(Thanks, Charlie the Unicorn)
I have come to the realization that I am an Unbeliever. I don’t believe in god (although, to wildly misinterpret the point of Fox Mulder’s poster, I want to believe), and worse, yet, I don’t believe in Corporate America.
Yes, I said it. I don’t believe in Corporate America.
Not to say that I’m some sort of Corporate America denier…I know that it exists, and I interact with it every single day. But I have come to the realization that this is not the way that we are intended to live…bombarded by advertisements, eating “food” made from petroleum and plastic parts, unable to express ourselves through our clothing and belongings because everything is mass produced by some tragic 12 year old in Asia for pennies on the dollar of what I’ll spend to wear it.
And although I try hard to be a careful, green and thoughtful consumer, those things seem mutually exclusive. After all, I’m not an “American” if I don’t participate in corporate culture. However, I am also not eating, or wearing clothes, if I don’t…there’s just not much way around it. Even charity has gone corporate (United Way, anyone?).
I’ve dropped out in my own way.
I don’t shop at Wal-Mart. I don’t think I have to explain why. Instead, I shop exclusively at Target – not because I think they are better, per se, (ok, yeah they are), but because the contribute to the community through charitable giving, and because although their workers are not the highest paid, at least they don’t look like they’ve recently been taken to the stock room and beaten by the overseer…I mean master…whoops, I mean manager. Going to Wal-Mart used to make me cry. No more.
We don’t have cable. We don’t have long distance. We don’t watch TV (we keep it behind a screen except for the one show that Jeff loves, and for movies). I get all my news from Minnesota Public Radio (yes, I’m a long-time member) and the internet. I don’t click on ads on the internet. We don’t subscribe to magazines. For the most part, we try not to use credit, and will be out of debt in June.
I bring my own bags to places, or ask that I not get a bag when I have a small purchase. I have been given the You Fucking Hippie look more times than I care to admit, and have even been told that I must take a bag – that it’s corporate policy. It’s corporate policy to make me take something that is a waste of resources, that is going to add extra shit to my house, and is going to end up in a landfill because of the lack of good recycling programs? No thanks – that’s why I have a big purse. I’m not terribly interested in your “policy”.
We don’t even buy books anymore. Jeff is a library regular, and finds about all he wants there. (We also get most of our movies at the library.) I participate in book swapping via PaperBackSwap, and have saved literally hundreds of dollars (as I read about 100 books a year, it’s a HUGE savings).
For the most part, I* don’t eat processed food. I’m not going to say there aren’t exceptions (we all know I’m a Coke addict, and Jeff loves the Tombstone, and I did just recently go through a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup phase…), but for the most part I like to know what’s in what I’m putting in my mouth. I’ve been appalled at recent statements by Kraft surrounding their guacamole which contains no avocados…their defense was, to paraphrase, “We’re Kraft. No one expects our food to be real.” (Apparently General Mills used – and one with a similar defense in regards to it’s Carrot Cake.)
There are some companies that I refuse to support, for various reasons. I don’t make anyone not support them with me, but it’s my little way of saying, “Hey, Giant Corporation? I’m not taking your shit anymore!” It makes me feel a little bit better. Here are a few of my favorites. This list is not only not exhaustive, but growing all the time. I don’t go out of my way to find reasons to boycott things, but if a reason comes to my attention, I cannot, with good conscience, continue to give them my hard-earned money.
- Gillette – This was my first boycott, and I have not purchased a Gillette product (that I know of) for about 15 years, due to their terrible history of animal rights abuses.
- We already mentioned Wal-Mart. I also oppose shopping at K-Mart as they are always open, and do not give their employees the benefit of holidays with their family. I also generally refuse to shop on major holidays for the same purpose – I don’t actually need anything on Christmas morning that I can’t get the next day. While I appreciate that Walgreens is open that day for medicine needs, if you are that bad off, you should be at the hospital, where they have their own pharmacy. For the love of Jebus, don’t refill your prescriptions on Christmas day!
- Menards. Save big money, because they rip off their employees big time. They pay horrible wages, and continually spy on their employees via the “security” cameras. From corporate. They also “fine” you if you make a mistake in your job – it’s taken right out of your “bonus” to keep it barely legal, but it also means that most of your annual pay is taken away. Not only are you fined, but all of the higher ups in the organization are fined if you make a simple, honest mistake. I’m not talking something like whacking a customer in the head with a two by four, I’m talking about not filling in every single line of a form with the company approved lingo. I worked there for a day, found out too much, and never went back.
- In talking to some friends about my corporate dropout, I have added two more to the list in the last day. The first one is General Mills (I might get kicked out of Minnesota for this one). Word is that they give a monthly “stipend” to each employee to buy General Mills products in the company store. If you don’t use your “stipend” you are disciplined by management, at your manager’s discretion. So, for those of us that don’t eat processed foods and don’t have them in our homes due to health concerns….I’d eventually be fired for refusing to eat their food.
- And my favorite of today, as told to me by my friend Lisa. Wells Fargo is now out of my purchasing list (not that I have dealt with them in years anyway). All tellers at Wells Fargo must suggestive sell a product or service to each person that comes to their window. Sometimes a team lead will sit and watch everyone, and if a teller is caught not selling, s/he is sent to the break room for a “time out.” Yes, it’s actually called that. While I have often felt like a third grader at my current job, at least I’ve never been sent to the naughty stair.
So, ok. I have my few things that I do a bit differently than your average American. I have a list of places that I won’t do business with for various reasons. I live without a lot of things that the average American thinks are “necessities” and have lived to tell about it. (Word to Mom: I’m not getting cable. Or a bigger TV. Lay off.) I do this to not only life with myself, but to later provide my child/ren with good examples, and show him/her/them that the road to happiness is not paved with Happy Meals, and to learn to be a conscientious consumer and citizen.
Does it matter? I mean, between Jeff and I, we’re not pumping big bucks into the economy, and I doubt that Wal-Mart/Gillette/Menards will ever notice that we’ve left. We’re not saving giant redwood forests by taking our own bags to the grocery store. And we seem to be in the minority – there are not that many people who really think about where their money is going, and what they are supporting by spending money with that organization. (Another example: Curves, the fitness club for women, is owned by a giant Christian man, and heavily supports anti-choice causes.)
I don’t know what the answer is. I know that I am sick and tired of doing things the American way, and the easiest way, and the cheapest way. I’m tired of giving my money to corporations that are doing improper things, that are loading our food supply with too much sugar and fat and preservatives, and bending to the Company that really runs our world.
So, I’m going to try to not do it anymore. I’m going to think about my money, and how hard I work for it (ok, I don’t work all that hard, but I do put up with a lot of shit), and what kind of statement I want to make with that money.
How about you? What do you do to be less corporate?
*I have to specify that “I” means “I, Diana” as my husband would probably die without his current level of preservatives. Thankfully, he realizes that his diet will never become my diet.