Ethical Consumers – Myth or Reality?

Introduction

During recent decades, the vocabulary of economics has been enriched by a great number of sophistically sounding but utterly meaningless concepts, such as “transition-decision making”, “workplace empowerment”, “participative leadership” etc., because neo-Liberal enforcers of political correctness in governmental offices believe that the functioning of economy should be adjusted to correspond to the notion of tolerance. While being continuously exposed to these intellectual byproducts of Liberal mentality, more and more ordinary citizens in Western countries seem to be increasingly deprived of their ability to assess surrounding reality in terms of rationale. This explains why many of them have grown to believe in the beneficial essence of yet another creation of a Liberal mind – the concept of “ethical consumer”.

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Main Body

As of today, there are no universally accepted definitions as to what this concept stands for; however, ethical consumerism can be vaguely defined as naïve people’s conscious strive to only purchase products and services, which are being unrelated to what these people consider to be the greatest evils of 21st century’s living – the pollution of natural environment, the exploitation of “developing” countries’ cheap labor by Western companies, and utilization of cute animals for scientific experimentation. In their book “The Ethical Consumer”, Rob Harrison, Terry Newholm and Deirdre Shaw provide us with a better understanding as to what accounts for particularities of ethical consumers’ purchasing behavior: “Ethical purchasers have political, religious, spiritual, environmental, social and other motives for choosing one product over another… The one thing they have in common is that they are concerned with the effects that the purchasing choice has, not only on themselves but also on the external world around them” (2005, p. 4). In other words, ethical consumers continue to engage with the world economy, while denying the most fundamental principles, upon which economy’s functioning is being based, simply because the concept of economics and the concept of ethics are mutually exclusive. As John Roth had put it in his book “Ethics”: “Ethical consumerism is strongly associated with the introduction of morality into the otherwise amoral marketplace” (2005, p. 323). And, as we are all well aware of – if a particular political or socio-economic practice contradicts the objectively existing laws of nature, its conceptual premise can only be discussed within a context of an artificially created myth.

In her article “Myth and Ethics in Business”, Aviva Geva makes a perfectly good point, while suggesting that ethical considerations have no place in market-based economy: “Business is expected to do whatever is necessary in order to succeed and is not expected to be concerned with abstract morality. Business is a one-dimensional, purely profit-seeking enterprise. Profit is not just prioritized; it is elevated to the exclusion of all other interests” (2001, p. 585). By demanding that businesses should adjust their operating activities to the set of their obscure beliefs, ethical consumers reveal themselves as being not entirely normal, simply because it is only mentally deranged individuals who are being incapable of recognizing their own wishfully-based convictions as such that do not correspond to objective reality. The myth of ethical consumerism can be compared to the myth of Christianity – even though majority of citizens in the West consider themselves Christians, they do not go about living by Jesus’ commandments, simply because of these commandments’ nonsensical essence. It is only mentally ill people who can be considered true Christians, which actually explains the fact why Bible remains the most read book among the inmates of mental asylums. Similarly, the majority of self-proclaimed ethical consumers do not stick up to their own beliefs, while making purchases.

In their book “Outsourcing and Offshoring in the 21st Century: a Socio-Economic Perspective”, Harbhajan Kehal and Varinder Singh reveal utterly elusive subtleties of ethical consumerism by pointing out the fact that, the majority of seemingly dedicated proponents of this concept often act as if they could not care less about adjusting their purchasing choices to their openly proclaimed agenda of “saving the planet”: “This issue of ethical consumerism has captivated thinking in the corporate social responsibility field for some time, and survey after survey demonstrates consumer concern for a range of environmental and social factors in purchasing choices. However, the reality of ethical consumers is very different. Truly ethical consumers are very rare” (2006, p. 119). Why are the truly ethical consumers very rare? The answer to this question can also be used to explain why the true Christians are also comparatively rare – as psychiatric statistics indicate, the number of psychologically inadequate individuals in Western societies rarely account for more than 2%-3%. In its turn, this explains why, for as long as the issue of ethical consumption is being concerned, Bible-thumpers often find themselves supporting their most unlikely allies – neo-Liberal “sophisticates”.

In his article “Consumerism and Christian Ethics”, Kenneth Himes states: “Using a virtue ethic when discussing consumerism offers several benefits. It acknowledges how social valuations affect our ability to see, judge, and act substantively. Virtue language provides a way to understand how entrenched, habituated patterns of consumption became part of our normal world; it also makes the connection between these patterns and human flourishing” (2007, p. 141). Unfortunately, throughout article’s entirety, author remained utterly ignorant as to the fact that “human flourishing” can only be achieved if economy’s functioning is being solely concerned with creation of wealth and with people’s unrestricted ability to utilize it in the way they see fit, as opposed to such wealth’s distribution, and to say the least – with defining which consumerist activities shall be considered “ethical” and which shall not. Given the fact that many parallels can be drawn between the behavior of Christian fanatics and that of ethical consumers, it appears that the concept of ethical consumerism is not just a myth, but a very dangerous myth. Let us explain this suggestion at length.

What was the actual outcome of Christianity having attained official status in the West? It is a fact that Christianity’s reign in Europe is now being referred to as the time of Dark Ages. Christianity could not “benefit” humanity in any other way, but plunging it in never-ending religious wars – all because of the strength of Christian fanatics’ belief in “morality”. Now – why up until recently, highly educated British professionals strived to immigrate to U.S.? This is because “exerts on morality” in Britain’s governmental offices used to withhold up to 60% of these people’s salaries in taxes, so that newly arrived Pakistani immigrants would never experience hunger, while “celebrating diversity”. Why it is a matter of a very short time, before America’s economy collapses? This is because of the sheer strength of President Obama’s moral beliefs, which prompted him popularize the idea that this economy’s functioning should be based on essentially socialist (moral) principles. Whenever psychologically inadequate individuals succeed in convincing the rest of society’s members that there is nothing wrong with their intention to fuse “morality” and “ethics” with objectively existing socio-economic concepts, based on the principle of rationale, it inevitably results in chaos, destruction and death.

Nevertheless, if we assume that the idea of ethical consumption is being promoted by individuals who clearly lack marbles in their brains, then how was it possible for this concept to attain fully legitimate status in the West? For example, the reading of Tim Dieppe’s article “Exploding SRI Myths” leaves no doubt as to the fact that in recent years, the number of ethical consumers in Britain had increased rather substantially: “A report by market analysts, Key Note (‘Green & Ethical Consumer’, November 2008) estimates that ethical consumerism in the UK was worth £35.4 million in 2007. Between 2005 and 2007 (a period when environmental issues such as carbon footprints and recycling became more prominent) the food and drink and ethical finance sectors underwent the strongest growth” (2008, p. 1). The ultimate answer to this question can be formulated as follows: the increase in the number of ethical consumers in the West should be thought of yet another indication of the fact that, during the course of recent decades, the very practice of designing socio-economic, political and demographic policies in Western countries had ceased to correspond to the notion of sanity.

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Conclusion

Nowadays, White citizens are being instilled with the complex of historical guilt, with the hawks of political correctness going as far as prompting Whites to think of euro-centric concept of technological and economic progress as being something necessarily evil, because it contradicts the state-sponsored policy of multiculturalism, based upon the premises of spirituality, environmental friendliness and low gender differentiation. Yet, Western nations’ current economic prosperity is nothing but a direct consequence of the fact that, during the 20th century, the pace of technological progress in the West has been gaining an exponential momentum; whereas, in Third World countries, native populations remained fully preoccupied with exploring their “spirituality”, by indulging in never-ending tribal warfare, in time free from making babies.

Given the fact that Western countries now take pride in turning multicultural, the very concept of technological, cultural and economic progress had to be discredited. This is exactly the reason why the descendants of those who had created and maintained the only technological civilization on the face of the Earth, are now being prompted to automatically associate their countries’ economic prosperity and the notion of conventional consumerism with a variety of social evils, This explains the fact that ethical consumers consist of overwhelmingly White citizens – it is namely they who hold public rallies against Wal-Mart’s expansion; against the practice of medicinal products being tested on animals, and against excessive amounts of cholesterol in hamburgers; whereas, ethnic consumers could not care less about tree-hugging, whale-saving and organic-coffee-drinking. Apparently, these people are being just too real to believe in nonsense, which is why they think of White “sophisticates” as to whom they really are – overindulged decadents, who think of ethics and morality in terms of some sort of an existential fetish, and who are being instilled with self-righteousness to such a degree that the apparent fallaciousness of their own suggestions remains completely sealed from them.

For example, the proponents of ethical consumption firmly believe that it was named due to the process of Western countries’ industrialization in 20th century, that Earth’s natural environment had become irreversibly polluted. However, had these people studied the history, they would know that environmental situation in Europe three hundred years ago was much worse, as compared to what is the case today. Back then, there were no forests in Europe (all the trees had been cut off to build ships) and that there were no fish in Europe’s rivers (rivers served as sewers). Back then, Europe’s largest cities were nothing short of stinking cloaks. It is due to Europe’s Second Industrial Revolution in 19th century, that the environmental situation on the continent began to improve. Contrary to what is being believed by today’s adherents of ethical consumerism – technological and economic progress does not destroy natural environment, but preserves it.

The same can be said about these people’s stance on what they perceive as the process of Western “imperialist” nations preventing “developing” countries from being able to realize their full economic potential. Had beret-wearing Liberal whackos traveled to Africa, they would know that African countries can be referred to as anything but “developing” – ever since these countries had liberated themselves from “White oppression”, they began rapidly regressing into primeval savagery. Therefore, by operating in “developing” countries, Western companies provide locals with work – after all, working at a Western-owned factory, while being paid $5 a day, is still better than venturing about in the constant search for eatable plants and bugs.

The specifics of ethical consumers’ racial identity are being actively downplayed by authors who discuss the phenomenon of ethical consumerism in their works. For example, in their article “Who are the Ethical Consumers?”, Roger Cowe and Simon Williams talk about ethical consumers as if they were completely unaware of what the concept of racial affiliation stands for: “The research shows that active consumers cross most socio-political boundaries. Party political affiliations do not define them; nor does social class; nor age nor gender. In general, the most active consumers are the most middle-class and middle-aged, but they also include many who are not in these categories” (2008, p. 2). Apparently, authors lacked intellectual honesty to admit that those “many” that could be suspected in being ethical consumers, consisting of residents of ethnic ghettos, simply because these people do not even understand what is wrong with their practice of dumping garbage right in front of their houses. Yet, the buying power of representatives of racial minorities continues to increase rapidly, due to purely demographic reasons – one would only need to pay a little visit to just about any elementary school in America, Britain, Germany, or France, to realize the full validity of this suggestion. Therefore – the existence of ethical consumers is a temporary phenomenon. And, temporality is a foremost characteristic of just about any artificially created myth. Once the decadent proponents of ethical consumption will realize themselves being turned into a racial minority in their own countries, their existential priorities will change rapidly – they will cease to be concerned with the “unethical business practices”, while being forced to learn how to cope up with their newly acquired status of second class citizens.

Bibliography

Cowe, R. & Williams, S. (2008). Who are the ethical consumers? The Co-Operative. Web.

Dieppe, T. (2008). Exploding SRI myths. Henderson Global Investors. Web.

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Geva, A. (2001). Myth and ethics in business. Business Ethics Quarterly, 11(4), pp. 575-597.

Harrison, R., Newholm, T. & Shaw, D. (2005). The ethical consumer. London, SAGE Publications.

Himes, K. (2007). Consumerism and Christian ethics. Theological Studies, 68 (1), pp. 132-153.

Perspective”, Kehal. H. & Singh, V. (2006). Outsourcing and offshoring in the 21st century: A socio-economic perspective. Melbourne, Idea Group Publishing.

Roth, J. (2005). Ethics. Pasadena, California, Salem Press.

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