Sunday, September 04, 2005

how much is enough?

Focussed A and I were talking about life when I told her I had had a mini altercation with a colleague about chocolate. Not the usual altercation about the relative merits of Galaxy hazelnut over Dairy Milk hazelnut but I decided to challenge a colleagues choice of a Kitkat. I just thought I’d mention the whole Nestle thing, thinking she didn’t know. Smug of me eh? She knew – and told me she didn’t care. She told me that she did care about issues in the developing world, such as vaccinations, but not about Nestle.

I was floored, I said to Focussed A, thankful I was sitting down. How can you not simply buy different chocolate? It may not make any difference, but does it hurt? Focussed A agreed with me. She shared my pain, as we had so often shared an enormous vegan Chinese takeaway back in the day when we were a) single b) neighbours and c) she was more generally known as Hippy A.

She works in the voluntary sector, managing frontline services. I suggested to her that her colleagues, who are more obviously in community involved roles might be more sensitive to such issues. As she wiped the red wine from the table, following its nasal refurbishment, she told me the whole organisation were on the Atkins diet. Not only that, they kept asking her to buy them meat (she won’t) and in four years couldn’t remember she was a vegan. She said that I was the last of her friends to really try to do things right.

I have to say, in which case, I do worry that we’re utterly fucked. I do a few things, I suppose, and my intentions are always good, but at the end of the day I’m not sure I really put myself out. It’s no hardship to bank with Smile, having a standing order to some charities I barely notice coming out of my account, and throwing things away is such an anathema it’s easy to reuse things or take them to the charity shop. I don’t like supermarkets, fair trade is usually nicer and I can’t quite make up my mind about the economics but I think about it all the same. Boycotting seems easy enough I find. Separating out my rubbish is a slight hassle, and ethical power costs slightly more. I like the UK so not flying every year isn’t much of a problem and I can’t use low cost airlines so that dilemma is dealt with. Voting is straightforward. Emailing my MP takes seconds and my job is fairly useful.

I’m sure that there’s more I could do. I don’t always get round to sorting out things, and some days I just think sod it. When I read about people with truly alternative lifestyles, I waver between envy of their dedication and a vague sense that it is through participating in a society that change happens, rather than opting out. Bearing in mind that it’s unlikely that the whole of society would simultaneously opt out of our destructive lifestyles, is working within the existing society to create smaller but more widespread changes a reasonable strategy?

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