David Thompson
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March 31, 2008

Comments

Matt M

There's a certain level of badge-wearing involved in most "ethical" lifestyles ("look at me, I'm green!"), but I think that certain actions, while maybe not having an immediate effect, can work in a symbolic way - getting others to think about things that might otherwise take for granted and maybe, eventually, getting them to change their lifestyle.

It's like being a vegetarian because you disagree with animal suffering (for example). In the short-term, the slight decrease in profits caused by increasing numbers of people not eating meat will worsen conditions for animals (as the farms have less money to spend on them), but it's done in the hope that you can bring about better change in the long-term.

(Not trying to argue for vegetarianism here, just using it as an example)

The same probably goes for fair trade, recycling, turning off your TV at night, etc. It's often more about "consciousness raising" than immediate impact. At least for people that don't write for the Guardian.

Problems usually arise when such behaviour tips from inspiration to moralising and then "there should be laws!". Ms. Elliot seems stuck in a rather confused version of the moralising stage.

pwyll

I've known people who would never cheat on a diet, but were perfectly willing to cheat on a spouse. The proper disposal of a peanut butter jar is a complex ethical problem, but the abortion of child is a lifestyle choice.

Appropriately chosen ethical concerns can be quite liberating.

liamalpha

To Matt M:
I occasionally make the joke that vegetarians are the worst enemies of farm animals. After all, what do you think will happen to all those chickens and cows if everybody decides to become vegetarian? Will they be set free to roam the fields? I don't think so... they'll probably be killed off since they've become useless.
Similarly, suppose bio-fuel becomes a viable alternative to fossil fuels. This will obviously lead to vast tracts of rain forest being cut down to plant corn for fuel, and the price of corn as food will soar...

steveaz

Cath, with her habit of nervous preening, reminds me of my Uncle's bald cockatiel.

Caught up in his fetish of lonely preening he managed to pluck every single one of his feathers out, except for the ones he couldn't reach on the top of his head!

Nature teaches!

John D

Is this where someone points out that Elliott's ethical shopping is only possible in a wealthy capitalist society made wealthy by capitalism?

David

From Ms Elliott’s comments on the thread at CiF:

“I just want my impact, which as a consumer in a capitalist society is inevitably going to be negative, to be as minimal as possible...”

http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/cath_elliott/2008/03/matters_of_conscience.html#comment-1237765

Behold the wisdom. Mind its glare.

TDK

This is religious penitence by a believer who has given in to temptation. Owning up doesn't imply challenging ideas. It doesn't even enter her head that, gaia forbid, she might be wrong. Rather she is affirming her beliefs but acknowledging that the flesh is weak.

Religions always have followers who are less than perfect. To survive they must grant the possibility of absolution and