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Astral Codex Ten Podcast

Nov 17, 2018

[Content warning: scrupulosity]


“There is no ethical consumption under late capitalism”.

I hear this from a bunch of people. Sometimes it is taken to its conclusion; no currently living person is morally acceptable. People who aren’t activists reorienting their entire lives around acknowledging and combating the evils of the world aren’t even on the scale. And people who are such activists are (in the words of one of my friends who is close to that community) “only making comfortable sacrifices that let them think of themselves as a good person within their existing comfortable moral paradigm, instead of confronting the raw terrible truth.” IE “If you think you’re one of the good ones, you’re wrong”.

I have heard this sentiment raised by animal rights activists. The average meat-eater isn’t even on the scale. The average vegetarian still eats milk and cheese, and so is barely even trying. Even most vegans probably use some medical product with gelatin, or something tested on lab rats, or are just benefitting from animal suffering in some indirect way.

And I have heard it raised by environmentalists. The average SUV driver isn’t even on the scale. The average conscientious liberal might think they’re better because they bike to work and recycle, but they still barely think about how they’re using electricity generated by coal plants and eating food grown with toxic pesticides. Everyone could be doing more.

And I have heard raised by labor activists. Most of us use stuff made in sweatshops. Even if you avoid sweatshops, you probably use stuff made at less than a living wage. Even if you avoid that, are you doing everything you can to help and support workers who earn less than you do?

Even if you aren’t an animal rights activist, environmentalist, or labor advocate, do you believe in anything? Are you a Christian, a social justice advocate, or rationalist? Do you know anyone who really satisfies you as being sinless, non-racist, and/or rational? Then perhaps you too believe nobody is good.