Consumption and Decolonial Possibilities

For this video blog, I reflect on what it means to construct your sense of “freedom” or “liberatory politics” if you are aware of (or unaware of) the influences energy consumption (energy can be food, media, thoughts, etc) has on the development of your consciousness.

0 thoughts on “Consumption and Decolonial Possibilities

  1. I completely understand your goal and intention to minimize your consumption of negative energies as much as possible, including through purchases made possible through exploitation. Something I’ve considered — and I have no answer yet, thus no “position” — is does it help? Your perspective of limiting your exposure to negative energy is a new one; I hadn’t considered it to that extent. Mostly, I hear people concerned about the human rights violations, which I completely understand. My question is how do you effectively boycott the system/company to make it change? There are economies that are completely dependent on a structure of exploitation, so while yes, those at the top obviously benefit the most, those at the bottom are often times forced to participate in the exploitation for their economic survival. If we, from our privileged position to select, decide that we aren’t going to purchase something because it was made a particular way, we can negatively impact not just that company, but that economy. Obviously, the major losers in that scenario are the ones at the bottom. So, are we really helping then? When you boycott, however officially or unofficially, do you notify the company to inform them of exactly why you aren’t purchasing? If not, isn’t it essentially a self-gratifying yet fruitless act?

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

    1. This are all very good but tough questions that I don’t have an answer for and probably will never have a good answer for.

      I don’t know if my actions help, but I try to create as less harm as possible through my consumption actions. Then again, even the concept of “less harm” is “subjective” , but I am doing what I personally feel works for me… and let me tell you, it’s always changing. I wrote my contribution to the Sistah Vegan book over 2.5 years ago and I now feel much different. Even though the book is coming out in 2010 March, I want to remind folk that it is how I understood food and social justice in 2007. If I could, I would have written an entirely different take on “consumption and decolonial possibilities.” However, humans evolve in their thinking and what we believed in at the age of 5, will change at 10, 15, 18, 34, etc…. (for the most part). We are dynamic… and with that said….

      I am not sure about boycotting and what happens if I choose Fair Trade over “cheaper” materials. I have heard the argument that the people hurt most by boycotts are those making these materials. I’ve been told, “Well, they need jobs and if they don’t have this then they have nothing.” I think this is a very neoliberal globalized capitalist mentality. It’s has if a wage economy based on the needs of the 1st World is the ONLY way everyone in the world can get food, shelter, medical care. My question is, “Why is everyone forced to ‘survive’ in an economy of globalized capitalism? Instead of certain regions in the world being forced to use their native lands to grow even fair trade cocoa, tea, etc., wouldn’t the ‘fairest’ thing to be to let the people of that region or nation or country decide if they want to use their land for their own self-determination versus the needs of 1st world consumer?” But I’m not even sure if that’s the right answer. But I know for damn sure I am in no position to tell another country I’ve never been in, raised in, lived in, what to do with their natural resources, land, and people. If the answer were that these regions that ‘provide use 1st Worlders’ were to say, “Screw y’all, it’s our land and resources and we don’t want to participate in your ecocidal capitalist political economy,” imagine all the 1st world consumers who would be pissed off that they could NOT get tea, coffee, gold, diamonds, metals that make up the computer I’m typing on, etc. Though I do try to purchase Fair Trade items, I am still very skeptical of how ‘helpful’ it is. I am reading new Geoforum issue that questions even the “well meaning” intentions of Fair Trade. In this article, “Transparency and democracy in certified ethical commodity networks”, the author writes in the introduction below something I found interesting. The whole Geoforum volume it’s from looks at the topic of “is fair trade” really the answer. I have always been concerned about ‘green consumerism’. Is “equal trade” really the answer for social justice that the entire world needs, or is it just another way to give us 1st world consumers ‘our’ products?

      quoted article:

      Our aim in differentiating between ethical and other commodities is to better understand the paradox by which ethical commodities
      adhere to ethical production standards and yet necessarily contribute to relations of inequality through their production, circulation and consumption. By pairing ‘ethical’ and ‘commodity’ terms we hope to join in a ‘constructive dialogue’ over the future of ethical commodities (Ponte, 2008). This contemporary certified ethical product wave has been critiqued – justly in our view – as another iteration of ‘green consumerism’. Like other forms of market-based ethical action, certified ethical commodities aim to improve human-environment relations without addressing structural dimensions of environmental destruction such as unequal asset distribution and political oppression. Although we are in broad agreement with this consumerist critique, our intention is rather to ask what certified ethical commodities may tell us about contemporary socio-economic processes and how they affect ethical network participants. Perhaps most importantly we ask whether ethical commodities might provide new possibilities for social change. Will they offer new avenues in the struggle for economic justice despite – or perhaps because of – their neoliberal underpinnings (Guthman, 2007; McCarthy, 2006; Fridell, 2007)? Or will ethical products at best provide palliative measures (Pollan, 2001), or even, to take a less sanguine view, undercut longstanding producer struggles against social inequality (Neilson and Pritchard, 2009)?

      I am beginning to believe that just by being in a 1st world nation, being a USAmerican national, no mater how much I try, I am still going to be PART of the problem. I am constantly changing my mind and opinion about what is ‘social justice’, but I think I’ll forever be limited by the 1st World positionality and that fact that my consciousness has been completely molded by this positionality. My father always says, “never say never,” but I’m just not sure how my social justice praxis fits into a global scale. Am I naive and pessimistic? I don’t know. It’s frustrating but I know I can’t give up. Thanks so much for participating in this dialogue and asking these questions, Leandra!

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