I Don’t Know Who to Boycott Anymore

I Don’t Know Who to Boycott Anymore January 31, 2011

The wife and I are struggling with chicken. We’ve always known Chik-fil-a to be a “Christian business,” whatever that means, if only because they’re closed on Sunday, a fact which often chaps our asses. But — not surprisingly, I might add — Chik-fil-a has been in the news for tipping its hand as being against gay equality and for discriminating against non-Jesus worshippers.

But we looooove Chik-fil-a food. Love, love, love it. We even like how goddamned nice the employees are, even if that niceness is based in fear of God’s wrath in the afterlife. On paper, then, it seems pretty clear: We, as good secularist liberals, must simply forgo the tasty chicken and take our artery-clogging business elsewhere.

It’s not a big sacrifice, really, so there should be little angst around a personal boycott of a fast food chain. But it has me thinking about the speciousness of this kind of principled capitalism, this voting with our dollars.

Let’s presume that you’re at least vaguely tethered to reality, and accept the fact that global warming is a real, human-borne threat to our civilization and ecosystem. ‘Cause it is. And let’s also presume that when you find out that a company from which you purchase and enjoy products and/or services engages in activities that assists in the callous, craven attempts to curtail progress toward green energy and the reduction of global-warming-causing emissions that would help save our species from itself.

Well, there’s this super-lobby in DC that you might have heard of. They’re the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Essentially, their job is to use their incredible political muscle to oppose any measures that make life more fair for non-billionaires. They opposed health care reform, financial reform, and yes, any moves to curtail global warming, because any such move would presumably place some onus on corporations to do something other than soak up money. Indeed, the Chamber is contesting climate change’s veracity. So, as you can see, we’re dealing with a fundamentally amoral political behemoth, if not fully immoral.

Here’s the problem. You drink anything made by PepsiCo? You ever ship anything using UPS or FedEx? Own an iPhone and get your service from AT&T, or planning on getting one on Verizon? You ever use a product made by Kodak, 3M, or IBM? Well, guess what, folks. All of these companies are members of the Chamber. Actually, the full membership of the U.S. Chamber is secret, so these are just a handful of the companies that have representation on the board of freaking directors.

Global warming is a dire existential threat to homo sapiens. All these companies are complicit in the aiding of the Chamber’s agenda. Indeed, these companies rely on the Chamber to advocate on their behalf. So the question is, are you going to boycott all of them? Some? Since the Chamber’s membership is secret, how will you know whether you now regularly patronize a business that is also part of the problem, but isn’t public about it?

You see where I’m going. Corporations tend to look after themselves in the most short-sighted ways (short-sighted in terms of ignoring the broader implications of their actions). We live, day in and day out, consuming their products. Where does one begin to make a political statement with one’s wallet?

I genuinely don’t know. For right now, it seems like a good idea to deny Chik-fil-a my business as a way of expressing my disapproval of their bigoted ways, but then I don’t know where to draw the line. Short of joining a hippie commune (no, please) and eschewing all that corpora America has to offer, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed by all the businesses that ought to be boycotted, but I know never will be.

Of course, there are, once in a while, companies that decide that the Chamber has gone too far.


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