Too Poor to Buy Fair Trade
This is us on Halloween: Wall-e and Eva from the Pixar movie Wall-e
I have a horrid confession: When I saw an essay about the injustices of the chocolate industry circulating the internet right before Halloween, I purposefully did not read it because I didn’t want to feel guilty when I bought my Halloween candy. (Side note: I felt guilty anyway.)
I mean, I get it. The problem for me isn’t about understanding the need for justice. I believe in ethical buying, I really, really do—enough that is has changed some (many?) of my shopping decisions. But at the end of the month . . . I’m still on a budget. And I know that sounds like a cop-out, but it is my honest truth.
I know I could do better than I am doing. I know I do not need everything I purchase, and I felt horrible, truly horrible after purchasing my iPhone case on Amazon for less than $3, and then realizing after the fact that it was coming all the way from Hong Kong, which means I didn’t even pay enough to cover shipping which makes it inevitable that somebody is getting screwed in this deal, and it sure isn’t me. (Not to mention the ethical dilemma of whether I should have an iPhone in the first place, and so forth and so on.)
And then we throw this Halloween party for the youth at church, and on top of that, I want to be a good neighbor to all the trick-or-treaters, and both those things required (required, I tell you!) lots of candy. I cannot afford 150 pieces of fair-trade chocolate. Or, at least, I don’t yet know how to work that expense into this already flimsy budget that we’re barely holding together.
Mind you, I am not proud of this; that’s why this is a confession. We have made some important lifestyle decisions in the right direction, but it feels like we are just scraping the top of the iceberg, you know? Like there are a thousand more to make, and sometimes I am just plumb out of decision-making energy, and into my mouth goes a Hershey bar, just like that. I mean, what’s my $5 going to accomplish in a war against chocolate? Somehow, it seems the odds are against me.
I was going to poll the audience for solutions to the dilemma, but I recognize there are no simple answers. Besides, I am trying this new thing where instead of looking for answers, I look for the right question.
Here’s an example: Do I really need this? can be a helpful question when making purchases, but in my experience, it is not really the best question. Sometimes it is okay to buy things I do not need. Both feasting and fasting are spiritual disciplines. Sometimes my husband and I blow money on a nice date night, and I am glad we do. Traveling to Europe for fun is going to be ridiculously expensive, but I still plan to do so before I die. I need a better question than simply asking what I need, because that question is not broad enough.
So, what are the questions you ask to curb your consumerism? What are the questions that guide your decisions? Questions you may never answer definitively, but you intend to keep on asking for the rest of your life if need be?