Brand Based Activisim

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Brand Based Activism

Brand Based activism is on the rise. You can see it here in this blog. On our sidebar is mention of a campaign against Kleenex called Kleercut in the traditional Kleenex logo. It's in campaigns against Shell or Nike, and it's had a lot of success.

The criticism has been that while we focus all this attention on, say, Wal-Mart all we end up doing is sending shoppers to a Target or a K-Mart with equally bad policies and treatment of workers. Addidas scored big on the protests against Nike, despite the fact that it was just as knee deep in the sweatshops, too.

This leads many to question the wisdom of consumer activism. They say it's simply impossible to always be alert about the companies we buy from. Practically any garment you buy is bound to be made in some sweatshop in the third world, so why arbitrarily boycott Liz Clairborne or Nike? Why should one criminal organization, Addidas, prosper off the scrutiny on another terrorist organization, Nike?

What it really amounts to is not so much a rational critique of consumer activism, but a waving of the white flag by people who simply feel overwhelmed at the responsibilities heaped on their shoulders. I need a pair of socks and now this simple transaction has political and economic reverberations across the globe. By shopping at Wal-Mart I am sanctioning Wal-Marts use of slave labor in China. Consuming is such a ubiquitous part of our lives that it seems overwhelming to maintain awareness of all the products we buy.

The good news is consumer activism has really helped a lot of people. There's no consumer watch-god that's keep tally of how many items you've purchased from a sweatshop. We each do what we can with the time and resources we have. Maybe start by doing a little investigating about one of the stores you frequent; maybe you join a mailing list; the most important thing is to merely try being more conscious about your spending habits. Are your hamburger trips to McDonalds leading to the deforestation of the Amazon rain forests? Do you really need that karmic fruit on your shoulders?

Ultimately the real aim should be about rendering the corporation as an illegal entity–revoking its supposed citizenship as an individual in our country. The metaphor of the "bad apple" corporation is beginning to look more and more ridiculous as more and more people realize that corporate malfeseance isn't an abnormality but a fundamental character trait of the modern corporation. It is a legalized form of plunder that would make pirates scratch their heads in amazement. We do this by slowing knocking rotten apple after rotten apple out of the barrell until people realize the whole batch is bad. It's one of many ways we are fighting the corporate behemoth.

Published in: on April 19, 2006 at 11:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

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