This year I considered making a New Year’s Resolution to not shop at Amazon anymore. But that failed pretty quickly. It’s just that they have all of the obscure books and all of the obscure homeopathic remedies (yes those are basically the two categories of things that I buy on Amazon).
Actually, first I considered making a resolution to buy nothing at all for a year (yeah it’s a thing people do, and yeah there would have been obvious exceptions; here’s Ann Patchet on her year of not shopping). But you know, I don’t think Marie Kondo has a job delivering bread by bike and already I’ve gone through two pairs of gloves this winter and don’t even get me started on shirts and experiments in removing sweat-smells. (Sometimes it just doesn’t come out and it’s fine that’s my biking shirt now.)
So I decided the no-shopping might be too much for me to handle this year but, oh did you hear, Amazon almost moved to Queens! And I decided I could at least handle not shopping at Amazon. (Amazon is not coming to Queens anymore and yes I’m glad about this.)
I felt neutral towards Amazon at first, but I did some reading and I decided I didn’t like them much. The more I know about money the more I am against large amounts of it. Mega-corporations even if they are kind of good are still hierarchical, non-transparent hegemonies. And I am against all hierarchical, non-transparent hegemonies. So there. (Semi-related, you can read this essay by Farhad Manjoo that takes on the question of whether or not it is moral for billionaires to donate even to seemingly good political causes.)
So I thought yes, maybe I’ll ban Amazon for the year. But then, you know, there was that nagging voice in my head: me not shopping at Amazon is not really doing anything to make anything better. To Amazon I am less than a speck of dandruff. Yes, it might be true: none of our individual consumer choices are actually doing anything to mitigate climate change or the wealth gap. (David Wallace-Wells says it in this article.) Not only are our good-intentions negligible, they are often a symbol of privilege.
So I talked myself out of it. Anyway, all I buy on Amazon is obscure books and weird herbs that I infuse in oil to make salves. That’s not hurting anybody.
But it felt so unsettling–so disempowering–to let it sit like that. To shrug my shoulders and say this is good enough. The truth is that our choices as individual consumers are about more than one big scheme to end climate change. They are also about building worlds where we want to live. Maybe that’s a world where you eat food that you grew in your own backyard. Or where your compost bin is full of shiny wiggling worms. Or where the guy at the book store knows you because you always go in asking for weird books. A world built not on a million mindless conveniences but on a few beautiful inconveniences.
It’s February 18th but as Thao and the Get Down Stay Down say, “you can start a new year whenever you need.” So goodbye Amazon.