Archive for June, 2009
I’m a fan of Zoe Weil, author and creator of Humane Education. Today she hit the nail on the head with her critique of cause marketing (you know, when you buy a product where some of the proceeds go to a charity). I am definitely a partaker in the cause marketing machine. I often chose the product — the organic t-shirt at my favorite eco-store or the salad dressing at the natural food store — that has a give-back. But what Zoe wrote is so obvious — and actually so much truer to what I am trying to do with Having Enough — that it has given me a major a-ha moment.
I have been feeling lately that I need to cut down on consumption, and assuaging this nagging feeling by buying green or “charitable” products is fooling myself. It’s still stuff that I likely can live without. I’m still buying, still adding stuff to an overstuffed cabinet. Just because the stuff seems “worthy” doesn’t mean that I should get the stuff. If I’m honest, I wouldn’t necessarily need all the stuff anyway, so cause marketing gives an excuse to buy stuff I may not have bought.
Zoe uses the term “greenwashing” in her post. Forgive me if I’ve been under the rock of pregnancy/childbirth this past year, but it was a new term to me. The concept, though, is familiar. The idea that green is hip — great, except it is often being taken advantage of to fuel the consumer machine.
Last year, I was offered a shot at a lucrative writing assignment for a disposable diaper company who wanted a “lite green mom” to blog regularly about eco issues for the diaper company’s web site. Did they have a new disposable diaper that was biodegradable or at least made without chlorine bleach, or some new alternative diaper? What was green about their disposable diapers? I inquired. No response, and no job for me. I deduced that “lite green” meant someone who was willing to promote the worst kind of landfill-clogging disposable diapers without asking these (obvious!) questions. But, if they have a “green mom” blog, people could somehow feel better about buying their un-green product?? Greenwashing, yes.
Once again, I see the need to look beyond the obvious. I saw clearly the hypocrisy on the writing assignment, but I had not before stopped to think deeply about the “other side” of cause marketing and my own role in it. Living and learning. And next time I’ll think twice…
I have been peripheral to a fair amount of death lately. Two of my very closest friends lost their fathers in the past few months, one after an excruciating illness and another in a shockingly sudden way. A college friend called last week and told me she lost her stepmother. A dear new friend lost her grandfather last week, and I see my own grandparents are moving farther from their former selves each day. Meanwhile, I follow the blog of another friend, who is dealing with the loss of her husband; and today my family acknowledges the birthday of our beloved Aunt Phyllis, who succombed to ALS just weeks after my daughter was born.
I was also surprised and touched to receive a comment this week from Jen Ballantyne of “The Comfy Place,” a blog I follow with a lump in my throat each time I read. I’ve never met Jen, who lives in Australia, but I have mentioned her here before, as her documenting of her daily battle with terminal cancer, and her emotional agony at the thought of leaving her young son, is one of the most poignant stories I’ve ever read. Blogging puts her day-to-day struggle in real-time in such a way that she has gained a ton of supporters from around the globe, all of us whom are so invested in her survival against the odds that humanity and community are highlighted in ways we rarely see these days.
Then, of course, there is the constancy of death surrounding us all — the wars, violence, and disease we see on the news each night. And, yet, we have trouble talking about death in our culture. Unlike the parades of calaveras on Dia De Los Muertos to our south, we tend to whisper furtively about death, perhaps to avoid its grasp, or to put on a strong face and “move on” here in the United States.
In my own home, we have yet to describe death to our three-year-old. We are somehow protecting her from it until it gets close enough that we must engage with it, and until then we tell her the dog next door went to live somewhere else where she is well and not sick anymore. Do I think this is a great idea? I don’t know. Ironically, this is a child with a life-threatening medical condition (who has a father with a similar condition), and yet she is so far from understanding what that means. Perhaps ignorance is bliss at three, and especially with her particular situation. We do not want to instill fear in her. But perhaps she is closer to the circle of life than we give her credit for, given that she is so new to this Earth. Perhaps she would be less afraid than we are, if death was a more normal part of our culture and daily life.
Keeping ourselves removed from death somehow also removes us from life, doesn’t it? If we allowed ourselves to be closer to it, to engage with it more fully and openly, would we perhaps live more consciously, enjoy each moment more, walk our talk more truly, speak our truths more loudly? Would we be more connected with our souls or spirits, even our bodies? Are hospice workers or doctors or soldiers more connected in these ways? I’m sure it depends on the person, but I can only imagine that seeing death daily allows more opportunity to ponder the meaning of life. Isn’t that part of why people love Grey’s Anatomy and all those hospital shows? These shows’ stories let us engage with death and life — passively, of course — and have some catharsis. Easier to cry about Izzie’s cancer than our uncle’s, perhaps?
This is all just musing, as usual, but there is something to the jolt of life I feel each time I engage with death. There is something about death that we can use as a gift to the living. It is the ultimate perspective. The critical lesson. The great equalizer. It is common to every one of us, eventually, from ladybugs to presidents.
None of this is new thinking, just my thinking today. And, tomorrow, having written this, I will pay more attention and feel more gratitude. That is becoming, and for today that is enough.
I know, it’s a lot of book posts lately, and this will be the last one for a while. I just had to share a tidbit of a group email I received from Miriam Peskowitz (embarrasingly long ago, in April, but hey, new baby here!) about her latest book, The Double-Daring Book for Girls, which she co-authored with Andrea Buchanan. I can attest to the fab-ness of this book, as I had the privilege of being Miriam’s story editor on her chapters last year, and I loved every word of it. The book inspires me, and I can’t wait until my daughter is old enough to use it (cuz you “use” this book more than read it).
Reading over what Miriam wrote, I realized I had to share the Daring vision with more people, as it truly speaks to the Having Enough mentality, and I do believe will make our kids’ childhoods, and our world when they’re adults, better. She wrote:
The Double-Daring Book for Girls continues the Daring vision. In its pages, girls don’t have to grow up so fast. Girlhood can be both smarter and more fun. There’s room for all girls to be who they are, and to resist some of the well-known social pressures they may feel. A chapter on Friendship offers an alternative to the “mean girls” mentality. The Double-Daring world is a big place, with lots of room for girls, and all of us, to move and run and explore, and then, curl up with a good book when day is done.
It’s not often in history that girls and women have been encouraged to be daring. I’m proud that Double-Daring is part of that encouragement.
On a similar note, I urge you to check out this post — “Dear Pixar, From All The Girls With Band-Aids On Their Knees” — on NPR’s blog. Part of creating a Having Enough world is having enough of stereotypes of our daughters (and sons!), and creating new visions of gender for a new tomorrow.