I’ve been having almost a writer’s block the last couple of weeks. It seems there is only so much conflict a person can read about before their eyes do not want to work anymore. I have also been dealing with some health issues as of late, which has left my mind wandering away from conflict and focusing on my own health. Sadly, the health issues have conflicted with my ethical pursuits.
Reading and writing about mass conflict has been a large part of my life for many years now, but sometimes it becomes almost overwhelming. I get so frustrated watching or reading the news, journals and books; sometimes I find myself venting about the situations to everyone around me in long-winded rants. I also find myself wanting to limit my interactions with society and stop being a consumer almost entirely.
I always considered myself a fairly social person, and I really enjoy positive company around me. The problems is that the more I learn about the connections involved between my lifestyle and the impact on the rest of the world, the more I find I have to limit my own actions and interactions. For example, buying anything with metal in it is now a great ethical dilemma for me. Do I buy things containing metal with the knowledge that I could be supporting human rights abuses and war? It is incredibly conflicting to me. The problems lies in the fact that often, there is no ethical choice to make. The metal industry is set up in such a way that it is currently impossible to trace the metal’s origins. It is a simple choice then, buy or do not buy the product with metal. Sometimes, however, you need metal.
I broke my leg quite severely over the Christmas holidays. Having access to the Canadian health care system, I was quickly sedated and brought to surgery. The surgery resulted in the doctors inserting a metal device to support my bones. Prior to this point, I had not purchased metals in quite some time. Now, I had little choice. Do I want be able to walk again? I need the metals. Do I beat myself up because I used these metals? There is little point in that; but at the same time, I did feel a tinge of guilt.
Boycotting unethical products is a noble venture, but unfortunately, they rule the market. Often there is no ethical purchasing option. It extends far beyond just metals. The list of unethical materials, resources, etc. can quickly be expanded to include almost everything that most people use on a daily basis. So what do we do about it? Do we simply stop buying things completely? Do we all go back to a more “primitive” lifestyle free of modern luxuries? Do we have to grow and produce all our products to be ethical?
I am angered by the false claims of companies. I am angered that government regulations are not ensuring these claims. I am angered that a government that pretends it is ethical allows major human rights abuses. I am angered that “buyer beware” is no longer really an option. We are expected to be part of society, be consumers, be producers… We are not supposed to be self-sufficient. We are expected to purchase things, whether we need them or not. We are told we need these things, and with every purchase we become more complacent. We are led down a marketing spiral into a bed of lies that brands companies as ethical and responsible because they donate to some charity once a year.
Sometimes I want to run away from society and the expectations that come with it, but it is hard. I work in an industry where you must use a computer. Where you must drive a car. Where you must dress professionally. I almost never make purchases other than groceries, and when I do I buy only second-hand goods for the most part. I often long for a society where I must produce all the goods I use. Where I know that they have come from me or my neighbours and are not human rights abusing, but to do that I must withdraw from contemporary North American society almost entirely. I’m not sure I want to make that sacrifice.
The world is so large, but our advanced communications and transportation systems has made that world much much smaller. We cannot continue in the way we are going. We cannot continue to step on others to live in luxury. We cannot continue to allow companies and governments to lie to us repeatedly. We must stand up to the abuses. We must be vocal on how we want our society to run or it will run away from us.