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  • Writer's pictureS. McKiernan

Consumers Guilt

Updated: Aug 5, 2021

I have once again been faced with the crushing weight of being a consumer in America, which is by no means as tumultuous as being an exploited source for the American public—but I digress. (That's sort of the point.) The ease and comfort of my lower-middle class American teenage lifestyle never causes me grief, it is always what I am not doing for those less fortunate. The ones that do not worry about purchasing ethically because it is their labor being taken advantage of. And when we experience the common crisis of searching for a lifestyle that does not cause harm, and when we must look into the face of our own cognitive dissonance, what do we do? We write.

I am not perfect. My intentions are often misguided and useless. The expression “there is no such thing as ethical consumption under capitalism” was invented from a 2014 tumblr meme, yet I toss it around like I’m a political philosopher. It’s in the coffee I drink, my part time summer jobs, our cars, your clothes, and the medication that is meant to keep this sort of anxiety in check—but whatever. I won’t go into the horrors of sweatshop labour. We read Time magazine articles about it in school and yet still shop at Forever 21. I will not discuss my ongoing hatred for billionaires. I don’t care how many people are bitter about not being able to afford a Tesla, or even furious that Elon Musk made a good sum of his money from his father’s use of slave labour, he was still on SNL.

I am not an economist, politician, philosopher, or Penelope Scott. I barely passed community college psych, my understanding of the human mind is limited. I just wonder where we draw the line. How did we get here exactly? Well I know how: by exploiting anyone and everyone that needs money for food, mostly. If I were a better journalist I would get into the travesties us colonialist deadbeats have perpetrated in other countries. If I were a better researcher I would give you links to the people you should actually be listening to. But from one schmuck to the next, one average joe to the rest of the common folk, one more confused and scared person who doesn’t know what's okay to do and what isn’t: we should all be trying our best to decrease the amount of suffering in the world. Whether that's by shopping on Etsy instead of Amazon, I don’t know. The actions of an individual do not make a dent in the actions of the majority. As far as ethics under capitalism goes: it does not exist. But ethics in life does. If you know a company is doing wrong don’t buy from them. If you know a brand uses sweatshop labour don’t shop from them. Shop from small and independent businesses when possible. This is not just tik-tok rhetoric. Just be smart, try your best, feel guilty, but do good. It’s all you can do.

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