Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Starbucks' WIN/FAIL

There's a petition going round about Starbucks' support for gay rights.

This morning when I checked my email I received a request to sign it. Many of my Facebook contacts had been posting about this for the last few days, too. Here's a short breakdown of what the whole thing is about:

"The ultra-right-wing National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is ramping up its attack on Starbucks' support for gay rights. NOM has already tripled the number of boycott pledges to over 18,000, and it's vowing to run ads against Starbucks in 55 countries.

We need to show Starbucks and other big corporations that standing up for gay rights is good for business! In just 72 hours over 250,000 consumers have already signed the our giant thank you card to Starbucks -- add your voice now."

My immediate response was "Good on Starbucks. Gay rights; we need all we can get, right?" So I navigated over to the webpage, ready to add my signature.

Then, I stopped.

My brain felt the familiar anxiety of experiencing a moral dilemma. At 8am in the morning, no less. It's not right, I tell you.

I couldn't get my finger to click the SIGN button. If I said thanks to Starbucks, on the surface, I'd be adding my voice to thousands of others, saying Starbucks is a forward-thinking, liberal company who recognises human rights. But it goes deeper than that, of course.

I would be supporting Starbucks.

Starbucks is the largest coffeehouse company in the world, with 19,435 stores in 58 countries, including 12,781 in the United States, 1,241 in Canada, 1,062 in Japan, 976 in Great Britain and 645 in China [Revenue: US$ 10.71 billion (FY 2010)]

This is problematic for me.

Too many local coffeehouses close due to pressure exerted by big business. It's not just coffee, either. I won't go into a long and boring explanation about consumer culture. All I'll say is that we are smothering ourselves and others without the same choices we have under the weight of the incredible support we give to multinationals on a daily basis. Starbucks and too many others to list are part of this problem.

Two particularly good documentaries about the impact of consumer culture and the corporate effects on society is available on Youtube in full. I highly recommend both of these:

In good conscience, I cannot sign this petition. Of course I support gay rights. I just don't support Starbucks and what it is doing to us, to our children, and to the planet.

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