The practice of questioning everything we consume—whether they have questionable origins or a history of abuse or animal rights infringement, etc—can be a serious emotional burden.
Today's generation is growing up to be much more conscious of their consumer decisions than a majority of those who walked the Earth before them. While their increased sense of morality makes them steer clear of things that have questionable origins or a history of abuse or animal rights infringement, the practice of questioning everything they consume can be a serious emotional burden. Two Tumblr users discussed this moral dilemma in a now-viral post that addressed the mental fatigue of identifying and opposing the evils—both hidden and otherwise—of the world.
for real you can be an activist without guilt tripping people😀— em🍓 (@alliumvalley) April 8, 2021
The intense conversation began when user rubyvroom posed a series of questions pertaining to modern morality and the ethics of everything from choosing where to eat to what we watch. "Can I watch a great film knowing the actresses in it were terrorized and mistreated the entire time? Can I watch a football game knowing that the players are getting brain injuries right before my eyes? Can I listen to my favorite albums anymore knowing that the singers were all beating their wives in between studio sessions? Can I eat at the new fancy taco place knowing when the building that used to be there got bulldozed eight families got kicked out of their homes so they could be replaced with condos and a chain restaurant?" they asked.
"Can I wear the affordable clothes I bought downtown that were probably assembled in a sweatshop with child labor? Can I eat quinoa? Can I eat this burger? Can I drink this bottled water? Can I buy a car and drive to work because I'm sick of taking an hour each way on the subway? Whose bones do I stand on? Whose bones am I standing on right now?" the user added. While rubyvroom's questions struck a chord with everyone who's been trying to be more conscious of their actions and decisions, another user by the name surelytomorrow pointed out that this pattern of overthinking every decision can be anything but good in the long run.
"On one hand, it's a privilege to be able to choose to acknowledge these horrors or not–we're going to acknowledge that privilege. On the other hand, I once attended a lecture by the explorer-conservationist Jacques-Yves Cousteau's daughter and son and they had a lot of opinions about what we could do to help the environment and the ocean. I talked about how in my country, we have to drink bottled water because it's a desert and there's only saltwater all around, but we're contributing to pollution and all of these things..." they wrote.
"And she looked at me and told me not to fall into the trap of 'activist guilt.' I couldn't remember the exact words, but, it was the first time I'd heard the term and it took a weight off my shoulders. We do what we can. It's so much better than giving up entirely or not doing anything at all because we can't do it perfectly. It doesn't benefit anyone in the end if we just sit around feeling guilty about every little thing in life. I'd just joined Tumblr back then, I was being exposed to way more than I'd ever been before (I was previously just into feminism and animal rights/wildlife conservation/environmentalism since I was a kid), and it was weighing on me."
"As long as humans are humans and living flawed lives—many consumed by greed—there will not be anything in this world untouched by evil. I usually avoid stuff that says it was made in China or other cheap-looking knockoffs, out of fear of them being made in sweatshops. It's exhausting. Then, I read something about how people who actually lived and worked in those would still buy this cheap stuff and how this shocked the foreigner reporting on it, but they just looked confused like, it's what they can afford and them avoiding consuming it isn't going to change the whole system from the ground-up."
"Of course, I'd still, given the choice, give my money to companies I agree with and I'll boycott what I know to support awful stuff, but I also feel no superiority over this and know now it's not as black and white or easy as I thought it was. This is the same reason that moral purity 'you can't enjoy [x] because it's problematic is such nonsense because nothing is pure. There's something bad about everything if you dig deep enough. As long as we lived in flawed human societies we've got to make the best of what they offer us. If you have the choice and means, please, do support those who do good, but also, don't beat yourself up over not living up to an unattainable ideal," the user urged. "No one can. You'll just make yourself so miserable, you either burn up and stop fighting entirely or you'll make yourself a non-productive, depressed heap just out of a bleeding heart left unchecked. You can't make a change to this world if you refuse to engage in it."