Change comes from individuals
In a free society, individuals’ buying patterns indicate their preferences of goods. In a tyrannical society, the choices of masters decide what someone can and cannot purchase. Our society fluctuates between these two poles.
We are complicit with the creation of our surroundings. We shape our social environment through the content of our interactions with others. We mostly believe, in the back of our minds, that we are a social product and must operate within the confines of our society. We accept that if society is X, then X is just the way things are.
When attempting to rectify social conditions there are two general means of achieving goals. The first is to spread education to other members of society to encourage a revaluation of values. The second is to lobby our masters and ask them to forcibly change the behavior of other people in our society, hoping to alter conditions that make up society.
While this broad description does not fit perfectly within the context of our microcosm of UH, it offers some interesting insights that can be helpful. Even if the correlation is rough at places, the way we view our interaction with each other at UH shapes our larger views of politics.
When an individual purchases a cup of coffee from Starbucks or a T-shirt from the bookstore, that person indicates he or she values the product received more or equal value to the money he or she exchanges.
Unfortunately, as some social groups have correctly pointed out, many UH students do not take into account the social conditions their buying patterns make possible.
The main purpose of social groups should be to educate, promote awareness and encourage members of society to change their way of thinking. When the boundaries of our way of thinking have been pushed to the point where the old ways of evaluation become impossible, change is inevitable.
Why not use the force of government, the institutionalized mechanism of coercion, to pursue social goals? The accomplishments are hollow. Let’s say Starbucks coffee disappears but the bulk of the majority never knows or cares why. They were never brought to understand how their actions create social conditions for thousands of others. Social ignorance still flourishes, laying the bedrock for further social contamination.
Moral justice through coercion, the forcible intervention of government to prevent the buying or selling of certain products, is no moral victory. Moral value is achieved through moral understanding, not forced results. Moreover, we should keep in mind that people are free, autonomous agents. When we use the paternalistic fist of the government to force people to act a certain way, we strip people of their freedom. If we can use the government to coerce people into agreeing with us, the road to serfdom has been paved.
Actions aimed at governments or administrations, a convenient scapegoat, miss an opportunity to address a larger issue that it is us, UH students, who are to blame. The administration sets the contracts in which goods will be provided but we rubber-stamp those policy through our willingness to purchase.
The lines are still long at Starbucks and it is still cool to wear red UH clothes in their current condition. Until these facts change, nothing should change. Until these facts change, we cannot escape the fact that UH students don’t want change.
Spread education, boycott, provide alternatives, rally, but do not attack, shift blame or scapegoat. Society can change only when we are willing to accept our connection to society. It is only a matter of changing our methods of evaluation.
Gilson, a business sophomore, can be reached via [email protected].