Friday, March 03, 2006

Rant about social injustice, poverty, Wal-Mart, etc.

Rant (skip down one if you're not interested)
Based on all of this stuff I have seen and knowing that I haven’t even seen the extent of it in São Paulo, much less in cities such as Salvador, Recife, and Rio de Janeiro and all over the rest of Brazil, I have begun to construct a new life philosophy, one that is void of typical American myopia and “I want to help make the world a better place” naiveté.
After having several conversations with Matt, a marine who has served in Iraq and Djibouti, about military and government corruption (the latter of which he definitely knows more about than me), I’m convinced that it is not possible. People have heard me talk about “white guilt” before, and I have been told by several people in Brazil and even more Americans that the whole “save the world” mentality is largely an American ideal that people across the rest of the world don’t really share.
Now before people think “well that’s not true there is this guy in France I know who wants to do that” I’m speaking in generalities as obviously nothing anyone says is true for anyone (except that we’ll all die {except me}). Anyway, about “white guilt”: everyone knows that America has been responsible for some of the worst crimes against humanity ever, and still continues to commit these crimes. We committed genocide against Native Americans, enslaved nearly 10 million Africans and killed who knows how many, put Japanese people into internment camps, refused to let Jews into the country before WW2 (when Jews in Europe knew about Nazi’s and America refused to look outside its borders), and then there’s that whole dropping two nuclear bombs on a country, the effects of which are still seen today. All of this crime was committed by, you guessed it; old, dead white people. This leads to “white guilt”, white suburbanites whose families have experienced the successes of exploitation who now feel the need to do something about the past. The thing most people need to learn is that you don’t inherit the sins of your ancestors, but when you openly accept guilt for something with which you personally had nothing to do then you’re giving into “white guilt”.
Anyway, I used to think something along these lines. I’m white, but I’m sort of exempt from all that because I=Jew. This is why when I do stuff for other people, such as volunteering in elementary schools, summer programs, the Red Cross, etc etc etc the list goes on and on for me, I don’t do it because “now I’ll finally feel good about myself”, I do it because those people need help and because it makes their lives just a little bit more satisfying or easy. Anyway (again), I realize it’s hard to make yourself become the person you would like to become, which is for most people a good or a little bit better of a person. It’s hard enough to do that, but add into wanting to have an affect on the world on a world-scale, and you come into contact with something called impossibility. I now realize the most you can do is help one person or small group of people at a time. After I thought all of this, I was on the subways in São Paulo and as I walked out to go visit the Jewish Cultural Center, I saw a guy in a wheelchair struggling up a steep hill. I’m a strong guy and it’s not like I’m in any hurry. So I went to offer this guy some help up the hill. The guy was so surprised and happy that about halfway up he started to cry a little bit, probably because so few people offer to help and instead look and say “ooh, that poor guy in the wheelchair.” Something that small could change someone’s whole day or week, and make them think, “Hey, humanity ISN’T going to hell like I thought” (Bill Hicks – “I’m tired of this whole ‘ain’t humanity neat’ bullshit. We’re a virus with shoes.”) Another thing would be to offer that little kid down the street with his homework. You know, the one who had one of his parents abandon him and now he has just one parent who works three jobs and goes to school so they can provide him with some sort of decent childhood. It’s things like this that actually do something, because now instead of saying “oh I’m gonna do this I’m gonna do that”, which in reality you’re not gonna do anything, you’re putting all of that BS you once spoke into action. But people shouldn’t think “I’m gonna do this to end this or this to put a stop to that” because I have now seen that poverty, hunger, suffering, and hate exist on such a huge scale that no one person can do something about it. The person who could do something about the poverty in this country chooses not to, just like the person in the US who could do something about it chooses to fund death and murder instead of help and survival.
One thing you can do to help is stop going to Wal-Mart. I have seen the corruption and life-ruining madness this company commits right in front of my own eyes here in Brazil. Story? Okay, there is a popular line of stores here called Pão de Açúcar, and when Wal-Mart was going to open a location they told all of their vendors they would boycott them if they sold their products to Wal-Mart. So Wal-Mart backed off, then a short time later opened 20 stores at the same time all around São Paulo, putting a lot of these places (and families who owned them, people who worked there, etc.) out of business and out of work. This sort of thing has happened all over this country with Wal-Mart, and I know for a fact that it happens everywhere else in the world, too. Coming soon to a strip mall in Baghdad, low prices everyday courtesy of Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart also bought out a ton of grocery stores in Brazil called BomPreço and brought in their own management and line of products. W2GG :rolleyes:
So stop going there to buy your shoes, clothes, toys, and toilet paper, because the “money you’re saving” just went to paying a child in Beijing $0.03 per day to sew and assemble those clothes, shoes, and toys, and the warehouse discount Wal-Mart got from that toilet paper company just went to helping another African farmer lose another sale (way to go subsidies), and to paying that big CEO all that money that he just saved on labor and expenses. All the people who shop there and all the people who work there do nothing but contribute, I don’t care if Wal-Mart is the biggest employer in the US. Those same people could help put an end to cultural destruction and labor exploitation by working for local entrepreneurs.
So stop going to Wal-Mart, stop going to Starbucks to help South American coffee farmers lose their land and homes (Starbucks who gets tons of coffee at cheap prices, then sells it for $7 a cup.) Starbucks is going to open 100 stores over the next two years and sell a small cafezinho (small coffee) for R$10 (that’s about $4.50US). The coffee they get from Brazil that they buy in the US for supercheap they’re now going to resell to the same country at a profit of more than 200%. And don’t “buy American” to be patriotic (and incredibly stupid, because most “Made in America!!” {I’m looking at you car manufacturers and clothing lines) had their materials made in some third world country and were just assembled in the US. Do it because you know the product you’re buying was made with quality and without the blood stained hands of some Mexican housewife for $1/day in a 105ºF sweatshop in Mexico City.
It’s things like this that can help save the world, not spouting “save the planet” rhetoric that you get from your everyday idiot asshole politician. (This covers part of what I said about Salvador, so you only have to go through my rant once.)
On a lighter note, I did go to Liberdade and Museu Ipiranga, both of which were very nice. I hope everyone survived the Rolling Stones concert in Rio de Janeiro and the other three made it alive to Ubatuba.

1 comment:

Claire said...

It is actually sort of impossible to "not shop" at Walmart in Dahlonega. That is the only place here that sells food, supplies, etc...

Otherwise i'd be driving almost an hour to get the things I need...and that would be destroying precious fossil fuels.