Friday, August 23, 2013
The Limits of Our Thinking
The limits of our thinking.
Most of the people I know from church don't say that they eat at fast food restaurants very often. Most of the people I know from the Unitarian Universalist movement do not go to Walmart very often.
So when fast food workers and Walmart employees conduct their "strikes", most of the people I know watch from a distance, as though they have no connection to it.
After all, they are neither fast food workers nor customers of fast food establishments.It makes a certain kind of sense.
That this thought seems so self-evident is really a self-imposed limit on our thinking.
We define ourselves as consumers, and that gives us two choices: we either consume, or we boycott. But what about the things that we don't consume? Not consuming is not the same as boycotting.
I am not boycotting women's high-heeled shoes. I just don't wear them, or buy them. But can I be unconcerned about them? Were I to learn that the high heeled shoe factory in town ran on the labor of enslaved orphans chained to their machines 18 hours a day, could I say it wasn't my problem?
Faced with that situation, I would have to think of myself in a larger context than "consumer." I would have to think of myself in an even larger context than "orphan" or "shoe-worker", since I am neither of those.
Why would I act? Because I feel human solidarity with others.
Why do I post about fast food workers and Walmart employees and the necessity of raising the minimum wage? Why do I think that these issues should be as important to UU congregations as climate change and marriage equality?
Because these folks are claiming and building their power and agency in a situation which assumes that they are replaceable and manipulable objects. Giant and extremely profitable corporations are extracting great wealth from their poorly compensated work. The Waltons are the richest family in the country and their vast wealth depends on thousands of people living lives of near poverty.
Claiming one's power, thinking for one's self, creating strength by building connections with others: these are hallmark gestures of liberal religion. That religious liberals will honor the person who walks out of their church because they can no longer believe the Nicene creed, but doesn't honor the person who walks out of a fast food kitchen to get a living wage -- well, that is the limits of our thinking.