What do Coca-Cola and city council meetings have in common? I don’t give a crap about either of them, but I should.
See, Coca-Cola has been repeatedly accused of using paramilitary forces to intimidate, torture and even murder union organizers at its bottling plants in South America. You can go research that and make up your own mind about whether or not it’s true, but I believe it. And I still occasionally buy Coke products. It’s possible that I am an awful person.
City council meetings, on the other hand, are the site of a lot of discussions and decision making both as boring as they are productive. A lot of things I complain about absentmindedly were decided in city council meetings, or by other legislative bodies, and if I truly cared I could attend and speak or at the very least send letters to my representatives. But I don’t. So am I a bad person?
Let me guess: you don’t think I’m a bad person. And the reason you don’t think I’m a bad person is that these things are familiar to you. You saw Food, Inc. but still eat Tyson chicken. You remember when they were first talking about the Patriot Act and you didn’t do anything about it. You’ve looked at Fair Trade products in a store and put them back on the shelf after seeing the price.
Well, I don’t think you’re a bad person either, but it actually doesn’t matter. Determining our moral character won’t get us any closer to finding a bridge between discontent and constructive action. Here’s what will help us: knowing that normal people like us generally do as they please until it becomes inconvenient. We aren’t interested in doing hours of research before each shopping trip and we have no patience for windy politicians.
Now, to figure out a way to make bad things inconvenient.