Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Almighty Dollar

It's election season, which, if I'm being honest, makes me want to go crawl under a rock . . . only to reemerge November 7.  Unlike my husband who probably ramps up the already crazy number of political blogs he reads during this season, I would never intentionally seek out political news coverage. I think my dislike of all things political stems from my tendency to avoid confrontation. 

But here's what I'm learning more and more:  I may attempt to be apolitical . . . I could even hide in my house all day on November 6th and avoid that trip to the polls,  . . . BUT . . .  I CANNOT avoid voting.   That's because I'm a consumer, and everyday I cast my vote for various things with my dollar

I do the grocery shopping for my family, and I attempt to be a good steward of our money by doing the shopping as cheaply as I can.  What that usually means is that I shop local sale papers, make a list of the best deals, and head to Wal-mart where they honor competitor's ads; and I come away congratulating myself because I've saved $20.  But, when I shop like that, I'm casting a vote -- a vote in favor of Wal-mart and all they stand for.  Perhaps more importantly, who/what does that mean I'm voting against?   Am I comfortable with all that?

What about my clothing choices?  What I need to realize is that nothing truly comes cheap.  It's costing someone somewhere something significant.  Who is working for less than a living wage to allow me to buy such a cheap pair of leggings?  I'd like my vote with my dollar to reflect the love of others God asks (actually commands) of us, rather than just a concern for self and self's pocketbook. 

Ever heard of "iPhone girl"? 

No, I'm not talking about Siri. 

Here she is. 

This picture was the wallpaper a British man found when he powered up his new iPhone for the first time.  Reporters were able to track her to the Foxconn factory in Shenzhen.  Reports on what it's like to work in Foxconn factories are varied.  Some reports claim that "two explosions in Foxconn factories injured 77 workers and killed four [in 2010]."  Another says that "polishing iPads to give them that sleek metal look produces aluminum dust that -- if not properly handled -- is quite explosive."  And on and on. 

I'm not trying to single out Apple in any way (I've got an iPhone myself).  It's just that "when we saw iPhone girl had a slightly crooked smile and was wearing a slightly crooked cap and had a sparkle of personality in her eyes, we couldn't help but care about her.  The divide between producer and consumer disappeared when [the] story came to light."

And, the divide needs to disappear. In Farming as a Spiritual Discipline, Ragan Sutterfield says "In all the areas of our lives where we rely on others to produce goods for us, we must become aware that as consumers of those goods they are doing it for us by proxy.  What they do, they do in our name.  It is our responsibility to make sure that they do this work as we would have them do it."

ugggh.  This is a heavy burden.

Maybe all of this is why I so love the idea of homesteading.  In a way, homesteading allows me to be apolitical in some way -- to avoid voting with my dollar-- by turning me from a consumer into a producer.  If I can produce my own soap, milk, eggs, lettuce, cucumbers, lotion, meat, etc., then I can avoid the vote involved in being a consumer of those products.

Sutterfield claims that "Gardens get in the way of progress.  They start people thinking that maybe God gave us the means to feed ourselves without Tyson and Wal-Mart getting in the mix.  Gardens break down borders and question lawns -- the landscapes of power." 

Hmmm.  Maybe keeping my dollar in my pocket IS a vote after all. 

Want to get a little more on the side of production?  Start small.  How about this?   Plant some herbs to grow inside this fall and winter. 

Want to feel like a more informed consumer so that you can put your dollar where your heart is?  Check out to find companies committed to fair working conditions.  Visit or download the GoodGuide app (to your . . . umm . . . iPhone) and check out their scoring system for consumer goods that rates over 145,000 products on three categories: health, environment, and social responsibility.

Too much theory and thought for one blog post?  Sorry.  I promise something lighter tomorrow.  How about a recipe for salsa? :)

iPhone girl info comes from Relevant Magazine's "The Story of Our Stuff" by Kelsey Timmerman.  A portion of the article can be viewed here.

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