Bono’s Project (Red) campaign is turning the background of Twitter and Facebook red today. For AIDs.  For those that don’t know, Project (Red) is a brand licensed to partner companies such as American Express, Apple Inc., Starbucks, Converse (recently bought out by Nike), Motorola, Gap, Emporio Armani, Hallmark, Microsoft, and Dell.”  (Links will take you to company profiles on Knowmore.org). These companies aren’t exactly temples of ethical business practices. What possible interest do they have in aid to Africa? The answer is consumerism.

We can’t just oppose the act of consuming. We have to oppose the culture of consuming as well. We have to stand against what it does to our relationships with one another, how it monetizes and zombifies our lives and turns us away from being active citizens. You just can’t run a culture based on consumption — not only for the ostensible political and environmental reasons, but also because of the social consequences of consumerism.

Please keep in mind that no matter how charitable their PR firms make them seem, corporations (by definition) function for one purpose only: to turn profit. This Product (Red) project is just another disingenuous marketing ploy to get us to keep spending. Our economy — call it capitalism or corporatism or whathaveyou — depends on us spending. It’s a linear system that starts with resource extraction and thrives solely on products flying off the shelves only to be replaced with more, more, more. And so it is constantly looking for ways to get us to keep going to the shelves. It adapts – changing  it’s logos, brand names, color schemes, discounts, sales approaches, etc, etc. This we’re all familiar with. But now it seems they have found a new marketing scheme, a new reason for us to get in our cars and head to the store: that very human urge we all have to reach out and help one another. Think of the power of being able to satisfy these two powerful urges at once: our urge to consume and our urge to be charitable. But are we really being genuinely charitable? Achieving some kind of social justice? No. Our desire to be charitable is merely being exploited. Plain and simple. It’s akin to Bush attaching feelings of patriotic duty to shopping when he encouraged us after 9/11 not to hope or pray or mourn — but to shop.

Have we really sunk to the level of even reaching out a helping hand to our fellow man (pardon the gendered term) via products?

We have to be voices against this kind of thinking. We have to work — ALWAYS — toward the alternative, not in tiny steps but in leaps and bounds. Consumerism is not a way to run an economy, a planet, or a society…but it’s also NOT a way to achieve social justice. Just because some  corporation is willing to part with .10 cents of every dollar is takes in doesn’t mean it deserves our unquestioning support. If they really gave a shit, they’d stop making their products in sweat shops. Hell, if they REALLY cared about fighting AIDS they’d invest DIRECTLY, not hold the aid ransom until we purchase their products. We can’t shop enough for Africa because, well, we’re still shopping! Still contributing to the system that keeps people in Africa and around the world oppressed.

BUY LESS CRAP.

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