On Boycotts

July 29, 2010

I’ve been sent two articles in particular this week from several sources– one is a call to boycott Target because a congressman who opposes gay rights has received some of their money; the other is a call to boycott Home Depot because they support community organizations who champion gay rights.

Do we still not get why our economy is so ass backwards? I’m aware of boycott charges against WalMart for using evil business practices, or Starbucks for being too aggressive, or Hallmark for monetizing our culture. I get those boycotts. But to infuse politics into two of the most apolitical organizations out there is ridiculous. It’s selfish, it’s egomaniacal, and it’s just plain mean.

There are certainly times when a company has a definite political bent. Don’t forget that NewsCorp and Universal are both businesses. Whole Foods made that whole weird stink last year about health care. There were a few companies in 2008 who got in trouble for telling their employees how to vote. Those are times when one might be expected to reach out to their local companies and say ‘cut it out, or I’m taking my business somewhere else.’

Target, though? Target has a rating of 100% from the HRC. They have very progressive hiring practices, and even if they didn’t, they have no record of any unfair business practices, which is exceedingly rare for a budget chain. Now they have donated money to a pro-business PAC, which has donated money to a pro-business candidate for Governor of Minnesota (they’re based in Minneapolis), who among other things is a very religious man who opposes gay rights. Target has already come out in an attempt to be perfectly clear—no, they do not agree with the candidate’s view on gay rights. Yes, some of their money did make it to his campaign. But they donated the money to an organization which has a reputation of helping businesses. They’re a business.

Home Depot’s connection to this ridiculous charade is that they have but up promotional booths at gay pride parades, and put on workshops for children. In other words, they’re advertising at a place where there are going to be a lot of people who see their name. I give you a guarantee that Home Depot also has tents in many more festivals which have a more chauvinist, homophobic slant, but not because it has anything to do with politics—a majority of do-it-yourself, lumber and power tools type customers have a more conservative slant. Now Home Depot—who, incidentally, have a less than impressive score of 85% with the HRC—are being boycotted as gay-lovers.

You know who’s getting business out of all this, who’s benefiting from this culture war? Competitors who have done nothing for anybody. That’s the message we’re sending to these companies. Keep your advertising to billboards and obnoxious television commercials. Don’t support any causes. Take all that extra money and just funnel it into your stockholder’s pockets.

Your decades-long track record means nothing to us. If you do one thing we disagree with (and both companies are patronized by both ‘sides of the aisle’), we’ll drop any support for your store. So just don’t bother. Let’s go back to an age of huge companies with no social responsibilities at all.

The only solace I have from all this is that the same knee-jerk reactionaries who call for these boycotts also lack conviction. They’ll be shopping there again soon enough.


Atheistic Morality

July 16, 2010

Religion is a moral necessity for an inherently bad people. Even the most fundamentalist Christians defend their view by saying that if you do good in your life and devote yourself unwaveringly to God, or Jesus, or whoever, you will be rewarded with heaven in the afterlife. It is the single most powerful (and ultimately only) drawing feature to Christianity—if you are a Christian, you will be rewarded either here or in the afterlife, and usually (to some degree) both. The only disagreements lie in how Christian you have to be to qualify.

A fundamentalist atheist is far more dogmatic, and far more extremist. If you do evil, there will be no punishment. If you help no one, there will be no hell. And yet, it is expected that you do good in this world. Many of the most devoted environmentalists are atheists. The founders of modern democracy professed a nonbelief in God. Many of the most universally charitable organizations are secular or humanist: Red Cross, United Way, Peace Corps, etc. while religiously motivated groups like Boy Scouts of America, The Catholic Church, and Rescue Missions at the very least require a show of fealty of their benefactors, and at worst will flatly refuse to help people in need who are outside of their religious circle.

And in exchange for their good deeds, the atheist gets nothing. No heaven, no afterlife, no golden camels. There isn’t even a mythology among atheists where anyone has been rewarded for their good deeds. On the contrary—if someone is rewarded, the ‘goodness’ of their deeds is thrown in doubt (such as happened to the Presidents of secular charity United Way on several occasions). So what you have is a group of people who are expected to sacrifice themselves to the benefit of others, to the benefit of the Earth, and even to the benefit of generations that don’t even exist yet, and they are expected to do so without any congratulations, any rewards, and any fringe benefits of any kind. But they have to do it anyway. Now that’s a true test of faith.