Following on from the poem “Saved By Shopping”, here’s a couple more critiques relating to the idea that we can help the ‘Wretched of the Earth’ by continuing our consumption habits & trusting in celebrities…
Shopping Is Not Sharing: Corporate Consumerism Is Masquerading As Activism – “Africa’s poor had, like, the best week ever. Not since the days of khaki colonialism has buying Africa been so sexy, so fashionable…”
A more recent & in depth analysis of ‘consumption philanthropy’ is offered by Angela M. Eikenberry: The Hidden Costs of Cause Marketing
– “…individualizing solutions to collective problems; replacing virtuous action with mindless buying; and hiding how markets create many social problems in the first place… there is very little sacrifice, if any, required. And so consumption philanthropy becomes divorced from the experience of duty… people’s genuine benevolent sentiments are co-opted for profit, and their care is reduced to a market transaction…
Consumption Philanthropy seldom calls on consumers to question the labor that went into the creation of these products… Philanthropy becomes depoliticized, stripped of its critical, social change potential. The result is that consumption philanthropy stabilizes, more than changes, the system (the market) that some would argue led to the poverty, disease, and environmental destruction philanthropists hope to eradicate. Consumption philanthropy is thus not about change, but about business as usual.
For philanthropy to give voice to those who suffer, it needs to support grassroots social movements… Consuming more will not solve today’s social and environmental problems. Indeed, consumption may very well create more of the kinds of problems that we had hoped philanthropy would fix. Relying on individual consumer choices, consumption philanthropy is unsuited to the scale or complexity of the problems it seeks to fix. Couched in market transactions, it neither acknowledges the voice of the transactions’ beneficiaries nor gives philanthropists the satisfaction of mindful virtuous action. And caught in the mechanisms of the market, it obscures the fact that the market caused many of the problems that philanthropy seeks to redress… Surely, genuinely philanthropic benevolence would call not for more consumption, but for the elimination of the conditions that make philanthropy necessary…”
An earlier critique of Product (RED) comes from Daniel Ben-Ami – Why the new Amex card makes me see RED:
“Mass consumption by working people is sneered at when it is at popular outlets such as McDonald’s, Wal-Mart or Starbucks (2). ‘Chavs’ – a derogatory term generally applied to white working-class youth in Britain – are particularly despised for their conspicuous consumption of leading brands such as Burberry. But the middle class feels it can consume with a clear conscience by choosing such items as organic products or fair trade goods. Consumption is seen as terrible in general but okay if an ethical label of some sort is attached to the goods. Those who can afford to pay a premium for such products can live and shop with a clear conscience. Or, as Gisele put it in an interview with The Sunday Times: ‘We can all start shopping more, and feel good about it. No more guilt!’ ”
Ben-Ami also goes on to remind us about that other Pop-Star orchestrated charade that saved the world:
“…if poverty truly was made history – they would have far more resources to treat diseases. They would also have better infrastructure – clean running water, proper sewerage, electricity, roads, hospitals, airports, a proper phone and IT network – which plays a key role in stopping many diseases developing in the first place. Yet the MDGs do not have such a transformation as a target, and many of their proponents are actively hostile to it on the spurious grounds that it is ‘unsustainable’. Instead they reinforce a climate of low expectations, which assumes that real development is unrealistic and probably undesirable, too.
Those really concerned about global poverty need to be prepared to engage in hard arguments about the need for economic development. They should put the case, without equivocation, that the people of the Third World have a right to the best that society has to offer. Putting such arguments is immeasurably harder than spending money on a credit card. Yet at least it does not involve using images of suffering Africans to make Westerners feel morally superior. Those who indulge in such ethical consumption may feel beautiful inside, but the project they are involved in is actually pretty ugly.”
And for a further dissection of Geldof & Bono, slebs & their ilk check this from Stuart Hodkinson: Do stars really aid the cause?
“By being too dependent on lobbying, celebrities and the media, by failing to give ownership of the campaign to southern hemisphere social movements, by watering down the demands agreed by grassroots movements at the World Social Forum, and by legitimising the G8 summit, the [Make Poverty History] campaign was doomed from the start.”