Welcome

The current installment of the COEC began meeting in 2007.

We are currently on a "break," for no particular reason, and many little reasons - mostly pertaining to life circumstances. If anyone is interested in calling a meeting, feel free to post on the blog, join the google group (see link below) and send an email, or contact either Nancy (nancykj10@yahoo.com) or Jesse (schroeder.jesse@gmail.com) for more information.

To receive cohort emails, join our Google group.

2.16.2009

Discussion 2.22.09: Consumerism Part I


At the next cohort discussion on Sunday we will be diving into the topic of consumerism. Remember the “suicide machine” that McLaren spoke of last spring in Goshen (www.everythingmustchange.org)? One could say that American consumerism is the electricity that keeps it running.

I have posted two readings for our discussion on the yahoogroups page. If you aren’t a member of the group, you’ll need to sign up to get to the files (see the button on the right panel of the blog). Once you’re into our page, click on “files,” to the left.

One of the readings includes excerpts from What Would Jesus Buy?, a radical book written by a truly incredible activist (be warned, the writer isn’t actually that concerned about the hypothetical shopping habits of Jesus). If you want to know more about the organization featured in the book check out their site.

The second reading is a chapter from the recently published The Shock Doctrine. While the first reading deals more with our daily choices as First World consumers, this second one describes the destructive changes that American and European multinational corporations operating on current business models have brought to undeveloped countries rich in resources.

We’re all busy, right? But please try to spend some time digesting these readings, and please print them off and bring them with you on Sunday if possible. I was lucky enough to have several hours over last weekend to read most of both books, which resulted in what I believe were life changing epiphanies. My consumer habits have been dominating my thought-life more and more lately; I have become convinced that as reflective, spiritual people living in the U.S., we must pay attention to the products we consume, because these actions so powerfully affect both ourselves and others. If we want to love God’s children, we have to take this seriously.

Additionally, I have the documentary that goes along with What Would Jesus Buy? and I would love to have people over sometime this week to view it. I’m thinking about Saturday, either during the day or the evening. The film is funny, moving, and insightful all at once. Send me an email or post a comment if you would like to come.

9 comments:

jnthn said...

I am glad to see you beginning a study of consumerism. i went through some studies of this topic last fall. i would encourage you to really try to apply this stuff to your life. we gave up tv during our study. not just turning it off, but taking it out of the house. it has really made a huge difference. it has been so nice that we haven't brought it back into the house yet. keeping the media poison away really helps break soe of the ties/lies of the consumerist culture.

with lent coming up very soon, it could really fit in well.

Adam Newby said...

Jane, I'm really looking forward to this. Thanks for posting all the great materials. I'd really like to watch the video. I'm not sure what our schedule will look like on Saturday.

Nick Johnson said...

Hey everyone, Jane and I have been discussing how hard it is to buy clothes, and especially shoes, in the US. I got on google and found this article about trying to find american-made shoes (or at least shoes made by people with decent working conditions). Take a look at it here: http://www.chucksconnection.com/articles/shoe-and-tell-american-made-sneakers.html

Jesse said...

Interesting point about shoes Nick - I checked mine after I read your post, and I also found "China" and "Bangladesh" on the tags, and not "U.S.A." - I thought about how expensive shoes like Nike's still are, and thought about the cost of shipping them around the world. My Gap jeans also said "Bangladesh" and I hate the idea that I wear the forced labor of women and children from across the world. I often wonder what I would say if I ever had the chance to look them in the eyes, as I wore the clothes they were forced (directly or indirectly) to produce for my style.

Also, I wanted to plug TOMS shoes one more time - www.tomsshoes.com - while they are admittedly a different style and not "athletic" shoes, they are "comfortable in more ways than one" (as the article Nick referenced said) - interestingly enough though, they manufacture in China, Argentina and Ethiopia, and soon Brazil. They claim the factories "operate in fair labor conditions and pay fair wages. Our production staff routinely travels to these factories to check the facilities and make sure they are maintaining proper working conditions and adhering to TOMS strict standards." And I believe them, given that the guys who started TOMS were also involved in organizations like "Invisible Children" and travel around the world every year giving shoes to people in need. But even a start-up, humanitarian organization like TOMS manufactures in 3rd world countries....why, exactly, I wonder?

One final point: If I read correctly, the article you linked to was written in 94 - I wonder if anything has changed in 14 years?

Nick Johnson said...

Jesse - I noticed that it was from '94 after I posted this. I did a bit of checking and things have not changed much. New Balance still seems to be the only big name athletic show with some factories in the US, and, as far as I can tell, there is little else.

Your comment about the other shoe company brings up a good point. I have no problem with factories in other countries if the workers are paid a fair wage, and I've certainly heard the "this is more than they could make elsewhere," but I think it is more of a quality thing. But the fact is many sweatshops have terrible conditions and pay very little - if the company was interested in quality conditions for the worker they would just have factories here. I think it is our duty to find the companies with the worst conditions and not support them and actively support companies with empowered workers, be they in the US or China or wherever. Any dollar we spend on Nike, for example, is saying that we support the way Nike does business (by the way, I don't really know if Nike is guilty. I have heard it before, but not from great sources, so I will need to do some more poking).

Jane Johnson said...

Jesse - do you know if in the Toms factories workers are allowed to unionize? This seems to be the real test as to how fair the conditions are.

Jesse said...

right on Nick - i agree with everything you wrote. of course, the challenge is being consistent in our actions, and not "ironic" (ala Rollins)

Jane- the TOMS website doesn't say anything about unionizing - i sent an email also asking more general questions about the shoe industry. it's interesting to talk about these consumerism/shopping/human rights issues in the context of one example, like shoes/clothing, and not just broadly (as in ALL purchased goods)

Zack said...

I think I posted this on twitter a while back when I read it, but it's just another take on sweatshops:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/15/opinion/15kristof.html?_r=3&th=&adxnnl=1&emc=th&adxnnlx=1232023160-xWXzIeZrvKsaX6mGCEzlSQ

Zack said...

the link