I’m also drinking a salted caramel hot chocolate, another huge indulgence (360 calories; thanks, stupid new law requiring Starbucks to inform me of this).
But I was distracted from my indulgences by these wristbands that Starbucks is selling. They look like little loops of bungee cord sealed with a metal square. I have to admit they’re more attractive than the LIVESTRONG-style bands. The red and blue bungee bands promote “Americans Helping Americans Create Jobs.” If you buy the $5 wristband, some money will go to a domestic micro-loan program.
My first thought when I saw this was Oh my god, we’ve become our own third world charity case.
I’ve done my fair share of holiday shopping at The Hunger Site, and I would definitely prefer to give someone a fair trade Taureg* ebony and coin silver cuff bracelet from Mali than sweatshop-made Muppet-fur boots from Claire’s Boutique. Nevertheless, I’m always a little skeptical about shopping for any cause. Is making ebony and coin silver cuff bracelets for Americans as helpful as, say, making food or clothing for fellow Malians? Does buying a bracelet lull us into a false sense of good deed-doing and prevent us from writing our congresspersons or donating cash to an organization that would make a bigger impact?
I genuinely don’t know the answers to these questions. I just know that such transactions smack of paternalism in a way I can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe just because they let us pretend we didn’t create our own crappy post-colonial world in the first place.
According to some statistics I’ve heard,** the U.S. is officially a second-world country now, meaning that while we have stuff like the internet and Chipotle, we also have a giant chasm between rich and poor. So now we’re treating ourselves in the same well meaning but half-assed and unsustainable way that we treat Mali or Haiti or Guatemala.
Because let me tell you, every mug, thermos, and eco-friendly reusable Starbucks lunch bag they’re selling here is stamped Made in China. Call me crazy, but I have this idea for how we could create jobs in the U.S.
*The site says Taureg is a “term used to identify numerous groups of nomadic peoples in the Sahara Desert.” Is that why Volkswagen named their SUV “Touareg”? Because driving around in an all-terrain vehicle is kind of like being a nomadic person of the desert?
**The Second World by Parag Khanna. Also, my yoga teacher.