Here is something thenarrator said over at Leonidas’s xanga:

“Societies make choices every day. Americans vote for abusive employment tactics, bad service, and illegal immigration every time they go shopping. They vote for poverty and lack of health care with every discount purchase.

I commented to someone yesterday that Americans cannot seem to understand the idea that Europeans would choose higher taxes and higher prices in order to live in the kind of society we desire. The typical reaction is that this is “Marxist Slavery.” But it is not, it is caring about neighbors, and caring about society.

So, you shop at Wal-Mart, you get an impoverished nation as a result. You shop at Circuit City you help to destroy families.

(But of course Circuit City continues to fail – now no one in the store knows anything, if you want no service, you’ll shop online)” 

 And then, responding to my concurring comment, “Anyway – ryc – thanks. It always amazes me that your average American will throw their neighbor out of a job in order to save five cents on a can of soup, or deprive kids of health insurance to save ten bucks on a tv. We may not like the price floors in Ireland, but they keep all of our workers earning a living wage, let everyone go to the doctor and every qualified student go to university. But yes, our houses and cars are smaller, and we usually watch TV in the same room as our children. Maybe that seems like too much of a sacrifice to live in a fair place, but it does not to me.”

Yes, well, I’ve written at length on how our choices as consumers affect other people and the environment, so I won’t add to this impassioned plea, but I will say that I hope you think on these things a little bit when you do the weekly shopping today.

The Chemist invited me to a soiree yesterday in an email headed “How to go to jail…” The event is a lecture on civil disobedience given by a group that made headlines a few years ago by walking starkers across a busy intersection.

I asked around, and none of us could remember what their point was. I couldn’t even find the article with search engines. It did indeed catch people’s attention, a bunch of naked woman in the street, but it didn’t have any effect in terms of changing people’s minds or leading to action. We didn’t even know what they wanted to tell us.

Civil disobedience has a long and noble tradition of effectiveness, but the American consumer en masse has more economic power than many national governments. The way you choose to spend your money today will have an effect on the world, whether you think about it or not. You might as well take some responsibility for that fact.

The Wall Street Journal yesterday had two articles about issues of right and wrong. I know we finished that topic here already, but we have elasticity of the brain, so we can hark back mentally and add these points to our thinking on the subject.

The first was a report that some neurobiologists have found that damage to a specific site in the brain impairs moral judgement. The researchers used the work of Marc Hauser, which we’ve discussed before. Hauser found widespread cross-cultural agreement on moral issues. These researchers tested people with the particular type of brain damage, people with other forms of brain damage, and people without brain damage, using the questions that Hauser used. Only those with damage in the particular area of the brain in question differed from the pattern Hauser found.

The other was a review of a book on excuses. Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me) by Carol Tavris and someone else whose name escapes me. The book is not out yet, but the review focussed on how we justify and excuse wrongdoing. In a nutshell (and I haven’t read the book, so it may have lots more to it that this), we say it was someone else’s fault or claim special circumstances that made it okay. Special mention was made of the truly lame excuse “Everybody does it.”

This may be a lame excuse, but it is probably the favorite when it comes to using more than our fair share of energy, treating cheap goods as the summum bonum, and ignoring corporate responsibility for environmental and social wrongs.

So it is the farmers’ market for me, and a brief visit to the store where I work, and time with my kids, and housework. I do not plan any civil disobedience today, just a bit of voluntary simplicity.