distraction

I open my email, and generally I find some store announcing a new item or a sale. I typically trash those messages. But, since the election, these email flyers read, at least to me, a little louder, more desperate for consumers to consume. Also, I find their business-as-usual appearance appalling. I got one email, however, from ANITBOOKCLUB, that strikes the right tone for me:

The Art of the Deal by Donald Trump is currently published in a paperback edition (and e-book edition) by Ballantine Books, an imprint under PRH. The success of this book enabled Donald Trump’s rise; the book helped make him a household name in the 1980s. It is unfair to accuse Penguin Random House of conspiring to bring this reprehensible person to the highest office in the land; certainly back when this book was published, he was only a twerpy megalomaniac. But now, with decades of evidence of his racist and misogynistic ways, Penguin Random House can choose to continue lining his pockets from book sales, or they can drop the book entirely from their catalogue, and send a clear message to readers worldwide that they will no longer support this hate-filled shart-cannon via publicity (by keeping the book on shelves) or financially (by writing him royalty checks).

This is shrill. I’m a fan of books. I own many (many) books.1 Heck, I even make books, but this mailer asks people to stop the habit of consuming in it’s tracks.

I don’t want to read the news or shop, but my habit is to sit at this machine, type in nytimes.com or theatlantic.com or check out what’s new at everlane.com that suits my Puritan style. In the past few days, I find my fingers typing those web addresses without me even thinking about it until my eyes register NEWS and SHOPPING, and, like a hand touching a hot stove, I command-w.

I want to focus my attention on what I do next. My current instinct is that mindlessly or passively consuming seemingly ‘righteous’ content and goods2 is exactly the type of thing that leads one half of a country to disregard the behavior of the other half. It’s lazy. My whole me is at high alert, and I think that that’s a good thing.3

So, I will participate in this boycott. It will make me look at every book I pick up and think about its provenance.4 Where things come from matters, and, rather than trusting that Whole Foods or some other retailer has checked out the ethics of the production of the things that they sell, I like that this is asking me to put everything I read on the line by holding up to economic and political scrutiny the organizations that produce that material.5

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  1. I didn’t type, ‘I’ve read many, many books’ – I have – but this, I think is about money, right? ↩︎
  2. The Atlantic and ‘know your factories’ and acquiring prestige college degrees are better versions of consuming, right? ↩︎
  3. Ha! ↩︎
  4. Not that I’ll be buying books, I won’t, which will be very hard. ↩︎
  5. I think now of Aaron Swartz, MIT, JSTOR, the Department of Justice, ‘proportionality‘, and the immediate and other responses and interpretations of that situation. ↩︎