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karl marx elected prime minister

November 4th, 2006     by Anna Leventhal     Comments

Ahem. Now that I’ve got your attention…

Okay, cheesy tactics aside, I want to say that it’s been real inspiring to hear the reports of so many folks in the Shameless community on how they’re trying to make conscientious consumer choices, whether it’s organic local food, sweatshop-free clothing or cruelty-free makeup (or the choice not to buy at all). In a society where dollars speak louder than most everything, I think there is definitely a lot that’s worthwhile in basing your shopping decisions on how to tread more lightly on the world, environmentally and labour-wise.

At the same time, I worry that, as the Clamor expose on American Apparel put it, we often feel we can “solve the problem” of late capitalism by consuming conscientiously. But thinking of ourselves only as consumers, rather than citizens, can have some seriously detrimental effects on how we live. Early this morning I was listening to an interview with George Monbiot, environmentalist and author of Heat: How To Stop the Planet Burning. He articulated my fears extremely well, pointing out that although he has never driven a car, without any kind of political policy to back up his environment-based choice, all he’s doing is freeing up road-space for people who drive vehicles that are more consumptive than his would have been had he bought one. I may have been half asleep, but it seemed to me that his message was pretty clear: if we want to see any kind of positive change in the environment and in social life, we have to stop thinking of ourselves as only consumers and take on the burden of citizenship.

Problem is, it’s so much easier to act with your money. What with leaders we didn’t vote for (and even those we did vote for having dubious agendas at best), baffling bureaucratic processes, and political life just seeming so damn inaccessible for most of us, it’s hard not to feel helpless and frustrated, and thus retreat into an apathetic slump whenever questions on public policy arise. I’m sure a lot of us can relate to the feeling of “activist burnout”, after however many protests and petitions and letter-writings that seem to go nowhere, leaving us feeling unempowered and alienated.

I don’t have any answers here; I just know that I’d like to be more responsible as a citizen but I’m not sure how. I’d love it if some of you folks could jump in on the debate.

Tags: in my opinion...

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