Here at Aerende HQ, we’re all for peaceful protest. We fully embrace the ideals of democracy and free speech that allow us to march for (or against) issues we feel strongly about. But we also want to make our protests count. To really make a constructive difference to the world, and to be part of a movement that nudges dialogue forwards and towards positive social change. It’s a worry when protest movements that claim to be against division, distrust and ill-informed opinion inadvertently cause or display more of those things. With that in mind, we felt this week would be a good time to give pause to why there is so much noise and enthusiasm for the Trump Protest march, but so little for the other, very meaningful but perhaps less public ways we can pin our colours to the mast.
Our position is that if we really want to question Trump (and I'm not assuming that all of our customers do) we have to challenge him in a way that is not antagonistic. And we have to make it practically more difficult for him to take certain paths. In an ideal world, we would show him that there might be another, more preferable way to use his powers of office. But all of that means behaving better, being diplomatic, getting more informed and, perhaps most importantly, using our purchasing power effectively.
Many of you will already know how passionate we are about the power of normal people to change the world simply by the way they shop. As Anna Lappé so clearly puts it, each time you spend money you’re voting for the kind of world you want to live in. And if we don't want to live in Trump's vision of the world, don’t we owe it to ourselves not to be spending money in ways that support his ideology? Likewise with our behaviour. It’s hard to feel the Trump baby is anything other than stooping to his level, and while hypocrisy may not be the worst of sins, the irony of a massive plastic balloon to draw attention to his calamitous environmental record, or the spending of £16,000 precious pounds on said ballon when there are people who don’t have food to eat, shouldn’t be overlooked.
So, if you’re marching on Friday for a world that’s fair, for children to be kept with their parents and a world not to be run on coal, great. If you’re marching for leaders who should be thoughtful, informed and open-minded, fantastic. If you can’t march or you’re feeling just a little bit uncomfortable about it, read on. We can all make a difference in our own ways, and there are so many actions, big and small that can help. Just remember, it doesn’t all have to be about an instagram post and a shouty placard. Let’s be aware of our own roles within the systems of inequality, and let’s try and challenge that from every corner, whether it’s from the street or the sofa.
- Don’t order that ‘special’ T-shirt or tote bag with a funny slogan. Cotton is widely considered to be the second most environmentally damaging industry in the world. Each cotton tote bag has the same environmental footprint as 327 plastic bags. Every cotton item has been made on the backs of huge suffering of cotton farmers, especially in India, where farmer suicide as the result of the Monsanto-dominated cotton industry is at an all-time high. And I’d hazard that almost all of the cheap ‘slogan’ t-shirts on sale or being ordered are made in sweatshops with poor working conditions, exploitation and abuse. We don't think protests can work if our actions perpetuate the thing we’re protesting against.
- Don’t wear crocs. We know that the style set have been saying it for ages, but there are wider implications too. The CEO of the company behind Crocs, Blackstone, donated nearly $5 million to the Trump election campaign. Show them not to do it again by buying second-hand on eBay (better for you, better for the world). Send Crocs a lovely email or tweet about why you don’t want your money to be spent propping up corrupt administrations would probably be good too.
- Think harder about your digital impact. So many the most popular tech companies are problematic for many reasons. Investors behind Facebook, Spotify and Airbnb all donated to Trump. Every time we use them we are helping funnel money into places we might not like. If it's impossible to stop using, at least continue with care and consideration, and keep an eye out for alternatives.
- Ditch the Anadin. Well, there are lot of reasons to do this. But that fact that it’s parent group Pfizer is keen to make friends with Trump by paying him make it worth finding another pain killer.
- If you bank with (or have a mortgage with) Barclays or HSBC or any of the big five, think about moving your money. It might take a few days or weeks but at least you can sleep easy knowing that your money is not being used to fund drug cartels, arms manufacturing or the coal industry. And if we decide that's too much effort for us are we basically saying we are happy for our money to be spent on these things? And can we really criticise Trump for doing the same?
- Don’t assume that everyone who supports Trump is stupid or ignorant. We don’t live in a binary world and very few people are all one thing or all another. The effect of protests against Trump seem to solidify resolve among his supporters and his popularity is increasing so while they may cause a dent in his vanity, it's hard to see how they will help topple him. Instead, let’s listen and learn. A bit like Queer Eye. We don't all have to be the same to find common values. In fact we could all learn a lot from Queer Eye. Maybe we should send them in to the White House.
- Do espouse the values you’re wanting to see from Trump and his administration. Talking about tolerance is not the same as showing it. Standing in any school playground or public space and watching how parents collect or congregate on racial or economic lines while telling their children to be kind and open shows how entrenched pack mentality is. Likewise, criticising people who voted for Trump (or Brexit) for not understanding or tolerating other people simply shows the exact same lack of understanding or tolerance. The wonderful Sarah Corbett puts it perfectly when she says: “If we want a beautiful, kind and fair world, then our activism should also be beautiful, kind and fair.”
- Think before you share things on social media. Related to the above, it’s simply not OK to berate huge swathes of people for misusing or understanding what they read while spreading quotes from celebrities that aren’t real, or liking pictures of disabled children that have been generated as click bait. We all have double standards but let's try and keep them in check. We want to see more logic and reason from everybody, and a bit more of a critical eye when it comes to interpreting what we see.
- Research, think, research, ask questions, research and think some more. Shouting at Trump with a balloon might make a difference; all of those people getting out of their cars and refusing ever to buy petrol from Esso ever again definitely would. Not to condone tit for tat, but simply stopping spending on so many things hits unethical people where it hurts most. And stopping doing anything is the easiest way of protesting we ever did think of.
So whether you do one of the above or all nine of them, we would love to see more people really living the ideals we want to see. Together we can make a difference but we have to vote with our money, as well as our feet, and in a considered fashion. We have to act in quiet ways that other people might not see. It might take more time, more research, more energy, but it’s worth it. These actions won’t just impact Trump, they will bring positive repercussions across the world.
[Image of Trump Baby via Common Dreams]