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Justifying Occupy Wall Street contradictions, and just doing what you can do

posted by Russ, November 16 in politics with tags ,

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Here’s a confession for you: I’m not perfect.

Now that I have that off my chest, I need your help. All this Occupy Wall Street stuff has really got me thinking. I’ve been hearing quite a bit of criticism of the Occupiers, and aside from the ridiculous, trivial accusations which usually seem to assume that all of the protesters are homeless, jobless losers, there are some aspects that warrant real consideration.

I’ve been hearing accusations that all those who agree with the Occupy movement are basically contradicting all that they are protesting with with their actions. Meaning: The Occupiers rail against Corporate America, demonizing all that it stands for, but then turn around and support Corporate America with their actions and their dollars by using Facebook, owning cell phones, drinking Starbucks, on and on.

Now, I didn’t say this is an accurate accusation, I said it warrants some real consideration. But here’s the catch: just because you disagree with how Corporate America conducts its’ business, question its’ ethics, and are against corporate greed does not mean that you can’t be a supporter of any big business. While I may not agree with how corporate America works, that doesn’t mean I have to live as a caveman, nor does it mean that I can’t patronize a large business that exists in Corporate America (which is pretty much all of them).

I’m sure there are plenty of those who support the protests who are diligent about where they spend their money, who really take great pains to ensure that they only support moral and ethical companies. Much respect to them. There are also plenty who (perhaps unintentionally, unknowingly, or ignorantly) support the very same corporations whose ethics they disagree with. So clearly, there is a contradiction, but I have to say, it’s not an easy thing to avoid and is likely not practical for the average Joe. But the point here is:

Being a part of modern the world, using modern conveniences, and having your dollars support big business doesn’t mean you explicitly agree with how they conduct their business. The good news is that even if you are part of the system you can still take active steps to try to fix it. There’s no rule anywhere that says otherwise.

The point is that for all of us who are not perfect, we’re not doomed to sit around and accept the world that these companies are creating. Simply speaking out, supporting the Occupy movement, or even changing some of your every day actions and behaviors is doing something, and that is what all those who criticize OWS don’t seem to realize.

I, as one person trying my best, do what I can to vote with my money and support what I believe is right. I shop for most of my food at Farmers’ Markets and the local food coop. I try to buy clothes that are second hand or made of organic materials. I drink fair trade, organic coffee. I try to shop at local businesses and restaurants more often than not. I have a bamboo cutting board and use almost exclusively environmentally friendly cleaning products and soaps, and I even stopped using shampoo. I use organic cotton bed sheets and am in the process of shopping for a natural rubber, organic mattress.

But of course, the good news must come to an end, so I’m sorry to say that I do have a cell phone with Verizon (which is one of the companies which paid no taxes from the years 2008-2010). I have my money in Chase and Capital One banks. I have a retirement account (with socially responsible investments) held with Vanguard. I drive a foreign car that likely burns foreign oil. And I love to travel. Tsk tsk.

So yea, I’m not perfect. But that doesn’t mean I don’t care.

So now we’re to the point where I need you help: Assuming you, like me, want a better world for all of us, but also want to make sure to lay the proper foundation for your older years, where do you invest your money? With Wall Street being at the center of so much negativity, I truly do feel like a hypocrite knowing that I may be contradicting my values with my investments, however insignificant or trivial they may be.

I’ve already put my IRA investments into socially responsible investments. But what about my 401K? None of the options I have available meet my “social” criteria, do I forgo the 401K and just put my money into socially responsible investments through my IRA? Or is there an option totally outside of the scope I have thought of?

What about for banking? I’ve looked into the local credit union, but I do have a savings that I’d like to at least get a small amount of interest on, and my Capital One savings offers interest rates that the credit unions can’t match.

Am I missing the point? Am I being greedy? I want your feedback. How do I make sure to support my beliefs while taking care of my future?

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Originally posted on Wednesday, November 16th, 2011 at 5:53 AM .

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