More than ‘fair trade’ activism: Doing justice requires risk
… I have a theory about what is partly contributing to the dearth of young Americans willing to spend their lives on behalf of others.
They think they already are.
They think that with their pocketbooks and food choices alone, by sewing their own clothes and purchasing fair-trade coffee, by boycotting Wal-Mart and preaching that as gospel, they have already done their part to address global injustices.
In Nicholas Kristof’s documentary Half the Sky, actress Meg Ryan also thought she was doing her part to highlight child trafficking in Cambodia, but then declines to go on a brothel raid. She says she doesn’t have the “adventure” gene. I appreciate her honesty. I have less appreciation for her ignorance. What did she think fighting sex trafficking would be like, if not going to brothels themselves? Her reticence is symbolic of goodhearted people who have forgotten about risk.
Buying fair-trade coffee, boycotting Gap jeans, and eating only organic vegetarian foods can be important and valuable decisions. They cost time, money, comfort, and an established worldview. But they cannot be the end of our response to the deeply systemic and complex issues that allow human suffering to persist the world over. They don’t require risk.