Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Boycott? Girlcott?

The ever erudite and suave Herr Meeresschildkröte (it's German) pointed out after I opined about the Imus flap that corporations seem to be above Constitutional law when punishing employees for what they say in public. He proposed boycotting institutions that employ such tactics. I agree with both statements, but that brings to mind a further quandary. Do boycotts work? Has any company ever capitulated because a certain group decided to cease to patronize said company? I am reminded of the famous Disney boycott by Southern Baptists a few years back. The wonderfully tolerant Christians called for a boycott of Disney because they offered benefits to the partners of gay employees. Last year they called off the boycott. Not because Disney ceased to be so liberal with the bennies, but because the boycott had all the effect of a flea trying to eat an elephant. And then there is the perennial 'don't buy gas on 'X' day' emails that circulate once or twice a year. I'm still paying $3 a gallon.

I don't argue that boycotts can't be effective. On a local level I'm sure they can be quite powerful. But trying to get a majority of the country to stop doing something they like/need/want to do is nigh impossible. I even see it in myself. Every time I walk into a Wal-Mart I think "This evil corporation has displaced hundreds of Mom and Pop shops, abused it's employees, bought stuff from Asian sweat shops, and...oh look, $10 jeans!"

It seems to me to be an interesting phenomenon. The Internet has increased our awareness of all the evils of the world, yet seems to have decreased our involvement. If it takes more than a quick click to register our outrage it's just too much work. Then again, many people probably take the same view I do, which is that keeping my own family above water is so much work that I don't have the energy to 'do' anything about the thousand natural shocks that human flesh is heir to. Leave that to the young and single. The problem is that today's youth is even more apathetic than we were. And with good reason. When millions protested against invading Iraq, the Shrub Prince continued to spout the lies that the country was behind him. How can anyone get behind 'A Noble Cause' when they know that it is, ultimately, pointless. Corporations do run the world, and we happily let them. Profit margins and bottom lines are the true lawgivers now, and while that makes them highly vulnerable to whims in the market, there aren't enough Harolds in the flock to try to teach the other sheep how to fly. So long as we get our digital cable, our high-speed Internet, and can lose inches of ugly fat while we sleep, we remain passive and controlled. And when someone like Imus ruffles the wrong feathers, they get swept away by the prescribed tide of artificial outrage generated by the spin doctors who decide which transgressions are unforgivable this year.

This tirade may sound like conspiracy theory of the highest fertilizer grade, but I assure you that I don't for a minute believe there is any conspiracy. In fact I believe just the opposite. The only thing that keeps us from a full-on Blade Runner/Brave New World life is that the only thing more important to the corporations than keeping us in line, is hosing the other corps. They are stroking us with one hand, and stabbing them with the other, so it evens out a bit.

IMHO, of course. :-)



Anonymous said...

Is it just me, or does it seem like no matter what people want to do- ie, well organized boycott, protests, etc. none of it matters. the powers that be will have their way.
I vote- but I know it is for naught. Politicians are self-serving and both parties represent a rarified elite that exculdes most Americans.

Take this for example. I live in a very small town that is a suburb of Milwaukee. Our town has 5000 people. We live here for a variety of reasons, but for the most part we want to live in a rural setting. Every attempt the taxpayers of the town have made to limit development has been overturned. If town governments are not meant for local citizens- what hope is there for anything?

Did people every really have the power? I do not think the masses were ever in power here and I think our system- ie the Electorial college, etc never intented to give the people the power. How will this end? The class based civil war we seem hell bent on riding into.

and this is inho


celebhith said...

You've never been more right on than you just were! Keep it coming!