Saturday, August 1, 2009

And I will take door number....

Making your choices in a manner that benefits you.

Agency. The final frontier. The ability to feel in control of your situation to the point of knowing how to take steps to adjust your path if needed.

Agency is a huge issue in poverty, policy, fashion, career choices, living situations.
The woman who is in an abusive relationship thinks she cannot stand on her feet without him.
The employee who attempts to institute fresh ideas who is impeded by the old-boys club mentality.
The family on welfare (or a tight budget of any kind for that matter) buys all canned and frozen groceries from Wa.l -mart because they can buy clothes and other things there also, and don't want to take a separate bus to a market with fresh food.
The clothing industry produces most garments in the third world in questionable factories.
Overweight people who eat poorly because they like these foods, or don't exercise because it's hard.
People work jobs which take them far from their loved ones, far from their passion, in order to provide the standard of living they believe is necessary for "happiness" (the 2 days they're home every two weeks).

All examples of people who HAVE choices, but really feel like they are stuck.

I live downtown. I am surrounded by examples of people who feel like they have no agency over their situation.
The homeless sit on the street begging, and people say "there are so many organizations developed to help them". And there are. Institutions ready to give a hand up to someone willing to make change. They assist agency. So why do the homeless remain an issue at all? The homeless man feels embarrassed at his appearance, angry at his inability to control his addiction, proud that he can at least self sustain by begging rather than becoming dependent on someone else's charity. Or, sadly, some don't want to end their addiction, or it's grasp is just too tight.

But why throw stones. We all have things we like or dislike about ourselves.

It seems like the more you think about it, the more you realize- there's help out there for everyone, if you really want to change things in your life. I mean- reality television is full of self help, as long as you're willing to subject yourself to a bit of humiliation too (see Pretty Wicked on Fashion. Those girls have PROBLEMS). If not, there's hope for you yet, even if that help only comes from adjusting your attitude:

I felt like I did not have control of my academic understanding of human ecology. I have started a blog to review it's relevance in my life. In addition, it allows me to share some of my best (and worst also, I'm sure) moments with people I know.
I felt like I did not have control of my food consumption, my allergies were beginning to control me. My husband and I now eat home made food every day, and I buy groceries on the weekend and prepare a big Lunch Soup for the week. This also made it a lot easier to budget as we stopped buying takeout from school and work.
I felt like I was not being active, both socially and from a physical perspective. I set up a weekly coffee date with some of the truest friends I have ever known, even if we had lost touch. I got rid of my downtown parking space, and now park down a giant hill which I walk up and down every time I need my car. This makes me acknowledge what an amazing greenspace Edmonton has in the river valley, and also makes me consider how much I need to use my car a lot more carefully. (Walking is Rad. My view of the city parks is amazing).

I find that the more I take control of little things that matter to me, the more I am exposed to additional perks and benefits that are just along for the ride. The JOY of being at ease with who I am, and that at least in little ways I am attempting to better myself, learn from things. It makes accepting my flaws that much easier.

I want to make a lot of my own clothes; I find I put it on the back burner, because the rest of life has me busy busy busy. I know that would make me a lot more at ease with the ethical clothing issue. One course last year had us watching a documentary about a little chinese 14 year old girl who snipped threads off jeans for less than a dollar a day. I sometimes discuss with friends as a joke, "oh, little Bei Lei didn't finish my jeans, she only gets $0.06/hr now". And then my laugh turns into a wry smile and my stomach churns, that my western culture has progressed to where a $10.00 shirt is more important than someone else's living situation. Yes, they are across the world, but I am the one supporting that notion, because I am cheap and I am not taking agency over my stance on the issue. I am part of the problem.

So maybe that will be my next endeavor for personal change. If I didn't sew it myself, or buy it from a second hand store, it should be ethical. I know NICE (New, Innovative, Concious [eco], Ethical) clothing exists! American Ap.parel produces in America and pays decent(ish) wages, so I'm on board. Sure most company's have an ethical standpoint on their website, but it usually reads like a plausible deniability smoke screen. "we strive to ensure our workers receive adequate pay and appropriate benefits, upholding the labor laws of the specific country in question" ("strive" means when they visit and talk to the workers, if they say they get paid "X" and get "X" days off, it's all roses even when employees know they're forced to lie or be fired). This bothers me so much, I subscribed to e-mails from a global union support website newsletter which advises what factories are really up to, which country governments are in cahoots with manufacturers to try to discredit or destroy unions. In some situations (more often than I'm comfortable knowing about) people die for the right to get paid enough to live. What a disgrace! Go to to learn more about the insane things which occur in the name of a cheap sports bra.

What do you guys think? Is it possible to change this world we live in? Does boycotting certain brands you know have breached your personal limits do anything? What about letter writing, or do you think people should show support through monetary support of NICE clothing to get their message across?
What about places like
They rescue sheep and make clothes that are sooooo cute.
Barring me being allergic to wool, I would absolutely love this clothing.
Should we all start to think, live, eat and play NICE, and the corporations will follow?


  1. Steph made a similar choice over a year ago and hasn't looked back since. I'm proud of you both taking the reins in your lives.

    As a non-believer in a puppetmaster/creator/highfalutin' poobah, my personal belief adheres to "life is what you make of it and choices are available, even in the shittiest of circumstances". That's not to say you can't be a miserable fuck, just that you have some choice in your misery.

    And sometimes choosing your own misery has its rewards. Whence empathy or creativity if not from a place of occasional suffering? Although perhaps setting limits is reasonable. You don't want to empathize your way into sharing a glass of Kool-Aid with Fearless Leader or end up earless, even if you do paint a beautiful starry night.

  2. First: thanks for the congratulations. Second: yeh, people can be miserable, even when they are very conscious that they have made their own decisions, they often don't see the direct link between those choices and where they end up every day. Third: Empathy is something most people don't have enough of, and I think brainwashing cults are obviously the root of why most parents seem incapable of endowing their still young children with this priceless gift. That was quite the nugget of knowledge.

    Fourth: I am curious why someone so seemingly ambivalent to religious belief, who chooses to bathe in agnostic and atheist reading on a regular basis is so ready to bring religion into so many conversations which they are not previously involved. Strangely, as someone who has been raised in a fairly religious household, God is HONESTLY the last thing I think of when taking control of what I eat and where I park my car. I can assure you that even those who believe in a greater being (and most don't like the concept of a puppet master either, much as that may be your interpretation) believe that free choice is a condition of this Being creating us in the first place. Especially in Judeo-Christian circles, or even heavily ritualized religions such as strict Muslims, the belief that God gave people choice is what makes culpability for our actions fair. How would a god be supreme and just when dictating our lives to the most minute detail and then holding us accountable? Most zealots or whatever you may think them to be instead adhere to something similar to the basic ideology: We do wrong, we need to atone or apologize. We do right, we are rewarded. This strangely enough is continued through other religious and philosophical circles viewed by most as much less "puppetmaster"ish- buddhism, taoism, shintoism, scientology, The Secret, Deepak Chopras Creating Health teachings, Hinduism and a giant portion of other helpful ideologies which I cannot be bothered to identify. These all simply provide people with a philosophical framework for their lives. It's also similar to the idea of "you are what you eat" so Im sure some nutritionist will also have something interesting to say.

    I didn't realize that the discussion of agency would be received as some sort of religious discussion, but I welcome the weirdity.

    Very very curious.