Boycotting has become quite the craze these days. It seems that we’re more passionate than ever to stand up for what we believe in. Apparently, a third of British people have boycotted a company because they’re not paying their fair share of tax in the UK. That’s enough of us who think it’s a serious problem and are prepared to sacrifice something – using our consumer power to change society forever.
But surely our country should be a better place by now?
I’m not very good at boycotting. I’ve tried, of course – I don’t go to Starbucks and I’ve stopped shopping at Tesco. But my Kindle books can only be purchased from Amazon. And then there’s my iPod, my iPhone, my Macbook….
Online my email account, like millions of others, is with Google. Actually, most of my online activity relies on this internet giant and my digital life would look quite different without it. Spanish translation would be a bit trickier; my blog wouldn’t exist; I’d get lost every time I travelled round London; and how on earth would I search the internet for anything?
We’re often feeble boycotters – it’s easy to switch coffee shops, but buying a new computer? Changing mobile phones? That’s complicated. That requires a bigger sacrifice…
It’s funny because it seems that tax was a big issue in Jesus’s day too – remember when he hung out with Zacchaeus and the huge scandal that was? How about the time Jesus sat down to eat with tax collectors and the Pharisees were fuming? It was widely acknowledged at that time that tax collectors took way more than their share, hid lots away and were really wealthy as a result. Sound familiar?
I don’t think the point is to drop into Tesco HQ and have a cup of tea; but perhaps we should reconsider being all righteous with our attitudes. Our proud claims of boycotting are sometimes simple sacrifices with clever alternatives and this makes us as phony as Pharisees.
I’m guilty of it. And I’m still trying to work out how to do ethical better. Jesus’s attitude towards tax collectors was loving the human beings behind it – these companies may not be perfect but they’re also providing work and wages to people across our country. I’m beginning to realise that my weak attempts at creating change by boycotting are simply creating a divide where I feel proud and make others feel guilty. But I’m boosting my own ego more than changing tax practices.
Perhaps it’s time to write more letters – to be loving to our favourite companies and tell them we really want them to change. What about calling on our government to alter the law so that companies have less choice and more restriction?
Maybe I’m being cynical, but I just don’t think this boycotting business is going to work.
(Image via Gareth Weeks at SXC)