices because I compare myself to the hypocrites listed above. But really, I am just as guilty as they are.

  2. The pride many people display at these acts is one of the things that always kept me away from the environmental movement. That, and the Chicken-Little mentality (if you really want to get a rant on this front, ask my dad about environmentalism sometime. Yeesh).

    That said, I think these actions are good. Recycling, yes. Fair trade, heck yes. Etc.

    Are they just tiny changes to an entirely untenable American lifestyle? Yes. But that’s the way you adjust lifestyles, both on a personal and a cultural level: incrementally.

  3. I love you, Sara. I love you oh so much. Your posts are always thought-provoking in the best sense, because they are not just questions for the mind to figure out but they are calls for action. Way to make my posts look trivial. Haha.

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