I know it’s a bit late for Thanksgiving but one thing I’m grateful for this year is the Occupy movement. In the two and half months of its existence they’ve achieved something that was unthinkable about a year ago: they’ve brought the topic of economic inequality to the national conversation. Just a year ago, wealth disparity was something that people simply did not talk about in casual conversation. Now it’s a subject that’s discussed openly, a topic the general public is interested in and getting more emotionally invested in as the days pass. These are the types of things that mobilize a population to make real systemic change. Whether or not that will happen remains to be seen.
But this isn’t necessarily a post about OWS, it’s about another subject OWS has also been successful in bringing to the national discussion: the inextricable connection between corporate interests and our political process. Never before has the deluge of information and infographics documenting the connection between corporate dollars and politicians been so clear and alarming. This country has been awakened to the fact that elections are won not with votes, but are instead bought and sold, mainly by the people who have the kind of money to fund a winning candidate, meaning people running highly profitable businesses i.e. multi-national corporations. What this means is politicians are elected based on the interests of these companies, those interests generally focused solely on the profitability of their company, not the well-being of their employees, their customers, the environment, local communities, etc.
What I’m getting at is this: Our democratic capitalist system is set up so that our dollars mean more than the votes we register in any given election. Which means if we don’t like the way Company A has done business, if it has consistently raped the environment, if it’s exploited cheap overseas labor, if by using the aforementioned practices its offered unscrupulously low prices to the degree that locally owned businesses can no longer compete and are forced to close their doors, we have to understand that relying on legislation alone will not cause Company A to change the way it does business. If you’re interested in ending the cycle of exploitation, it’s as simple as refusing to buy their products.
With this in mind I wrote up this petition, a statement of intent. I’m starting small, by pledging to do all of my holiday shopping with small businesses, and if they’re local, even better. Every dollar I don’t spend at Best Buy on a piece of disposable electronics made from unscrupulously mined conflict minerals is a dollar that will stay in the community. Every dollar I don’t spend at Barnes and Noble is a dollar that will be spent at a local bookstore. Every dollar I don’t spend on a new iPhone or Macbook (Full disclosure: I own these products) that I don’t need and can simply repair the problems arising from their planned obsolescence is a dollar that can be spent to keep a local shop in business.
Your dollars are votes. Vote to keep independent retailers in business and vote to remove unscrupulous and exploitative businesses out of the seat of power. And for the love of god please go to your local bookstore and buy christmas gifts for friends and family this year. Everyone will win in that situation.
And let’s not forget the book world. Amazon is the most egregious perpetrator of exploitative business practices in order to drive down their price point. If you’re buying books online this year, check out these resources where you can often get used copies of nearly anything you want for just as cheap as Amazon can offer…
And check out Indiebound where you can find a local bookstore near you.