consumerism

What the world needs from you.

The world doesn’t need your charity. It needs your service. It doesn’t need your pity, it needs your understanding. It needs your action and your awareness of your own actions.

Most people in the world mean no harm to anyone. They just want to live their lives in peace. They want to have enough food to eat, water to drink and somewhere warm and dry to sleep at night for them and their families. They want dignity and respect in their lives. People need to feel loved and secure. We all have different ways of expressing our security and love. Some people need things to feel loved. Some people need physical closeness to other human beings. Some need space to feel secure. Some people can feel the love all around them in everything and feel safe in the course that the fates will throw at them. Some people are living in hate, in constant violence and insecurity.

And violence only begets more violence. A mind in constant fear has trouble moving forward to other things. A person who feels unloved is alone, and will have difficulty trusting society. We can stop a lot of violence by our own actions. We can spread love instead of hate. We can change the world by our own actions, little by little.

North American lifestyle is highly disconnected. Most people here do not produce or are not connected to their own food or other necessities and daily living materials. It comes to them neatly packaged on a shelf at a store or even through the convenience of the internet, shipped to our doors. Our houses are made for us, and most people have little insight into the overall structural design or uses of their own homes. Our food comes in neat packaging, hardly resembling the original appearance and not reflecting the process it took to get from farm to home. Who harvested the food? Who processed it? Who packaged it and under what conditions? The same with all our other daily living supplies.

We go to work for a company or business or organization for a certain number of hours daily and make a paycheck. We may have no connection to the overall use of what we ourselves are producing. We are entirely disconnected from everything. We are separated from our needs by many, many layers. Simple products can have travelled to 5 different countries and 10 different plants or factories before ever reaching the store.

The world needs us to pay attention. Writing a cheque to a charity is a noble action, but if you really want to be philanthropic, take a look in the mirror and ask yourself, “how is my daily living impacting the rest of the world?”

If you don’t know the answer, try and find out. Where do your daily living needs come from? How many stops have they made along the way? Who has been part of their production? Have human rights abuses occured in their production? What environmental damage have they done along the way to get to our homes? How can we minimize this damage and abuse?

The greatest way to save the world is to change yourself and your own habits.


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Update on the conflict free-laptop search

So I’m incredibly frustrated.

I have received emails back. After several hours on the phone, getting hung up on and redirected, I am sent some information by email. I have talked to the people whose job it is to secure ethical purchasing (or at least market it) and they are the ones sending the information; so I am hopeful that I will receive answers. I am at this point with several companies.

What they send however, is the same old stock line. I already had most of this information (if not all of it). It is available publicly on their websites, and was already thoroughly researched and looked into– but didn’t answer my questions. In fact, most of my time in this struggle has been spent reading through websites, news, etc. trying to find out the details before I bother calling so that I can ask specific questions once I find who I need to talk to. Digging into sourcing is difficult!

The same stock lines. They don’t seem really willing to give out any more information. I’m sure it must have to clear some board room or get approval first.  Heaven forbid they just tell me the truth (though more than likely, they probably have NO idea what this is themselves). I cannot, in good faith, purchase any of these products at this point. Their claims to me are not enough. Their promise of change in the future is not enough. They might still support human rights abuse. They might still support war. It’s hard to tell the truth.

I’m glad that many advertise themselves as ethical and feel like they are making a real effort to change. Some perhaps are. But most I would suspect, are not. They spew out these fancy claims of responsibility and have NO idea what’s really going on in their own product line. They are taking miniscule steps, and sometimes not even that.

This mess of being disconnected happened over time.  It will take time to fix it, it just won’t happen overnight. I realise this. But with no real regulations in place yet to enforce the “rules” against human rights abuses- don’t expect much to really happen. Some companies may really strive to make change, but many others will do the bare minimum to make themselves more marketable and continue to abuse because it is easier to just do nothing. Where does the abuse stop?

I don’t think there is anyone out there (aside from maybe a few people with some severe mental issues) who would willingly want to commit these abuses with their purchases. But we are often left with little choice, or are led to believe marketing propaganda or ethical claims. So why does this continue to happen?

Admitting you are part of the evil is the first step. This does take courage.  Auditing your suppliers is the next. Taking action to stop the abuses and use non-abusing suppliers is the next step. Incorporating a strategic business policy that will prevent human rights abuses as much as humanly possible– this should be legislated.

I am in the process of making up more detailed questions to send back to the companies, about their continuing abuses and how they are planning to stop it in the future. Hopefully I will get more than the same old stock line this time. Hopefully I will get one step closer to the truth.


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Popularization of issues

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.


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My thorough disgust with Acer corporation

I am so incredibly fed up with Acer. They were my first call. They were my first inquiry more than six months ago and after all this time I am still at the point of talking to customer service at the base level because I cannot get beyond it.

I’ve sent SEVERAL emails to Acer corporation over the past 6 months. Some asked about whether or not they had an ethical purchasing policy and what this entails if they do. Some expressed my frustration at the hassle I have faced with their corporation. Assuming I am a potentially buying customer, you think I would be treated with some sort of respect. This has not been my experience.

I first called their phone number as advertised on their website, only to reach an automated message that only offered limited options that did not cover what I was calling for. I pressed “0” to try and speak with an operator– and instead I reached an answering machine. I left a message, several days in a row with my name and phone number asking for a call back. No response. No acknowledgement. Nothing.

I called their sales line because I figured I have a question that relates to me purchasing a product (hopefully in the future), so this is slightly sales related. No luck. It was again an automated service and none of the options applied to me. The best option they listed seemed to be sales, so that’s where I went. After being on the phone, put on hold, transferred several times, I finally reached someone. At this point I was redirected to see their website. I said “I have already seen your website. I have read it thoroughly. I did not get my answers here.” and was then hung up on. How rude.

So I called back and tried the option for customer service instead of sales. I was directed to another department, went on hold for about 10 minutes. Then I was asked for a pin number on an automated service. It told me it couldn’t understand my choice, and so I was redirected to a sales representative. I went on hold again for another 10 minutes.

I tried to talk to someone here about the questions I had and expressed my frustration at not being able to reach someone yet after so many calls and emails. I am told to hang up and try yet again another number. I do and I reach another automated service. I am asked for the serial number from my product. Don’t have one. So what do I do? I just say things hoping I will be able to reach an operator or someone live instead of a machine.

Spend the next 10 minutes on hold again. I am then told I will be transferred to “level 2” whatever that means. I get put on hold for another 10 minutes. It starts ringing, and then the automated message says to me “your call cannot be completed at this time” and I am hung up on; AGAIN.

So I call back to the last place I was able to speak with a person and started getting really frustrated. It was the same person I had spoken to previously. I asked if I could please speak to a supervisor or manager or some sort of person who can direct me to where I need to be. I am told that there are no supervisors in this department (really– so who’s your boss??) and that I should just check the website. The representative gets really snarky with me, as I again express my frustration at not getting the help I desire.

After about 5 minutes of frustrating conversation with this person, I ask again to speak to a supervisor or manager. Now I am told they are in a meeting and that I should call back later. I ask how long the meetings usually last. He doesn’t know. What time will they be on shift until? He doesn’t know. When is the best time to usually call to speak to them? He doesn’t know.

So I call back again later. And I am again transferred around to several different locations. I am told again that I need to speak to level 2. Again, on the transfer here, I am hung up on. This has only been repeated over and over again, always with the same result.

What the hell Acer? Do you not value your customers? Clearly, you do not. Not only can I NOT get a straight answer– I can’t get ANY answer or even direction beyond what I assume is “level 1”.

I am forwarding my transcribed notes to your listed email AGAIN hoping that this expression of my frustration will get someone to at least call me back.

Acer– I am disgusted. Not only am I disgusted with your clear lack of an ethical purchasing policy, but I am disgusted with your supposed customer service. As far as I can tell– there is NO customer service at your company. Not only have they hung up on me, repeatedly. They have lied to me, spoken rudely to me… and been just downright disrespectful. This is unacceptable business practice and I am ashamed that I ever purchased an Acer computer.

So I have given up all hope on Acer. I will not call them again unless I receive some sort of response from them (which at this point, I highly doubt). I will continue however to express my thoughts about Acer and detail further my notes, as well as contact media representatives and any that will listen on the subject. As far as I can tell, not only does Acer not have an ethical business policy, it does not have any sort of business policy or customer service that I can ascertain.


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My struggle with one computer company (but it could be any)

So you can experience some of the process– here are some snipets of my journal to give you an idea of the frustrating process trying to get a straight answer from a company about something that they clearly advertise on their website (corporate social responsibility or ethical purchasing). I have edited out names and numbers, because I don’t think this is necessarily the fault of any of the employees (and do not want them to be punished), but rather a systematic failure on the part of the company and the industry as a whole (and others!). This company and industry are not alone on this— keep reading on for more updates. If you’d like more details or specifics– please feel free to contact me at apeaceofconflict@gmail.com.

 

Day 1

 Called 1-(800)-XXX-XXXX, redirected three times to 3 different locations. Frustrated that in the end I was finally sent to an HR hiring office instead of where I wanted to be, I hung up and called again.

This time was redirected to 1-800-XXX-XXXL. Let’s try here. No answer. Dead line.

Tried the 800-XXX-XXX again- hung up on twice in transferring after being redirected many times

Tried again- spoke to J—told to call corporate affairs 281-XXX-XXXX

 

410pm

First call to corporate office

20 minutes on hold

 

 430pm

Spoke to B, told to call 1-888-XXX-XXXX for info on ethical purchasing policy

Called- spoke to S—“no idea who you would speak to”, being put through to senior case manager who could help me better.

Senior case manager- L directed me to email corporate office- told her I had already emailed corporate and received no response—would like to speak to someone directly if at all possible. Expressed my frustrations that no one can tell me about their corporate social responsibility policy and what this means. Was told she would try to find out and get back to me by phone.

 

445pm

Phoned back to me—asked to give my information to contact back in email. Told they will get back to me with fuller details.

 

Day 3

No word back yet.

Called back and left message with P at last contact point.

 

455pm

Message received from C at the request of someone from corporate.

Told there is no direct extension to reach him at, but try calling 888-XXX-XXXP.

Called and was told it is “not available in my calling area” by an automated service machine message and followed the message to try calling 877-XXX-XXXQ.

Called and reached an automated service:

ONLY menu options- mail in rebates, to order or order status, tech support, shop and purchase new product, shopping, status update, that’s it! Tried to get through to an operator, cannot.

 

Picked shop and purchase new product (what choice is there)—here’s what I get:

J assures me the company uses ethical products, urges me to call 905-XXX-XXXX. It is now past 5pm, and the office is closed. I will call tomorrow.

Also said I could speak to his manger J. He forwarded me to his manager’s

mailbox. Left message. Don’t ever get a reply.

 

 

 

Repeat this process almost daily for six months at 10 different computer companies. No wonder people don’t bother! I should have at least one straight answer by now.

 

 

I feel like saying: How many people (and machines!) do I have to talk to just to get some more information about your products? I keep getting the exact same responses. I have read your websites. I have read your corporate social responsibility or ethics blurb quite thoroughly. It did not answer my questions. It did not tell me I can feel safe about your product. You need to know what happens in every aspect of your product line, not just the certain manufacturing or sales processes that you are a part of. You may not be able to control every aspect– but you can at the very least investigate or request them to change or change to another supplier who meets your standards. I am concerned with more than just whether you use sweatshops in your manufacturing. I want more answers about your product line. You create this product. You control this product. I don’t. You also advertise corporate social responsibility and ethical purchasing. If I can’t go to you for answers about your product line– who should I speak to? Where do I get these details– or is it all just for show? An image to project to make more money? If I do not start getting answers soon, I will take my complaints to the Competition Act, because all I see at this point is misleading advertising.

 

Our systems are failing us. We are forced to put our trust in others to some degree to live a socially inclusive lifestyle. Our systems complicate this trust because we are so disconnected from the world that even the companies that make our products don’t know where the products actually come from and how they were made. Why can’t they tell me more details? I understand the concept of competition, but I also understand the concept of ethics. It is unethical to me to claim corporate social responsibility or ethical purchasing policies and not even know for certain this is true. I feel like they don’t even see the issue exists, and so therefore may be participating in it without even knowing. This is not corporate responsibility.  

 

I want this to stop.


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my quest for a conflict free laptop

I am just in the process of organizing my journals so that i can tell you what process i have gone through thus far in my quest for a conflict free laptop, a laptop that doesn’t fuel a war or support human rights violations. this struggle has so far been going on for almost 6 months– several letters, phone calls, emails, and research and I am no where near finding a conflict free laptop for myself.  i have promised myself i will not get one until i can find a completely conflict free brand.

i have been told by many that they have “ethical purchasing policies”– but none have so far been really able to tell me what that means in any full details. it’s incredibly frustrating to me. one company that told me that they have “ethical purchasing policies”– turned out to have a supplier who has admitted publicly that they don’t know where their cobalt and coltan comes from and that it was possible that their product was sourced in the conflict zones of the Congo. seems contradictory to me? Most of those i was able to contact however, wouldn’t give me the names of their suppliers, for competition reasons. this makes it impossible to track and verify. i have yet to receive replies from many. and no body yet exists to monitor these atrocities… so how do we know?

i’ve always told myself that i’m a good person. but i feel guilty every single day for the luxuries i have. so i decided to stop buying. i tried very hard to cut down my spending, cut out the excesses and live more simply. violence-free. but i have a long way to go. i am getting closer every day. that type of life isn’t for everyone, but something must change in the way we consume.

the more i try to find out where things come from– the more i find out just how unaware we are of how we affect the rest of the world.  we are each just one person- but together we have a real voice. if we make our voice known, maybe this violence can stop and companies will stop using conflict resources.

write to the brands that you use and ask them where their products come from. who is affected by them? demand they stop using conflict resources. this is the only way it will ever change.

–RS


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