I got invited to a wedding this week, a wedding of minds and concerns for social justice. And as I always do with most social invitations, I wavered. Then Trillian had to go off to a funeral. And Scooter and I were struck by the plague. On top of that, I’ve been reading some of the posts leading up to this whole shindig and feeling more and more inadequate. So I was totally going to blow the whole thing off. But I’ve decided to sneak into the back with a shy little wave and at least sign the guestbook.
All of the festivities are occurring when I’m in the middle of a bit of an existential crisis vis a vis my place in the world and if I am doing enough to minimize the footprint I leave. Most of this revolves around environmental concerns, though Andrea does an excellent job of showing how these issues are co-implicated in issues of social justice.
I’m the kind of person who can be paralyzed in the face of decision. Since a very young age, I’ve understood the concept of consequences and been able to work out all of the possibilities. And lately, each action I take, every item that surrounds me is a vivid reminder that I am not living up to my own standards or principles. Even when I try to take a positive action in one direction, I am aware of the many ways in which it conflicts with another.
A small, but easily parsed, example for illustration.
The basic premise: Scooter and I took a trip to Ikea so that we could buy several plush toys. Ikea is donating $1 from the sale of each plush toy to UNICEF and Save the Children. We will then donate the toys to two holiday drives, one on campus and one in our building.
The ways in which this matches my principles: I want to teach Scooter that not everyone has as much as he does and that, since we are in a position to do so, we should help others. He’s a bit young to understand the concept yet, but I am trying to introduce it now, in terms he understands. He is looking forward to Christmas and presents, there are some kids who don’t always get presents, so we should get some for them. A bit simplistic, but a start.
The three major conflicts that leap to mind:
#1. The Environment. We drove to Ikea for the purpose of buying several stuffed animals. We did not group our errands. We didn’t even buy the additional items I had planned on getting (particularly the compact fluorescent light bulbs). While our car is a very low emissions car (though not a hybrid), those were not miles we necessarily needed to drive.
#2. Consumerism. We buy too much. I’m trying to become a much more thoughtful consumer so that I only buy well-made items that will last and that we will use regularly. I’m also trying to show my son that buying stuff is not always the solution. I also know that the more we buy, the more will be made, since companies respond to demand. By purchasing less, I move myself to the edge of that cycle. But in this case I stepped right back into the middle of it.
#3. Religion. We are atheists and try very hard to support only nonsectarian organizations and charities. This is not to say that all church-based or religiously-founded charities are bad. We are wary, however, about the possibility that they will push views with which we disagree. For example, the Salvation Army holds evangelical beliefs, including an opposition to “homosexual behavior” and same-sex marriage. And so that is one charity I simply cannot support. For the toy drives, however, I know that the umbrella organization that is handling at least one of them has some partners that are based in religious organizations. I have not done research into every one of them, but am aware that my giving may end up funneled through people with whom I disagree on some very important issues.
Obviously this is a work in progress. I’m trying to take baby steps and pick small concrete actions that will help me move back to living more closely in harmony with my core principles. I apologize for bringing my angst to such a joyous occasion. I’ll tuck it back in my pocket now and raise my glass to the many wonderful women here today.