Maybe I Should Just Stop Boycotting Stuff

In my nature, I have what I believe is likely a universal impulse to recoil at injustice. As a kid, my parents had a subscription to the Reader’s Digest and this became my first window into the broader world. The magazine would at times publish a piece of injustice and I would feel this anger and anguish and an intense desire to do something about it, a desire to make the world more just. This was an early memory, but there have been so many more since. As I’ve grown and read more and have become more aware, I would encounter injustice nearly everywhere I looked, all around me. I’ve felt this almost constant feeling of an impossibly fallen and broken world and a feeling of having very little power to do anything about it.

But what’s worse is to find injustice in the organizations I belong to, or the businesses whose products I consume. When I discover this, I feel this guilt by association, I feel complicit in the injustice. To solve this, at times I’ve tried to boycott. Maybe if I could stop the consumption and convince others to also stop, perhaps that would be enough to get these organizations to change. At the very least, perhaps I can feel more at peace.

My attempts at boycotts have been spotty and uneven, and eventually I would lose interest. Some examples, I’ve tried to stop eating non-free-ranged chicken after learning of the deplorable conditions, abuse, and steroids in factory farms. We have not enrolled our son in football and I’ve stopped watching the NFL because of concussions. I’ve wanted to completely boycott the NCAA tournament because I feel the players our exploited, spending hours practicing and playing in games, bringing millions of dollars into their schools, but receiving no compensation for their sacrifice. I almost didn’t vote in the last presidential election because Obama’s unjust use of drones in the war on terror and Mitt Romney’s position that Obama wasn’t going far enough. Recently, I learned about how poorly NBA cheerleaders are treated and how little they get paid and thought seriously about quitting the NBA as well.

And this goes further, nobody is free from it. Historical heroes like Thomas Jefferson repeatedly raped one of his slaves, or Christopher Columbus, guilty of genocide. And then I begin to dig into the messy history of my own church and realize how even those called to lead it struggled to lead just lives. The church’s legacy of polygamy is filled with stories of hardship, misogyny and injustice. The horrific Massacre of Mountain Meadows lead by local Mormon leaders in southern Utah. These are just two examples, but there are many more. Quite simply, you can find weakness and mistakes and examples of painful injustice everywhere and in everyone. We are all inflicted by it.

I just finished the book, The End of the World, Plan B: A Guide of the Future, and it’s been a healing balm to my soul. He speaks directly to my impulse to attempt to find peace through isolation and recognizes the sorrow we experience when we are unable.

To the extent that our identity is bound up with groups that are large and beyond our ability to control—families, tribes, communities, classes, religious or political organizations, corporations, nations—our impulse might very well be to withdraw from them all, or, perhaps, to reform them. But in the former case, our institutions continue their unjust practices with or without our consent; in the latter situation, they consistently resist our attempts to improve them since any one person’s influence has its limits.

Inouye, Charles Shiro (2016-02-08). The End of the World, Plan B: A Guide for the Future (Kindle Locations 750-752). Greg Kofford Books. Kindle Edition..

Perhaps, I need to sit still, take a deep breadth, find peace and practice compassion. I think we need to recognize injustice when we see it, really accept and feel sorrow because of it, and continue on and through it anyway.

If I never want to bump into injustice, I’d need to boycott everything and everyone, and still I would have to face the unjust life I also live. So, maybe I won’t quit the NBA, or the NCAA tournament. Maybe I’ll keep eating chicken, and I’ll keep attending church and pay my tithes, and I’ll keep voting for Democrats, going to work and shopping on the internet. But I’ll also point out examples of injustice when I see them, and feel sorrow for those hurt by it and compassion for all involved. I’m a long way from any of this, but perhaps this is a better response than fake boycotts?