On Shopping and Activism

On the bus home one sunny day, I saw an advertisement announcing the stores Winners and HomeSense would donate money to the Canadian Women’s Foundation’s campaign to end violence against women. On the Foundation’s web site, http://www.canadianwomen.org, on the page ‘Our Supporters,’ it touts Winners/HomeSense as one of its ‘Platinum Partners,’ and states that, among other acts of support, the stores host an event called Shop for Hope, which confirmed, for me, that my concerns about shopping as a form of activism are legit.

I know Winners and HomeSense aren’t the only businesses to donate money to organizations (such as the Canadian Women’s Foundation) who aim to do good in the community–and to get some extra advertising (for themselves) while they’re at it. My concern isn’t with them, or with the Canadian Women’s Foundation; I’m concerned about the idea of shopping as activism, and the promotion and encouragement thereof.

I can hear you from here: “We vote with our dollars.” Perhaps that’s true. However, promoting shopping as a form of activism can lull those who engage in it into a false sense of satisfaction: ‘I shopped at a certain store, and donated to a good cause. I did my good deed for the day.’ There’s no way of knowing if shopper-activists will take their good-deed drives beyond the shopping, or if they’ll care enough to–after all, issues won’t be resolved just by spending money on them, or, as in most cases, the symptoms. By promoting the idea that shopping is a form of activism, there’s the danger that that’s all people will do, and that they do it just to make themselves feel better about their lives.

A greater danger in the idea of shopping as a form of activism is that it has the potential to encourage and perpetuate shopaholism. Now, I know shopaholics will shop even without the idea of shopping as activism, but the ‘activism’ part will give shopaholics just one more rationalization for their compulsive spending. Lesley-Anne Scorgie, in an excerpt from her book Well-Heeled: The Smart Girl’s Guide to Getting Rich, and the book and movie Confessions of a Shopaholic describe the consequences of shopaholism, for shopaholics themselves, the people around them, and the economy; in fact, in Well-Heeled, Scorgie states shopaholism helped bring about the 2008-2009 economic collapse, particularly in the form of unpaid consumer debt. So, is it really a good idea to carry on encouraging people to buy things they don’t need to support good causes?

And is it even necessary? Why not just give money directly to the organizations, and cut out the stores/middlemen? People will still shop at the stores of their choice, and donate to the organizations of their choice, stores and other businesses will still donate to the organizations of their choice, organizations will still get money to their work. So there’s no need for ‘shop for the cause’ events, or to encourage and perpetuate consumer culture and debt just to donate to organizations dedicated to one cause or another. In fact, now that I think about it, the concept of ‘shopping for the cause’ seems to benefit chiefly the stores and businesses who promote it, in terms of publicity, and perhaps revenue, as well.

Family Values

Today sees Vancouver’s 36th annual Pride Parade, and I’m about to write about family values.
Full disclosure:  My parents divorced when I was young, and I was raised by a single mother.  To be honest, I’m not sure what my views on the subject of family values would be if my circumstances were different from what they were, but, as it stands, my actual circumstances colour my views on the subject, which are as follows:

-Attraction can’t really be controlled; sexual orientation and identity can’t be controlled.  People should not have to live a lie just to be considered socially acceptable.
-One size does not fit all in terms of family composition; there is not one type of family which is better, or worse, than others.  As with everything else in life, people need to do what works for them, as individuals and as collectives.  P.S.: Even nuclear families can be bad, even abusive and toxic.
-Certain segments of the population should not be denied rights just because other segments don’t approve of the way they live; eg. the LGBTQ community shouldn’t be denied the right to marry, and/or raise children, just because social conservatives of all types and stripes don’t approve of how they live.
-Gender, and gender roles, are social constructs among the human species.  Humans invented the concept of gender, and that of gender roles. Nature has nothing to do with it.
-Comprehensive sex education and access to contraception and abortion are necessary for a stable society, as ways to curtail overpopulation and putting a strain on resources, which are finite.  Ignorance–oops, I meant abstinence-only education, especially on its own, has been proven to not only not work, but to be counterproductive.

The thing is, with everything else that effects society at large, staunch social conservatives of all types and stripes have hijacked the terms ‘family’ and ‘family values,’ to promote their shared agenda of turning the societies they live in into dictatorships in which they run the show, and the rest of us just fall in line and blindly follow the leader.  The social-conservative version of ‘family values’ promotes rigid gender, race, and class roles, and race and class, if not gender, divides–in short, a re-adoption of Victorian attitudes about gender, race, class, and everything else that forms society, under the guise of protecting and preserving the ‘traditional family.’  In this manner, ‘family values’ is a euphemism for kyriarchy (where all forms of oppression intersect), or what scholar bell hooks calls white supremacist capitalist patriarchy–in short, another tool of social control.
More full disclosure:  Both of my parents were born into nuclear families, in the 1950s.  My paternal grandparents were Quebec-born Roman Catholics, and stayed together until my grandmother’s untimely death, after which my grandfather never remarried.  My maternal grandparents were Jehovah’s Witnesses, and raised my mother and uncles as such.  Neither of my parents finished high school; my father was a trucker for most of his life, and died in debt and without leaving a will, while my mother moved from one low-paying job to another, mostly in customer service.  I am now an antitheist, who finished high school, and I have a university education, and all the while managed to stay on the right side of the law–though I was borderline anorexic and bulimic in my early adolescence.  It just goes to show there are no guarantees in life, for anyone; not even the type of family one was born into provides certainty about anything, including one’s future.
It is rather maddening, isn’t it, that it’s 2014, and we’re still arguing about issues such as gender, sexual orientation and identity, and family composition?

Bill C-24 and Me

A couple of weeks ago–if memory serves me correctly–I received an email from a petition web site, asking for my signature on a petition against Bill C-24, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, sponsored by the current Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and MP for Ajax-Pickering, Chris Alexander.

As far as I can tell, from reading at least one version of the bill itself and the Canadian Bar Association’s (CBA) response to it, Bill C-24, if passed, would, among other things, lengthen eligibility to apply for Canadian citizenship from three to four years, and would strip multiple citizens of their Canadian citizenship if they are convicted of crimes, for engaging in activities ‘contrary to Canadian interests’ (without explaining, or going into any great detail about, what said activities might be), or for any other reason the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration might feel is worthy of loss of citizenship.

There’s more, but I want to focus on the consequences Bill C-24 might have on dual and multiple citizens, because those consequences apply to me.

The week I spent in New York City confirmed my desire to one day make a home there; but I don’t want to give up my Canadian citizenship, or my home base in Vancouver. (I know the United States government doesn’t encourage multiple citizenship on principle, mostly because of the complications it poses, but that government doesn’t necessarily discourage it, either. But I digress.) In any case, I’m wondering what complications Bill C-24 might pose on my plans to divide my time between Vancouver and New York City, even though I do stay on the right side of the law, Canadian and American. The way the bill is worded now, if I go through with my plans, I’ll be walking on eggshells for the rest of my natural life–as will every other multiple citizen who claims Canadian citizenship.

As for the claim that, without Bill C-24, Canadian citizens will have less of an attachment to Canada, my response is that’s the biggest line of baloney I’ve heard yet. First of all, you can’t legislate attachment to one piece of land. Secondly, even the desire to have citizenship elsewhere doesn’t lessen one’s attachment to one’s nation of birth or other home bases (I’m speaking from personal experience here). As far as I’m concerned, this is just fear-mongering.

Even if there was a purpose for Bill C-24–and, personally, I don’t see it–there are still some wrinkles by way of its wording that need to be ironed out before it can continue on its way to being made law. Some areas need clarification, and law-abiding multiple citizens–and aspiring multiple citizens like myself–need reassurance that we’re not going to be punished simply for calling more than one area of Planet Earth home.