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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Voting with your Wallet and Gowing Hope

It's a wild time out there in the larger world beyond the farm and
My sign, center bottom, in display
at local Women's March art show.
Photo by Gibran Vogue Graham.
hex central. Along with painting, growing fruits, vegetables, meat and eggs, this allegedly retired old woman has, of late, become an amateur lobbyist. Like many others, I joined in the Women's March and other actions in support of the Water Protectors, against the DAPL and in support of Medicare and Social Security.

I have instituted a practice I call my "15 minute activism" in which I write emails, post cards, letters or send faxes to my legislators, both federal and state, and to various legislative committees on issues that are important to me.

There are many, many actions going on everywhere. Many folks are upset because the president, already a wealthy man (as they all have been, at least in recent times) appears to not have divested himself or his family from their business interests and perhaps is even working to leverage political issues for his own profit. Backlash against the family has brought his wife's consumer goods to the battle lines, with some consumers and stores boycotting her lines of ladies wear and cosmetics and others urging their purchase. "Voting with your wallet" has been a thing for some time. And even if my wallet was sufficiently flush to afford what I consider to be the highly inflated prices for the goods that bear her name, they would not be on my radar. So my "vote" there is pretty much irrelevant.

However, the larger issue, to my mind, is the greed of the mega-corporations and conglomerates that have their fingers in almost all of the goods we buy and use. In case you didn't know, greed is built into the corporate structure; because of something called fiduciary responsibility, corporations are required to maximize profits and therefore returns on investment (ROI) of their stockholders.

As a small businessperson, I know that making a profit is important. There is nothing, in my mind, wrong with a reasonable profit for one's efforts and, honestly, all of the small business owners I know are on the same page. Stay afloat, keep your customers happy and make some money... we could all live with that. But that is not good enough for the corporate world.

So, I "vote with my dollar" in a little different way: I buy from local small businesses when I can and if I must patronize the corporate world, I do my best to stay as far down on the "value added" ladder that I can. If I buy the least handled products -- for example, grain or one step up the ladder to flour -- and add the value myself when I make bread or other baked goods, or pasta or breakfast food, as my grandmother called cold cereal, I feel that I am not only depriving the corporate world of a bit of profit (yes, it's probably negligible to their eyes) but I am also keeping more money in my wallet. To my way of thinking, buying prepared foods, just like eating out for every meal, is equivalent to hiring a chef -- or at least a short order cook and I don't have the budget for that.

Likewise, being conservative of energy and raw materials -- be it the electrons that come down our wires, or the water out of the tap and down the drain, even for those rural dwellers like me who have a well and septic tank -- is voting with your wallet, at the same time as conserving both resources and cash.

Long ago, in the first blush of the environmental movement, I heard the saying "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without." And in my mind, that is the most radical form of resistance I can practice. Just 'cause someone advertises something on the telly, the computer, in a magazine or you just find something new in the store doesn't mean you NEED it. "Back in the day" those who did not grow their potatoes bought them from the farmer down the road or from the grocer in town... in big bags, most likely, 'cause they were a staple... at least in my family. We bought them by the 5 or 10 pound bag, or maybe bigger. Maybe we paid a little more for the nice big ones or in the summer we picked up a bag of slightly smaller, freshly dug "new potatoes." The small potatoes, typically, were... "small potatoes," unimportant, left to the last if you had grown them, hard to peel and not at all desirable. Thanks to the bright idea (?) of a marketing agency somewhere along the line, though, these same small spuds have become "gourmet" and are priced at three times, or more, the price of the just plain old 'taters. Why? They are really just small potatoes, still. Do we honestly need them, especially for the much higher price?

So, if you want to change the world, start thinking "do I need this?" and then "do I really need this?" And don't loose hope, grow some instead. Spring IS coming!