Saturday, December 22, 2007

Get rid of the jitters

I'm all about social justice. Really, I am. I agitate for fair wages and health care, as much as I can. I give change, when I can, unless somebody gets right up in my face.

But I'm still worried about fair trade coffee.

I know, I know: It's the only decent thing to drink, and I'm an awful, fascist-supporting bastard because I opt frequently for different varieties, frequently *gasp!* Starbucks. I know, it's as evil as drinking Darth Vader's sweat. Or is it?

I've long wondered why Starbucks is such a bogeyman for many activists on the left. I mean, I understand that a corporatized chain of coffee places strikes right at the blood supply of the left wing -- at least in the David Brooks-popularized fantasy of political culture -- but you'd think that liberals would have better things to do than fight against a company that consistently tops lists of best companies to work for.

Plus, I wonder if the whole fair-trade labeling idea isn't getting a bit politicized. Fair-trade only certifies certain kinds of independent, family-owned co-operative (et cetera) coffee farms, which produce something like 2 percent of the world's coffee. Starbucks has their own deal, and they consistently pay above-market prices for their beans. They're hardly the evil empire.

Finally, there's this: I'm all for my coffee purchase making a difference in somebody's life. But I don't want my coffee to taste like honest toil. I'd rather it tasted like sweet, sweet imperialism; evil and rich.

Sometimes, the big green machine is the best of both those worlds.

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