Sunday, November 30, 2008

"You're not your freakin' khakis."

So we didn’t buy anything on the day after Thanksgiving (Black Friday—which, by the way, I find to be a very appropriate name). We weren’t “sticking it to the man.” We weren’t changing the systems. We were just taking another step.

We stopped shopping at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club. We still shop at Target. So are we making a huge difference? No. Are we taking a step in the right direction? Yes.

We started trying to eat local as often as possible—cooking local food and eating at local restaurants. Do we always do this? No. Is it making a huge difference in the lack of accountability at supermarkets and fast food chains? No. Is it a step in the right direction? Yes.

We are trying to sell one of our cars to take us down to a single car between Brittany and I. Do I still ride the scooter (which is gas powered) a lot? Yes. Does it get 70 mpg and save us a lot of money on fuel? Yes. Do we still go on road trips when we want to? Yes. Am I opposed to flying in planes? No. Are we making a huge difference in American’s addiction to oil? No. Are we taking a step in the right direction? Yes.

That’s the thing with all of this. We’re trying to move in the right direction. The steps we are taking aren’t near as drastic as others—we even have some friends who are taking more extreme measures to change our country and world. But we are taking steps. We are trying to change.

That’s why we didn’t shop the day after Thanksgiving. In doing so, we weren’t changing all that is evil within our capitalist economic systems. We were simply taking a stand and saying we will not take part in things like this anymore. We aren’t perfect. We’re not ready for a lot of steps yet. But that’s why I say “steps.” One at a time, we’re working our way towards a goal of living in a way that is both environmentally sustainable and conscious or product origins.

I don’t want to say too much about retail extravaganzas like Black Friday for fear I’ll hurt someone’s feelings. (I obviously don't think ALL purchases made on that day were bad ideas or a waste of money.) Then too, I realize full well that I’m as much responsible as anyone else for humanity’s current state—so I admit my hypocritical tendencies. But after hearing about this, it’s hard to be quiet. Are the sale prices worth all this? Is this what people need to get excitement in their lives? Do children need the next Tickle Me Elmo or video game system so bad that it’s worth all this madness? Advertising like Best Buy’s “You, Happier” campaign makes me want to vomit. To sum up Tyler Durden, advertising and media and marketing has us chasing cars and clothes and crap we don’t need.

I guess I say all this for two reasons: 1, to defend my actions and worldview; 2, to remind us all that we have to change. We should be responsible for the things we purchase. We should spend less on useless gifts. I encourage everyone to check out the Advent Conspiracy. It’s a great first step for those interested in taking one.

On a side note: Brittany and I have figured out a legitimate and legal way to setup back enough money to move to Europe before next Christmas. We’re keeping our fingers crossed…


Tim said...

I really was just going to tell you about that guy on youtube, but when I saw your facebook stuff, I couldn't resist.

The only good Black Friday did for me was give me time to get work done. Some of the sales did allow us to get more things for the Angel Tree kids, but that's it.

I think the easy dig is that you have kind of put a huge effort into the propaganda, but then admitingly (if that's a real word), aren't taking the huge steps, so it is suspect. Your facebook page was like BAM!. I mean no disrespect at all;actions do speak louder than words. Otherwise it's just confusing. I think you know I'm all for carving your OWN beliefs, and way of life. It's what I've done my whole adult life, so I guess I've been sticking it to the man for a while. Consistency is the key, and that's where most people miss. I think a lot of people switch from one sexy movement to the next instead of making their own way, and sticking to it because they believe in it, and its part of their core values/beliefs.

As a side note, the infrastructure that companies like Walmart, Target, and McDonalds have in place save more costs, both financial and environmental, than do small local companies that are acquiring their goods from many different suppliers all to individual locations in many small orders vs. through distribution points in bulk. I get your stance in a way, but at the same time when you consider the actual business structure these monsters are actually better than all small time enterprises, especially for environmental reasons, and they also help control inflation by holding the price of goods with their buying. If Walmart or Target could handle our dealings with OPEC, we'd probably be better off. The difference from a business standpoint then becomes value add services that a "specialized" retailer offers.

I know it's easy to hate big business, and I do most of the time, but there is a lot of pretty good things that come from some of these companies, or at least better to have them than not.

I heard male prostitution is legal in Europe, is that your angle?

JD said...

I can understand that. But like I said, its one step at a time. I don't think that changing everything about who you are and what you eat and what you wear and how you live just happens overnight.

This isn't about "going green." This is way bigger than some fad.

Nonetheless, I can understand the reservations. That's why I admit my hypocrisy in the midst of it all. I'm honest, if nothing else. We're taking what steps we feel like we can. I don't know what measure-ables you could put on which steps are "huge" and which aren't.

And if you've kept up with my online postings for even a week, you should know that I'm all about shock value--I don't see propaganda as a bad thing all the time. (Especially when I'm using it.)

I would venture to say that businesses like Wal-Mart and McDonald's have done far more terrible things to our world than good things. Its not so much what they do at the volume they do it, but the fact they do what they do period. They've done an awfully good job convincing America they NEED to buy all the cheap Chinese crap they sell; they NEED to eat this delicious, cheap processed trans-fatty food. As many good aspects as there are to businesses like Wal-Mart and McDonald's, there are exponentially more bad effects. I would rather not have them at all. Check out Wendell Berry on this topic--he's the man.

While Brittany hopes to continue her education and maybe teach overseas, I plan to stay out of the prostitution careers if I can--I'll probably end up in tourism if I can stay out the windows in the red light districts.

Tim said...

Maybe I'm missing something about Wendell Berry. I can't find anything about him that discusses these issues.

JD said...

Look under the "ideas" heading... it kinda sums it up there.

Collin is really into reading his stuff. He could probably point you in the right direction as far as books to read about sustainable agriculture, supporting local economies and all that stuff. He was reading some book over Thanksgiving he kept quoting as having to do with these topics.

BfH said...

I don't suppose you watch Bill Moyer's Journal, do you?

I don't either, but I get it as a podcast. The new episode talks about the problems inherent in the food industry, largely created by farm subsidies. It's really interesting.

Basically, this author/commentator Michael Pollan discusses the links between farm subsidies and the quality of the food that we, as a nation, consume (topics ranging from feed lots to cheap sweeteners like high-fructose corn syrup leading to increased rates of type 2 diabetes). There's a segment talking about farmers markets springing up in inner cities, the increased need for them, and what caused fast food to so completely saturate urban areas.

It's free on iTunes podcasts section, if you're interested.

Tim said...

Who turned you on to this guy?

I would like to see his detailed platform instead of his broad ideas. Judging only by his ideas, he's a scared old man.

BfH said...

Bill Moyers or Michael Pollan?

I'd say Pollan's more of a scared middle-aged man than a scared old man...

Moyers is definitely old...

Nobody turned me on to Pollan, I just listen to Bill Moyers Journal, his show covers a wide range of topics. Just found Pollan interesting.

JD said...

I think Tim was talking to me, Ben.

And to Tim, I reply: I doubt very much that Wendell Berry is interested in promoting a certain platform. He's an author and winery owner that lives in eastern Kentucky. I know he writes a lot of fiction and short stories, but that some of his non-fiction is about the necessity of local economies, responsible agriculture, and sustainable living. Like I said, Collin would be the one to ask about his non-fiction works. I just know that he is a proponent of such things--I'm not well informed on the particulars of his views.

Tim said...

Is this what you are basing your lifestyle change on, or have you found other sources of information?

I think Wendell Berry should become Amish. The thing about local economies from a true business, tax, employment standpoint, is superstores employ more non-skilled laborers that would otherwise not work dragging down local economies, and state and natioal economies. The tax revenue generated from them is also very important for local schools and city governments, not to mention, again, the price control they offer to allow everyone to afford name brand products. We don't live in world were a uneducated person can just work at the family farm their whole life. Hell, nowadays people go to college to prep themselves for farm operation.

Another point I'd like to make is about free enterprise. Walmart, Target, McDonalds, etc. all started from humble beginnings, they didn't use hype to build their business, no national add campaigns, they used value (ie. product, price, service.) And they expanded because people wanted that value. What I get from your views is that businesses should not be allowed to grow, once they hit a certain size they should be stopped so they don't expand to other towns, or countries for that matter. So, you think that because our business is growing rapidly, and we are starting to have a global presence through the internet, and we are considering opening up two new locations strategically positioned in the U.S., that we should be stopped before we grow into an unstoppable force in our industry, and offer the best prices, the best service, the biggest inventory, and the most value added services (which we already do all of these, but our locations would reinforce it around the country). I think that is wrong. Local economics, that's the couple hundred thousand plus that we pay in local taxes (city, county, schools) even though most of our business is done out of this state.

When I did some research Walmart and Target a while back, to just see what was up, I found most of the perceptions are completely wrong (as I noted earlier). I looked at the hate websites and the love websites. The other thing I found was that Target was as bad or worse when it came to most of the complaints certain groups had against superstores.

Other notable things I found about sweat shops, fair trade and all that, said that even things like Toms shoes are not what they say they are: "TOMS are not organic and do not use ato dyes or ecoleather. They use the Argentine flag for a logo and borrowed the design from the alpargata but moved manufacturing to China.
They don't even talk about their "no sweatshop credo" anymore and I can't find details about how they make sure they're not using sweatshops. Its sort of paternalistic to go around giving away free shoes when there is no social responsibility behind it. Trade not Aid!
Funny, I bought a pair of Toms and they read "INDUSTRIA CHINA"...I don't think I'll be buying another. Maybe do a little more research before being so quick to praise these shoes"

Also, high end name brands Gucci and pretty much every other name you've heard of are all alleged to be sweatshop driven.

I think no matter what you like or dislike you can find a group of naysayers against it. I just like to do research from both sides to make my own decision to stand on one side or the other.

Sorry for the argument, I've finally had a couple days at work that I could breathe, and this has all been tied up inside.

JD said...

I think you have missed the point.

All too often, I post something and people take it a completely different direction than I intended it to go.

The whole reason I wrote this post was to explain why I didn't shop the day after Thanksgiving--which is because, in the end, we're trying to live simpler and smaller.

I didn't write a post about Wendell Berry--I just said if you want to read the opinions of someone much smarter than I on the subject of local economies and sustainable agriculture, read him. Please don't assume I'm so ignorant as to read the opinions of one individual and take that on as my personal manifesto with no other logic, research or reasoning.

I didn't write a post on the evils of big business--you brought up that discussion. I don't hate big business. I hate what some big businesses have done to our world and its people.

I just made the point that we're trying to change. I don't want to chase the "American Dream." I'm not interested in my 401k and the current market value of my house and when I'm not bottom up in my car so I can buy another and I could go on and on...

Please understand: I am not criticizing others. I'm simply making the point that I want something different out of life and its not easy to deal with the change that it involves. This kind of change doesn't happen overnight. This kind of change isn't easy. This kind of change sometimes isn't well understood by others.

But if I want to be part of changing the world (which I do), then I must first change my own life. That starts in simple ways for me and Brittany. In the end, though, the point is that we're taking steps to change.

Anonymous said...

Wendell Berry's Essays are what to look for Tim. Tim reading some internet information about Wendell Berry isn't the way to understand him. Start reading his sex, Economy, freedom, and community essay. Also Wendell Berry is not some ignorant local farmer. He is an highly educated individual. He taught at Duke for many years.

Anonymous said...

sorry I forgot to put my name. i know how John David hates unknowns.