Battlepanda: Things I didn't want to know #6128347


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Things I didn't want to know #6128347

Did you know that Whole Foods Market (also known as "Whole Wallet" around these parts) is anti-union despite its enlightened, hippy-dippy, corporate image? If you care about good labor practice, you're better off shopping at Safeway.

Having said that, I really don't like the tone of Julie Powell's op-ed criticizing the Wholefoods phenomenon:
What makes the snobbery of the organic movement more insidious is that it equates privilege not only with good taste, but also with good ethics. Eat wild Brazil nuts and save the rainforest. Buy more expensive organic fruit for your children and fight the national epidemic of childhood obesity. Support a local farmer and give economic power to responsible stewards of sustainable agriculture. There's nothing wrong with any of these choices, but they do require time and money.

When you wed money to decency, you come perilously close to equating penury with immorality. The milk at Whole Foods is hormone-free; the milk at Western Beef is presumably full of the stuff - and substantially less expensive. The chicken at Whole Foods is organic and cage-free; the chicken at Western Beef is not. Is the woman who buys her children's food at the place where they take her food stamps therefore a bad mother

It seems that Powell find the very fact that people buy organic for ethical reasons disagreeable. She complains of the 'wedding of money to decency.' What would she prefer, that we give no regard to the ethical ramifications of the money we spend? By that standard, she would consider us sanctimonious prigs if we chose a hybrid car for environmental reasons, because not everybody can afford to make that choice. She needs to understand that those who choose to spend our money with our ethics in mind do so to make our world better, not to make Samantha Powell feel guilty. Different families have different budgets, and different priorities. So of course we end up making different choices. I make it a point not to shop at Walmart because I don't like their corporate practices. That does not mean I pass judgement on people who do shop at Walmart. I don't currently recycle. That does not mean I think those do recycle should stop because they're making me look/feel bad. Let's face it. We live in a consumerist society, and what we do with our dollars are one of the most meaningful choices we can make. We can't give that up because not everybody can afford the most ethical choices all of the time, especially if the argument is being made by a NYT columist who probably won't be bankrupted by farmer's market veggies.

The funny thing is, I agree with Powell that there is too much of an obsession with whether something is 'organic'. Generally that word is bound up with a basket of assumptions about the healthfulness, ecologically-friendliness and worker welfare associated with the product. And those assumptions are often misplaced. If Powell is chafing under peer pressure within her own circle to buy organic, then she should say so. I would have a lot more respect for her if she simply argued "for me, the advantages of buying organic is not worth the price," and not dragged the hypothetical working-class mother into it. Nobody. I repeat, NOBODY is castigating the poor for not buying organic microveggies from Wholefoods.