Sunday, I had someone ask me what I was trying to accomplish. She was specifically talking about boycotting factory farmed meat and eggs, but I suppose the same could be said of several of my “causes,” including: Voting for a third party candidate in protest of the two major party candidates use of, and approval of, continuing drone strikes that kill hundreds of Pakistani civilians. Boycotting Hershey’s chocolate until they institute a plan to stop using cocoa farmed using forced child labor. Or, to go way back, making sure the diamond on my wife’s engagement ring was not a conflict (“blood”) diamond.
And I stuttered. I wasn’t exactly sure how to answer.
What I finally came up with was this (and I hope I can phrase it more eloquently here than I did then). Many of the evils we encounter in this day and age are systemic. They are clearly above our pay grade, above the area of influence we have any power over. And I’m talking real evil here, not policy differences (the argument whether the current welfare system helps or entraps the poor is not “good versus evil.” Both sides have concerns for those who need assistance, they just don’t agree on how it’s done. That’s not what I’m talking about).
When I encounter such an evil, when I become aware of it, I have a choice. I can ignore it, pretend I didn’t see it, and by doing so, give it my support. Or I can do something, even something small, to push back against it.
So what am I trying to accomplish here? I want to preserve whatever shreds of my integrity still exist by not being blindly complicit with known evils. I want to let the people around me know that these things are going on, that people (and animals) are suffering terribly. I want to let people know that our disposable consumer culture comes with consequences, often for the weakest and most vulnerable.
And most of all, I want to remind myself.
Ayn Rand was wrong about a lot of things, but she was right about at least one. If you can do nothing else, call evil evil. Say it. If you have no power to do anything else, name cruelty. Name theft. Name murder. There is power in just saying the truth.