These days, it seems like no matter how hard we try, the world just keeps getting slightly worse and worse. Sure, we might be able to turn back the tides a little bit with stuff like curing diseases and making breakthroughs in science that better us as a society. However, despite our best intentions, wars, corruption, and turning without signaling continue to stack the other side, pushing us even further into a world of evil and chaos. Nowhere is this more apparent than when shopping at the grocery store. As someone who hopes to be an ethical consumer, you might try your best to improve the world, but by the time you’re home putting stuff away, you’re already netting negative and the world slides a little bit further into the hellmouth.
It is because of this that we must ask the question: is ethical consumption under capitalism fact or fiction? Can we truly live the lives that advertising tells us we can? As they used to say on my favorite game show, “Let’s find out!”
First, the pro-capitalism side. Currently, as our main system for understanding value and ‘the market,’ capitalism is something that won’t easily be replaced. As such, in order to do ethical things, we need something that offers us the power and capabilities to spread good around the globe. Right now, the marketplace and entrepreneurial ventures are the only entities doing these things to better the Earth. Just because they are making money doesn’t mean that they are acting unethically.
All that said, it’s obvious that ethical consumption under capitalism is just a fact of life that we will have to deal with in our own ways. Personally, I am going to keep helping out however I can, even in small ways. The machine of capitalism will keep turning until a stake is put in the spokes and the system breaks down once and for all. Until then, the only ethics that matter are dollars and cents.
Now, the side arguing for fiction. As someone who has lived under capitalism my entire life, I don’t even know if I have done one, single ethical thing in my life. I feel like 5 years after I donate or volunteer with an organization I find out they have been doing evil things the entire time. Or, if a new company says that they are giving proceeds or splitting profits with the underserved, we find out that they are lining their own pockets.
Until we return to a hunting and gathering society that uses trading and bartering for everything, nothing we do will improve our moral significance. Nothing. So why not get weird with it? That’s my new motto for everything. But first, we need to return to our caveman days and start doing things truly out of the goodness of our heart. Until then, we will be lost.
This was written by Nathan Ellwood who hopes you know that you can get shirt with a similar message. Follow him @NPEllwood.