We are bombarded with images, stories, news, and new information at an alarming rate. How do we handle this information? How can we possibly comprehend the full magnitude of everything we are learning?
We take what we know, and react to it based on our previous experiences and education. We try to address the problem in the only way we know how. Some people try to tackle the whole thing, some try small pieces, some give up and ignore the problem, and some don’t see a problem to start with.
Sometimes we focus in on just one issue at the expense of others. We attach ourselves to some cause, or one issue and think that by this one action we can try and make a difference. It is too hard to comprehend the whole issue. Besides, it is next to impossible to know all the factors; all we can do is make educated decisions based on our personal knowledge. It is so hard to know what to really do in a situation. Who to trust. What’s the “right” thing to do? There are only so many hours in the day. There is only so much that is really humanly possible.
We often don’t take into account the cultural realities or other factors that might be important in our actions. We hear, for example, we should go “green” to be environmentally friendly. So we buy “green” products only to find out they are not that “green” after all and may be quite damaging to the environment. Or that we are a hypocrite in some other way. You can’t win, eventually everyone’s a hypocrite on some level.
Or we give to a charity and find out that over half our donation went to things we may not agree with. Where are the regulations? Who’s tracking which companies and nonprofit organizations are really doing what they say they’re doing? Are there even laws in place to regulate to stop human rights abuses in a product line or service if they are happening half way around the world? How are these laws enforced and what are the punishments?
Abuse= heavy sentence. Murder= heavy sentence. Pre-meditated murder= very heavy sentence. Pre-meditated mass murder/abuse for profit= no sentence or white collar sentence? No law/regulation even to charge them on? Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.
We need to get to the root of the problems, and find out what motivates the main players in a conflict to be violent or abusing. Is it money? Is this money coming from mines or other resources? Then we need to stop buying these resources. Cut off the money, the power, and the prestige, and you cut off most of the motivation.
It is great to make regulations, rules and organizations, but if there is little search into the root of the actual problems and whether the “solution” is actually working over time, nothing will really change. In fact, it will probably only spur more anger and frustration at the injustice that might still be remaining. This becomes another motivation to violent conflict.
Many human rights abuses are for the most part also considered as crimes in the much of the international and national legal systems. Yet much of what we use and consume may in fact be human rights abusing of the highest degree. What we use may be causing murder and war in other places. The companies and governments are telling us that they are ethical and looking out for our best interest, but are they really? Why is this allowed to go on?
If a system allows companies to be so disconnected from their product line that plunder, human rights abuses and destruction are allowed to occur so frequently, there is little social trust. There is little connection to anything. How can a company not know what goes into its products? If they don’t know– who does? Why is the onus to find out on the consumer? We are not even entitled to know about the details of the product line or service for competition reasons. Shouldn’t we be able to trust their claims?
Social trust is important for a thriving civil society, or so the experts say. And so often we focus on the group building and the identity construction and the non-profit organizations that address the manifestations of inequity. We create associations, unions and other groups to help bridge the gap and build trust among society. But we need more. We need to know that we can trust our systems. That they are not failing us and that there are not unjust structures posing under a humanitarian veneer.
If our systems are breaking this trust because they are inequitable or unfair, grouping and focusing on only one issue or cause will only separate us further. There is still a need for grouping, but it is time to also come together. It is time to stand up against all injustices; to not allow ourselves to be human rights abusers through our purchases and through our everyday practices. Is it hard? It most definitely is. Do you have to change your entire life today? Absolutely not.
Keep using the products you are using until they are finished; if you throw them out now– it is only going in the garbage anyway. It may as well be used. But become aware and ask the corporations and services you use whether they support human rights abuses or not. If they don’t know, send one email (or one a day, or week, or month) until they get the picture. Consider switching brands and switch to more conscious brands or don’t use brands at all.
Send an email or letter or phonecall to your government asking for more stringent regulations on human rights abusing product lines and services.
Take a little more effort when you buy a product to find out whether they can ensure they are not supporting human rights abuses and what they are doing to maintain that.
Use less. Ask yourself do you really need to buy that before you purchase something? If it’s absolutely yes, than buy it. But if it’s maybe or no, hold off. If possible cut down each time you use the product. Do what feels right to you.
But definitely, and above all else, educate yourself and be conscious of what you are using. It took a lot to get here.