Only connect

Posted on March 24, 2011 by Anne Basye

Throwing my two cents into the David-Erin-Bob/Uncle Billy discussion, I’d like to post these musings:

When we buy a car, we carefully research everything except our basic assumption: that we need one. Is there another way to move around the world that might be less damaging, like keeping the car we have and biking more and taking public transit, or sharing a car with a neighbor, or carpooling, or walking?

Of course, as “consumers” we are rewarded for making our personal buying decisions our most pressing concerns. How about we just stop calling ourselves consumers? Let’s not even be Christian consumers. Let’s be Christian citizens. Christian community members. Anything that helps lift the spell that traps us in “take-make-waste” so we can start discerning needs from wants, asking where our stuff comes from and who or what was harmed in its production, and understanding how our greed is connected to—or may even cause—other people’s need.

This is where charity becomes justice. That old saying about giving a man a fish? Sure, teach a man to fish—but don’t forget to ask who owns the pond. The world is full of competent people who know how to fish and farm but can’t access land or water—or whose land and water has been fouled by a multinational factory farm, mining operation, or Coca-Cola plant whose products are shipped to … Christian consumers.

The due diligence we need to be doing about hunger is about our own system. I say, start asking why. Why do I need this? Why was this product produced so cheaply? What hidden environmental or social costs are being paid by the people who made it? How’s their garden?  Unlike buying a car, the goal of questions like these isn’t to make us feel good about our own purchases. These questions lead us from consumerism to collective advocacy, because when a small why is amplified by other individuals, groups, or law-making bodies, it can change a system.

The bottom line why for Christians is: Why does so much of our “good life” come at the cost of other people’s welfare? Our system blinds us to these consequences. It’s time to ask our way out of this trance, to let the power of why open our eyes and start drawing the lines to world hunger that begin in our own backyards.

Anne Basye, Sustaining Simplicity