Friday, December 23, 2011

Pick Your Battles

You’ve heard this expression, right?  We should all remember that, while we perhaps have certain causes that fuel our passion or certain instances of social justice that we deem in need of our attention, other people might not share the same concern.  I mentioned to someone today that I had some last-minute Christmas shopping to do at Wal-Mart, only to get a look of disapproval and a few words delivered in a cold tone.  “Wal-Mart?  I don’t support them.”  I didn’t respond, but my thought was something like:  Well, thank you very much for the unsolicited comment, accompanied no less with a gratuitous frown that presumably is supposed to have me rethink my mindless, philistine viewpoint vis-à-vis your superior, enlightened perspective.

I have no objection to this person’s beef with Wal-Mart, but I obviously don’t share it, at least not to the extent of avoiding the store like the plague.  That’s my point, right?  I mean, we all have our particular moral crusades, or at least many of us do.  Pick your battles.  We can’t save the world and time is limited; moreover, we have to balance our moral concerns and any activist impulse we might possess with the necessities of living (working for the Man, putting food on the table, having a roof over our heads).

Whether we decide to refrain from shopping at Wal-Mart, protest the Coca-Cola company, refuse to eat anything that isn’t produced by organic farmers, recall politicians with whom we disagree, drink only fair trade coffee, or what have you, we need to recognize that we’ve made this decision for a variety of reasons and not everyone is on the same page.  These reasons might be ideological, political, or as result of our family history.  As far as Wal-Mart goes, heck, why should I penalize hardworking employees of the company just because the company doesn’t support a union?  Who’s to say that my decision to shop for whiskey and hemorrhoidal cream at Wal-Mart is any less ethical than the person who doesn’t?  Yes, it can be frustrating or annoying when someone doesn’t share the “wisdom” of our viewpoint, which we hold to be “self-evident.”  But that’s life, and the quicker we realize it, the easier it will be to deal with the Other.

I submit to you that poverty and oppression abroad—some of which the American Imperium is indirectly or directly response for—is a more important crusade to devote one's moral fervor to than whether Wal-Mart offers benefits to its employees.  Does this aforementioned person express concern over such a tragedy?  Nope, because you gotta pick your battles.

Alas!  We’re entering a political season, and some of us will feel compelled to share our political views.  Again, that’s fine.  Let us not forget, however, that whether we’re castigating President Obama and the Democrats as Big Government socialists who have worsened our economic woes or whether contrariwise we’re expressing our disgust with Republican candidates as right-wing whack jobs, millions of people share the opposite view.  Before you write them off as misguided fools who've been duped, try to appreciate the views of others (and not just pay lip service to the value of diversity and plurality.)