|Photo by Michael Tracey |
of VisionCache Photography
So how did we get to this point though? When did we become a country by and for the 1% instead of by and for "The People?" Well, truth be told in many ways we've always been by and for those in power. In the early days it was the land owners rather than the servants, today it's the corporations and political backers rather than you and I. Not to say there hasn't been great changes made for the better, there has. We see this in the "Rights" movements in the 1960's and 70's which fought for equality for racial, religious and gender equality... And we've come even further through the 80's and 90's in areas of sexuality being more widely accepted, although we still have some ways to go on that front...
However, for the most part, people have gone about their lives without using their time to focus on making changes. And THAT is how we got where we are. American's as a whole have happily ate up propaganda and accepted shady practices as "the way things are." Why? For the most part because past generations didn't have the options we do today, and we learn our habits from our parents & grandparents. So since our parents didn't take the time to research where or how their furniture was made, we tend not to think about it.
Is it laziness? or Is it simply a lack knowledge about what we SHOULD be doing? Personally, I think it's a little of both. For the most part people don't think about doing their own research, we're told from the time we're children to believe "experts" and follow their lead. And for many people this includes following the lead of politicians, large organizations and corporations assuming that they have the best interest of others at heart when they act. This is the very definition of "lack of knowledge." But there is also a layer of "I can't be bothered" in there too. How many times have you went to the store and simply tossed things in the buggy without first flipping the box to see where it's made or what ingredients are really in it? For lack of a better term, that's laziness at work, and we are ALL guilty of it at least minimally...
This all begs the question though "How DO we make changes?" Well, you have the option to grab a sign and go stand in the cold and the rain on wall street. OR you have the option to take just 10 mins a day and make HUGE changes from the comfort of your home... I don't know about you, but I'm not all about pepper spray to the face, so I'm going to choose to make the changes from home... But how exactly do we make those changes from home?
Pick your battles -
The first step in making changes, is deciding which issues you are interested in changing. As far as I am concerned there is no reason to limit yourself either! If you see an issue that you disagree with, act to change it... Support groups who are working to make those changes and do the research to back up or support your beliefs concerning this issue.
Pick up a Pen -
Making your beliefs known is as easy as writing a letter! Take 5 minutes a day to write letters or type out emails to your local and national politicians, corporate leaders and small business owners alike, and organizations which both work for and against your causes. Let them know, kindly, where you stand and what you plan to do to make changes in your life to support your beliefs.
If, for example, you're writing McDonalds to express your support of their removal of business from a company which has been shown to have unethical animal practices, include the fact that you are not only supporting them for their choice, but that you are doing your best to STOP supporting companies who have not pulled away from that company. I would also suggest writing said company and express your feelings to them as well and make it known that you understand that by supporting companies who support them that you are supporting their practices, and that you are taking steps to ensure you stop supporting the companies who do continue to purchase from them. What does this do? It allows McDonnald's to know where their customers (or people in general) stand on such issues, which will encourage them to make similar changes in other areas. But it also lets makes it know to the other company that animal abuse is NOT okay, and that they can only expect to see more loss of income as long as such practices are followed because if the companies who use them loose business, so do they...
Now, you may feel as if a single letter isn't going to make change, and therefore it's not worth taking your time to write. To which I say, then make it 100 letters, or 1000 or even a MILLION! Send a copy of your letter to organizations who support your beliefs with a note attached that states "This is the letter I have sent to _______. I am providing it to you in an effort to have others do the same. Together our voices can be heard!" Many of these organizations are willing to include such "template letters" in their emails or mailings and will encourage other members/readers/followers to follow suit. If this group has a Facebook Page or Forum on their website, take the time to make your letter, as well as the address or email of those you sent it to, public so that other members/readers/followers may do the same. It only takes a few extra moments of your time, but it means that your one voice, may be heard a thousand times over... THIS is how change is made!
Hit them where it hurts!-
Please take the image of walking up to a politician and decking him the face out of your mind! Although that may be rather enjoyable, it's not quite what I'm talking about! I'm talking of their bank accounts of course. Politicians, Shady Organizations and Corporations are only as powerful as their income... So make an effort to purchase products from companies from companies and support charities who have ethics that work in accordance with your beliefs. Want to see more jobs? Put down the box that says "Made in China" and find one that says "Made in America." Does it take more work? Yep. But is it doable? 100% Want to see slavery abolished? Find out which companies pay a fair wage to ALL their employees and purchase from them! Want to see healthier, more natural and less chemically toxic products on shelves? Find out which products are healthy and purchase those... If your local stores don't sell them, ask them to (again, those letters come in handy here).
It may be small changes, something as basic as switching to cloth diapers, but it makes a HUGE impact! Think about the numbers - One pack of disposable diapers lasts about a week, and on average will cost consumers between $10 and $15. So how much money are YOU (all by yourself) not giving the disposable diaper companies and stores who sell them simply by switching to cloth? A MINIMUM of $520 a year! If 10 or 100 families switch, it equals THOUSANDS of dollars lost by these companies and stores. Which will FORCE them to come up with alternative methods of income, and if they are following the trend, it means more cloth or cloth supporting products. And in the case of something like diapers, it also reduces waste, green house emissions and chemicals which come in contact with both the environment and your child.
But what about something we all use? Diapers only apply to those with small children, so what about Toothpaste? Deodorant? Shampoo? The same rules apply. Find products and companies that support the ethical beliefs you hold. Whether that be low pollution, low chemicals, fair wage, fair trade, no animal testing or whatever else the companies ARE out there! Then, simply purchase those products and not others... In most cases it is NOT more expensive to purchase but every dollar you spend on products and with companies who share your ethical beliefs, the more money you're taking away from those who don't. Again, it's about numbers... If you buy toothpaste twice a month, that's $8 - $10 a month or $96 - $120 a year going towards making a change for the better... Add on to there the food you eat, where you buy clothing, what electronics and appliances you buy, what car you buy and of course, don't forget books and your religious supplies... Over all it adds up to THOUSANDS of dollars out of the pockets of those who practice negative business practices or produce products which are less than worthy of a good society.
It also sends messages to the politicians and organizations who depend on the support of corporations and CEOs to give them their power... Oil companies can't pay politicians to make laws in their favor if we are buying less gas because we have electric cars... Pharmaceutical corporations can't "donate" to medical schools, organizations, political agendas or offer "kick backs" to doctors or hospitals if we stop using toxic medications in favor of natural remedies. And the list goes on and on...
Your mother told you to share! You need to listen! When you find products that are "worthy" buy two. Share them with your friends, family and co-workers. When you have items that you no longer need, pass them on! And most of all when you have knowledge that can help someone else, share it! Something as basic as sharing a link to a new or different charity can change someone's life, so don't hesitate to do it. When the holidays are coming, remember not to compromise your ethics when buying gifts, and include a note with "better" products introducing them to the person who is getting them.
For example, when I switched over to a Diva Cup, I didn't just purchase one for me and leave it at that. I told my mother, my grandmother, my sister, my aunt and my friends - hell, I even blogged about it! Did I change the world? In a way I did. I changed how AT LEAST 3 women deal with their monthly visitor and I sent a message to disposable product companies as well as my local shops that my money is our money is used to purchase healthier products. Now my local grocer is considering carrying both cloth pad options as well as cup options... And it was as simple as finding a product I loved and believe in, sharing with those around me and letting my local shops know where my money was going... It may be a small change, but no one has ever won a war with one shot...
Small businesses are owned by small people just like you and me. Shopping through large corporate centers only supports the issue, not the solution. Keep your neighbors, friends and family members in jobs by supporting local small businesses every day. Even if all you do is stop in once a week for a coffee at your local corner shop, you're making a difference to someone! You're keeping a business running, keeping people in work, keeping a paycheck going out and keeping your money in your town - which makes everyone's lives better!
Raise your children with values -
As I talked about in the beginning, most of our habits concerning politics, ethics, corporations and "experts" comes from our parents. So the same principal can be used when it comes to raising our children. If we live in a way that is dedicated to being the healthiest most positive lifestyle we can have, a life which is creating change for the better, and in a way that does not allow injustices to slip by us in favor of ease, our children will see and learn that. Their lives, their world will be healthier, more just and overall better not only because of the changes that WE made, but because of the changes which they will make. If life must be a cycle, make sure you're giving it a positive push toward the future!
So what is the point in all this? Well, the point, boiled down to it's simplest form, is that you can make a difference just by living your life! There is no NEED for signs, shouting and fighting... Instead, make your stand known by what you do every day! This country - and the world - would be so much better if everyone just lived their lives with the understanding that everything we do - every action, purchase, and product - is a piece of a much bigger puzzle so it's important to stand up, while you do what you do!
**Originally Published on One Witch's Wonderland Blog (11/22/11) which has since closed.