Monday, July 06, 2009

Vote with your money

The most powerful vote you get in this society is with your $: don't look for "deals", look at sustaining the business models you stand behind.

Though in a less black and white sense you can also vote for one business over another who are equally "conscientious", but where you prefer the methodology or even aesthetic of one over another. My point is we should think less just about the immediate personal benefit (this costs less here) and more about the systems we are sustaining and starving.

An example that comes to mind... there was this awesome cafe with a mini free library, essentially, hookahs-- an awesome place to hang out in what was otherwise a cultural wasteland. But it died because people would buy one coffee & stay 8 hours, whereas at starbucks people buy & leave, buy & leave. Everything about the business, from architecture on out, is constructed to re-enforce this model. You can say the biz model of #1 was flawed, but put the emphasis on the consumers consciousness of their participation in a system, and the resposibility becomes ours.

In other words, if we live in a corporate cultural wasteland, it's only because we have collectively chosen for it to be so, albeit in a passive, seemingly unintentional way. It is the aggregate of seemingly tiny choices that often determines the large-scale changes. The purpose of marketing is ultimately to fulfill consumer need- biz acts to make all elements of the process homogenized & easily reproducable because then it is easier to predict & strategize-- but that only works when human behavior is predictable. This makes cultural homogenization a benefit from a corporate standpoint-- and this ties into a sub-topic of the marketing takeover of the counterculture but that we will return to on another day...

All of this is toppled if individuals are unique, unpredictable & think for themselves. So those traits are poison from the standpoint of big biz sustainability. But for the sustainability of humanity, & the planet--- see where I'm going?

I'm disinterested in showy protest that accomplishes nothing. real change is accomplished through the cumulative, day-to-day actions of everyone.

This is a topic that comes up in the presently fragmented notes and essays I'm currently calling The Immanence of Myth (PDF).

A quote from a relevant section on the topic:

All products and their associated myths, (people in advertising speak fairly openly about developing the “story” of the brand, which is the brand's myth), have to find a home within the lives and thoughts of the market. If people demand organic products, companies will meet that demand. Though the proliferation of Yoga, organic food, specialty food products, high quality imports, and the like are being supplied to an increasing degree by the “evil empire,” it is also a sign that consumers have much more power in their hands than they realize. In fact, within the market framework, they have all the power. They just don't realize it, and often don't seem to have the willpower or where-with-all to wield it.67

(FN 67 Along with that power, of course, comes a responsibility that most consumers are unwilling to take on. For instance, though it is perhaps easy to complain about the quality of Hollywood movies today, if people stopped going to see them, Hollywood would very quickly work to develop a new formula. If people recognize that, good or bad, within a capitalist society your dollar is possibly an even stronger form of “voting power” than what is exercised in the voting booth. How many “green” Americans complain about Wallmart and then go there the next day?)

Instead, many people live as shills to various corporate myths because they quietly choose to. If your life revolves around how the shoes you wear define you as a person, or which line of body spray is most likely to get you laid, you’ve turned yourself into a patsy. The only way out of this cycle for the consumer is to
take control of their choices. The only way out for the myth-maker is to create, and forget about trying to be original.


  1. Thank you for this. If we adhere to the corporate value that they wish to stuff down our throats, then we become destitute to what culture fundamentally is. We the people, establish what this is, not a bunch of hypocritical (in the sense that they should pratice what they preach) boardroom sharks, who have $100/day cocaine habits, and screw ladies of the night, behind their wifes, have fat expense accounts, where they can charge anything, etc. since they get paid the big $$$$ to screw the rest of society over (in the case you mention, taking something sacred, the value of time, and place, setting that makes these kind of activities special, and turning it into a corporate hogwash, where profit is king.

    It's Walmart and their ilk, that are driving the spirit of competitivenss, community, local economy out of small and large communities alike. I dare you to take a look at the impact these big-box stores have had in places. How they dry up everything for everybody else, leaving no opportunities for local business to particiapate in, to have that relationship that is most sought after when going into a store, a familar face, someone you get to know over the years, and despite the fact that it cost a little bit more to deal with them, it's worth it, because you know taht they are going to treat you right. That's what matters.

    The way things are going, eventually there will be just wal-mart, if they can forcefeed their business model community after community, leaving destruction in it's wake.

    I shopped at wal-mart despite the fact I knew this, only because in my small town there aren't as many options (prob. due to what wal-mart's effect has) I haven't lived in this town for many years, moving back, and was suprised that there wasn't as much business around. Sure there were up-starts, but they would soon fail (you go to the local mall, which happens to be 5 min. away, and it's the only mall in town, and there are so many empty spots. We all know why this (and it's not because of the shape of economy, after all, look how well wal-mart still is doing even more, because everybody is only after the cheapest price, not realizing what will happen if they don't support local business)

    The reason I landed on here, is because of the negative experience I've had with wall-mart's policies, and instead of spending $150 there, I took my business to another location, and was happy that the prices were almost the same. Now, I make it a policy NOT to shop at Wal-Mart, and even if one person makes that decision, it affects Wal-Mart's bottom line. If more people decide to do this, eventually Wal-Mart will understand how to treat their customers. Look around on the net, you will find many, many instances (not the frauds looking to score on a settlement suit) but the people who could care less, except for the fact that they want to be treated right. If wall-mart is listening, get outta my town!

  2. I could not agree more. My friend and I have hopefully created a tool to take voting with your money to the next level. Our goal is to create a much needed product search service that allows products to be connected to their social, economic, political and environmental consequences, allowing people to “vote their money” seamlessly when making purchases. We realized the only way this would happen is if the people did it. So my good friend and I did it and we are open-sourcing it for the world to use. Its been soooo much work, and we are almost there. I really hope people understand what it is and what it could do to help change things. We have put a lot of thought into the systems and refined it until it is as simple as possible. Please check out our kickstarter project at:



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