Heart to Heart: How We Are the Problem
Hey, it's Tammy, Founder of Soul and Story. I'll be sharing some of my more personal thoughts with you via my series of "Heart to Heart" blog posts. These are my thoughts about a variety of things. Some facts, some opinions but most importantly, I want to challenge you as I challenge myself to think differently, to see things from a new perspective. Or sometimes, it's just to learn something or share new ideas. Some things will be funny, provocative or maybe a bit sad. You're welcome to share your thoughts and ask questions. I'm all for respectful dialogue that offers additional insight. I hope you enjoy!
"I want to make a million dollars this year"
Ever see proclamations like this? Usually its in the form of a new years' resolution or some business owner proclaiming this is "their year".
The lone pursuit of financial gain is an empty one.
This used to be me.
This is me no more.
My purpose in life is not to make as much money as I can. My purpose in life is to use my talents and abilities to be of service to others who have aligned in such a way in my life that we can create mutually beneficial relationships.
What does that mean exactly?
Well, it means a few things. Primarily, I will use my talents, my passion to do my part in making the world a place where inequality, systemic and institutionalized oppression and rampant injustice is no more.
Our world is filled with people who mindlessly pursue fortunes with no regard to the people they have to trample on to get it. Their actions take into no account the social, environmental and financial impact they have on others.
I think most people realize how dangerous this is and we usually blame it on the super rich not realizing that we, the "average folks" are guilty of the exact same thing.
How? I'll share an example...
When we buy a $5 or $10 tee shirt, all we think is that we got a deal. We never stop to think about the value chain that exists that allows us to buy products so cheaply. There is a cost. Someone is paying the cost and the person paying it is usually an underpaid worker (sometimes even child labor), who toil for pennies to make the tee shirt that we consider a deal.
Most Americans have no idea of the true cost of products because our economy puts such pressure on prices where the only way to meet our needs is to drive costs down, which is done mainly by cheap labor, cheap materials and cheap ingredients.
What is interesting, is that most people abhor poverty. If we ask them about workers who work for pennies in dismal conditions, they'll say its shameful that anyone has to endure that. But at the same time, will run out and buy products made by these workers because it is on sale, or because they "got a deal".
We are part of the problem.
There is a disconnect between what we say and what we do. It's not what we say that demonstrates our values and beliefs it is what we do.
Much of the worlds problems, if not all, is because people are not self aware and as such, they do not see clearly the world around them. We are blind to suffering if it means we have to change something we do. We are okay with rounding up our pennies to help a good cause. But not okay when we are asked to change how we think or act, even if that means making adjustments in what we do will help lift thousands, if not millions out of poverty or other ills.
Part of the issue is that we live in a society that satiates people through things, through the acquisition of cars and new phones. We live in a society where news is nothing more than entertainment. We learn through memes and sound bites rather than the serious study and examination of the world we are part of.
So when a celebrity comes on T.V. showing poor children in some (usually African) country who are orphans, who are victims of a preventable disease such as malaria, our hearts break. We agree that we need to send $1, $2 or whatever change (always less than a cup of coffee a day) to provide free mosquito nets to help prevent children from contacting malaria. We make a donation and feel good about ourselves. We then return to participating in behaviors that contribute to the problems of the world and moreover, we don't realize that buy flooding foreign markets with free items (in this case mosquito nets) we put the local mosquito net maker out of business which increases poverty. This is not to mention that in a few years, new nets will be needed and what will happen then?
We love band-aid solutions.
But for some reason, have no appetite for digging deep to help fix problems at their core.
We have the wrong incentives.
And our grossly mislead by people who mean well but don't really understand the problems in which they speak of.
Soul and Story pays fair prices to our makers because we understand the true cost of making an item and that each of our makers are trying to achieve social good in their respective communities. This is what we support. This is what we do. Sometimes, we'll have sales, most of the time we do not. We can't support this work by competing on price. We hope our customers who are our partners in helping to make the world a better place understand the immense positive value they add to the world by purchasing with us. You're changing lives and liberating people. This is impact. This is why our tagline is "doing better than good". So many people are out here doing "good" that actually is detrimental, we have to do better.
My goal isn't to make a million dollars. I don't want to make a million dollars if it means I have to shatter even one life. I don't want to be so focused on monetary gain that I move without love and without regard to people. My goal is to do my part to make the world a better place. If I generate a million dollars in this pursuit, then wonderful! That means that we are making a significant impact in the lives of many across the world. That means we are combating inequality, systemic injustice and doing our part to life others out of poverty and to help them provide for their families.
I hope I can challenge you to think differently about how you shop and to think twice before you buy. I hope you consider supporting those who are seeking to change the very problems you care about in a responsible, sustainable and strategic way. I'm asking you not to be swept away by soundbites, memes and popular culture, I'm asking you to dig deeper. It's not easy, it's not fast and not always convenient. I'm requesting mindfulness, I'm requesting that we know ourselves so we don't (intentionally or unintentionally) do harm. This world is all we have, we are all we have, we are connecting whether we want to admit it or not.
From my heart to yours...