I think it’s time to make a note of clarification about this blog and its philosophy. When I write ‘chic adventure’ and when I say ‘travel,’ I mean the kind of traveling and adventuring that requires one to be aware of one’s surroundings, to engage in a positive, fruitful manner with a new place, people, culture, or language. When I say ‘travel’ what I really mean is paying attention.
Which is exactly why the recent NY Times expose on Apple’s labor and environmental practices in China is so important. Likewise, I was impressed by the message NPR’s Peter Thomson (environment editor for the program The World) expressed in his editorial comments on the Apple expose. What are we, travelers and consumers alike, to do in a world where every purchase we make, every adventure upon which we embark, implicates us in a much larger system?
I’ll leave you to read/listen to the entire piece, but this last part really got me:
Apple has become the quintessential American company, and it’s part of us in more ways than we’ve been imagining. Its unprecedented success reflects not merely its uncanny ability to innovate and shape our desires as consumers but also some dominant American values. We’ve decided that we want free trade. We’ve decided that we want our stuff, always newer and always better, and always at the lowest possible prices. And we’ve decided not to think too much about where it came from or how it was made.
I am finding it increasingly difficult to exist in this world/global capitalist system while remaining a compassionate and informed individual. Sure, I kept my last cell phone for five years until it simply wouldn’t turn on anymore. I’ve had my Blackberry for nearly 4 years now (knock on wood). I’m not one to hop on any bandwagon; in fact, when my husband and I bought an iPad so he could use it as a laptop replacement—he hadn’t bought a new laptop in 8 years—we both mused at how utterly useless the device was. Not that angry birds or Chinese poker aren’t fun, mindless distractions, but that’s really all they are: fun, mindless distractions. To be honest, I was perfectly fine reading my news in print, bookmarking my books in hardcover. Sure, those objects are weightier and can be a pain to transport on international trips—the Kindle, the iPad, etc., surely lighten the load. But what have we truly gained? Until we recognize that this ‘system’ to which we subscribe demands a false sense of growth (i.e., larger profits, smaller margins, cheaper and yet cheaper production costs), and until we recognize that true growth can occur without any forward movement in the capitalist sense, then, and only then, will we have created something worth admiring. Sure, there are technological advances that confirm my deep-seated belief that humanity is capable of producing amazing, beautiful things, as well as constantly questioning ways by which to improve the human condition. But, more often than not, it’s in the places where humanity DOES NOT exist, where humanity HAS NOT made its mark, that I come the closest to understanding what this ‘project’ we call living is truly about.*
*And I step off the soap box fully recognizing I’m not a perfect practitioner of the philosophies I preach. Comments welcome.