Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Company We Keep

I've always believed that we are known by how we treat others on our way through the maze of life. There's nothing more revealing of character defects than how those above the crowd treat those below them in status, wealth, power, and dignity. It's why we elected a President who represented the paradigm shift many of us already felt and wanted to make the norm instead of a quaint idea embraced by an idealistic few.

We knew that treating others with dignity and respect were the keys to creating a better, kinder and more gentle world. We knew that a planet that was lacking in humanity would soon cease to hold anything resembling the enlightened and wise human being. It would deteriorate into an us vs. them, me first, take it all before someone else does jungle of savage and cruel excuses for human beings.

I've tried most of my life to only be around those who are kind, who care about others more than they care about themselves, who are supportive of endeavors without being enablers of bad habits and ideas, who say good things about those who are not in their presence rather than spread mean and self-serving untruths.

I haven't always been successful as I'm one of those people who prefer to believe the best of someone before I accept the worse. And of course, love is the great blindspot that filters all truths, as is the need for survival, the ache for friendship that won't betray you, and the idea that won't turn out to be something other than it claimed to be.

But I'm a fast learner and definitely can say that no one has ever fooled me twice. And along with that learning came the shaping that made me who I am today--someone who will not compromise on her ethics and expects others to live the same way.

For several years I've had many Cafepress shops. I was okay with some of their merchandise as I didn't believe college students who were looking for a beer drinking party shirt cared much if some poor Guatemalan villager made 10 cents for the shirt they just paid 30 dollars for. It didn't seem important that a shirt be 100 percent organic and sweatshop free if it was just going to be used as a limited message against a political candidate I detested. It seemed fitting in a way to use it for that purpose. I always figured people voted with their wallets anyway so if the origin and distribution of the merchandise was offensive to them, they'd simply walk away and buy it elsewhere.

But when I opened a shop that reflected the passion I felt over our need to save the environment, to fight against the corporate takeover of our limited and precious resources, and to promote a healthy lifestyle through the choice of organic food, vegetarianism and other issues that affected me directly, then it began to matter.

I justified my shop at Cafepress even though I was not completely happy with their reluctance to come right out and say these products are not made by people we exploited for a large profit margin in a third world country. I felt they allowed individual artists the opportunity to promote their message in a supportive and like environment. The people who are and were shopkeepers at Cafepress were individual small business owners, the kind of people I support in my everyday life when I choose where to spend my money. I don't shop at Wal-mart, don't eat at McDonalds, and I buy my lattes from my neighbor who is feeding her family with the profits from her personally owned stand instead of Starbucks.

That has all changed. Cafepress is no longer the small shopkeeper many of us prefer to support. Their front page now sports Coca-Cola designs and other corporate contracts. The small shopkeeper is being squeezed out and replaced with those who will work for far less and stay within the corporate lines. Artists are no longer allowed to set the price for their personally created works. Cafepress will do it for them and will also only pay the individual artist 10 percent and no more. This means that the average artist will make about a dollar on every shirt they sell and pennies on buttons and stickers. And worst of all, that doesn't mean lower prices for the consumer. It means that Cafepress is giving themselves the profit we once made.

Of course, this is all within their right to do so. It is their marketplace, their business, and their problem. But for me and other shoppers who take into consideration where the merchandise comes from, how the employees are treated, and how exploitive and corporate-owned the business is, shopping there is no longer an option. In my mind they are no different now than Wal-Mart or their new BFF, Coca-Cola.

Therefore, I and many others are moving many of our designs away from them. And in the way life has of making lemonade, I found the perfect venue for my Environment designs. represents everything I believe a company can represent and still make money. Take a look at their statement of purpose:

Here's what excites me about offering these products through Skreened:

"Everything SKREENED offers is made in the United States byAmerican Apparel.

Since we take a strong stance against any kind of exploitive labor practices, we have chosen to print on American Apparel. Their employees are paid fair wages and have an excellent work environment.

After it's all said and done, wouldn't you rather pay just a little bit more for the peace-of-mind that comes with knowing that no one was exploited to put a cheap shirt on your back? read more

I am looking forward to helping them grow their business with my many designs devoted to saving the earth and each other. I encourage you to shop there and support them because we all need to put our money where our personal beliefs and ethics are or why have them? Here are a couple offerings to get you started, and note that you can take the design that is on this product and put it on one of their other offerings if you wish. You can also add your own text to it. Have fun folks. I am.

This shirt is available at Ursine Logic's Environment Store.

This shirt is available at Ursine Logic's Environment Store.

Later I'll tell you what I really enjoy and appreciate about Zazzle. They are embracing Cafepress shopkeepers with open arms, lots of support, and a cool range of products. They're a great place for those special gifts.

, , , , , ,



kitchenmage said...

I am torn between staying and going. Partially because I would never support American Apparel either (unless Dov sells it) and that seems to be the standard for progressive now. Is there somewhere that doesn't use third-world labor AND believes that women are equal humans, too? I hope so, but haven't found it yet. Sad.

Some Crazy Bear said...

It's worth checking out as they do wonderful work, are small, and seem very nice. I plan on working more on my shops there. Also Zazzle has just been so nice to everyone and so helpful. They understand what a gift they've been giving and appreciate it and us. That's worth supporting.

daniel fox said...

@some crazy bear
thank you so much for your kind words. We're doing our best to live up to and keep pushing the ethics we hold.

You strike at the issue so close to my heart. I am completely behind you in your reluctance to support dov given reports of his behavior and objectifying marketing.

The route we've taken with AA is to use our buying relationship to begin influencing some of their decisions.

It's much harder to do that than to just stand back and *BAN BAN BAN* someone. It can also make you look guilty by association.

I'm definitely not saying that the route we've chosen is absolutely the right one, but it has been thought through.

Also, in the future if options open up that support good ethical choices, we're right there.

thanks for engaging in talking about the deeper things here.

love & respect

Some Crazy Bear said...

Thank you for your response, Daniel. You just demonstrated the major difference between yourself and the indifferent arrogance of corporate Cafepress. I do hope others pay attention and use that as yet another reason to shop at Skreened instead of Cafepress.

Anonymous said...

Nice post. I enjoyed reading this.

Continued success to you!

Andy McBride