After I read the book Most Good, Least Harm by Zoe Weil, I knew I had to share it with everyone I knew. Finally, there was something that described the lifestyle that my family and I try to lead; something to help us live better, to grow, and to share with others! But lately I’ve been hearing so much rationalizing when it comes to making lifestyle changes that I can’t help but feel bitterly resentful with so many people sometimes.
Part of MOGO is not judging others, and instead gently pointing out issues. Nothing is black and white, and there are plenty of ways to see each and every situation. I’m not even going to say that I am “right,” just that the decisions I try to make feel righter to me than ignoring or continuing to purchase problematic items. I want to keep engaging with people, trying to spread the whole MOGO philosophy, yet when I do come into contact with such concentrated oblivion or apathy or denial, I sort of don’t know what to do—and it makes you want to throw your hands up into the air!
It’s one thing if you want to argue ethics. For example, when I say that I won’t purchase from a store when I know they use sweatshop labor, it’s because I know that many children who work under such conditions are kidnapped slaves who are abused and killed without a thought. Those who actually get paid are paid mere cents, forced to work ten to fifteen hours a day, every day, and face a very bleak way of life in doing so.
Some people have argued with me that sweatshop labor is sometimes the only labor available to help a person feed his or her family. I understand the desperation when it comes to feeding your family; I had to work full-time throughout high school—in by no means a sweatshop operation; I made good money at a restaurant—to buy my own clothing, personal care products, school supplies, and food, as well as help supplement my sisters’ sometimes. I faced stereotypes by teachers who assumed I was working, like many teens, to buy a car and insurance (I was not), and if my schoolwork lagged, they deemed it wasteful without even asking me, pressing their assumptions on me, as I often do as well on other situations, such as child labor.
I have deemed child labor, for the most part, an evil practice; it’s one thing to allow a child to run a lemonade stand or an eBay store for his or her own profit, and another entirely to force him or her to work slave hours for slave wages—or none at all. But I understand when people believe they are helping these kids by buying their wares; I simply disagree with them.
However, if you are going to rationalize your decision based on something as simple as “Well, I like their stuff!” and refuse to listen to any other MOGO (Most Good, Least Harm) reasoning or choices available, then you simply don’t care. You might be too lazy to make the switch, or so attached to your brand or product that you simply refuse to hear anything bad about it. But you know what I think? I think you are afraid to face anything condemning about your favorite companies because then you will be forced to confront the fact that there are people harmed by your decisions, that there are people who suffer so much more greatly than you do, and that you are contributing to their suffering. I think that once you decide not to buy one product, you’ll begin to look into all of them—as my family and I did once we started, as well—and you think that’s either going to be A. a big inconvenience on your already very convenient lifestyle, or B. something that’s going to affect you each and every day of your life. Either way, you are right—but wouldn’t you rather be inconvenienced and affected than to contribute to suffering, things you feel are unethical, or injustice in general?