Further, though, the TOMS campaign — like the million shirts — misses the fundamental point that not having a pair of shoes (or a shirt, christmas toy, etc.) is not a problem about not having shoes. It’s a problem of poverty. Shoelessness, such as it is, is a symptom of a much bigger and more complex problem. And while donating a pair of shoes helps shoelessness, it does not help poverty.
Things like jobs help poverty. Jobs making things like shoes, for example. But TOMS doesn’t make its shoes in Africa, it makes them in China where it’s presumably cheaper to make two pairs of shoes and give one away than it is to get people in a needier community to make one pair of shoes.
The result of this setup, as Zizek explains most succinctly, is that on a big-picture level, TOMS (and other buy-my-product-and-donate companies) are busy building the exploitative global structure that produces economic inequality, while on the other hand pretending that supporting them actually does something to fix it.
It doesn’t. It just gives people shoes.
When you cut facilities, slash jobs, abuse power, discriminate, drive people into deeper poverty & shoot people dead whilst refusing to provide answers or justice, the people will rise up & express their anger & frustration if you refuse to hear their cries. A riot is the language of the unheard.
When someone works for less pay than she can live on — when, for example, she goes hungry so that you can eat more cheaply and conveniently — then she has made a great sacrifice for you, she has made you a gift of some part of her abilities, her health, and her life. The ‘working poor,’ as they are approvingly termed, are in fact the major philanthropists of our society. They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high. To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone else.
Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America.
Excellent website. The needymeds card saved me money on my prescription before I started getting a discount through my work and this site also has coupons for over the counter medicine.
Eisenhower understood the trade-offs between guns and butter. “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed,” he warned in 1953, early in his presidency. “The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.
Aaron B. O’Connell, Assistant Professor history at the United States Naval Academy and Marine Reserve Officer.
Poverty is not simply having no money — it is isolation, vulnerability, humiliation and mistrust. It is not being able to differentiate between employers and exploiters and abusers. It is contempt for the simplistic illusion of meritocracy — the idea that what we get is what we work for. It is knowing that your mother, with her arthritic joints and her maddening insomnia and her post-traumatic stress disordered heart, goes to work until two in the morning waiting tables for less than minimum wage, or pushes a janitor’s cart and cleans the shit-filled toilets of polished professionals. It is entering a room full of people and seeing not only individual people, but violent systems and stark divisions. It is the violence of untreated mental illness exacerbated by the fact that reality, from some vantage points, really does resemble a psychotic nightmare. It is the violence of abuse and assault which is ignored or minimized by police officers, social services, and courts of law. Poverty is conflict. And for poor kids lucky enough to have the chance to “move up,” it is the conflict between remaining oppressed or collaborating with the oppressor.