It is commonly accepted that, insofar as we are social beings living inside a community structure, there are two kinds of responsibilities we manufacture for ourselves. Pragmatic, need-based, consumerist responsibility is one of those kinds of action. Acquiring goods, furthering your job, this need manifests itself in the physical realm. The other kind of need is a moral or civic responsibility we feel we have for other human beings; the drive to do something 'more', the sense of duty to help those who are less fortunate.
A problem I see is that in the current socio-economic system in place, the two acts of consumerism and charity have been synthesizes into one all-included package. With our consumerism, we are also buying into the idea that every 5 cents in my cup of coffee helps starving children, and 20 cents goes to a struggling farmer, and so on and so on. The implicit charity embedded in our consumerist actions promotes a kind of moral laziness; your ethical duties come all included in your consumerist package.The system is designed to fufill the needs it creates. Rather than being an opposing force, a metaphysical check and balancing system, or a healthy backdrop upon which our pragmatic consumerism takes place, our moral responsibility has become completely absorbed by capitalism.
Capitalism has the uncanny ability to absorb everything that opposes it. This wouldn't be so bad if the kind of things we felt as human beings ethically responsible for, poverty, starvation, human suffering, weren't given conditions of capitalism. It is thus a short circui Capitalism gives us solace by assuring us that consumers are helping those left fortunate all the while propigating the disease; in reality the system of capitalism itself produces the causes that give rise to suffering it is supposedly looking to help alleviate. The 'charity' is a byproduct of profit, profit is the key factor, and yet we're feeding off this received charity by allowing it to excuse us of active moral duty.
Rather than addressing every issue and tending to every moral responsibility through the lenses of free markets and capitalism, first we must reexamine the way we think about the relationship between consumerism and suffering, because as the coffee shops try to market their salvation for 2 dollars a cup, we need to think about the system we are buying into with that two dollars first. Is it honest? Is it just? Is it sustainable?
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