Although it was a little over three weeks ago, I am still thinking about something I read in relation to Mother’s Day.
I am sometimes stunned by the level of deception in our world. I have thought this for a long time, but the systematic deception of people in our society did become more striking– more obvious– when I became a parent. The many seemingly “nice” things and the seemingly benign things that we don’t always question– that we either think are harmless or know deep down aren’t harmless. Things about which we feel powerless and say, “oh whatever, it isn’t hurting anyone.” As parents we all have many things to figure out daily about commercialism and our children.
I think about these things because I so deeply want a world that is free of violence and racism and exploitation. And the connections between violence and racism and exploitation–and commercialism have become more clear to me as a parent. And I have to, as we all do, figure out my personal policies about these things. I think about the bigger implications of these things and about my own choices. I have made many significant choices about how to live that stand in opposition to all that– but I also think hard about the areas where I haven’t yet taken a stand. I grapple with my own version of the tugs that many of us feel in some way or another to use the feel of looking at or buying something new as a means to “feel better” in a world that is in a bad way. Some of us are very clear about these things, or not attracted to them. Some of us use bigger expenditures– homes, cars, electronic equipment in this way. All of these things are things to figure out– on an individual scale, and ultimately on a world-wide scale– the questions of what is enough, and what can I be talked into buying and what is the cost to me and to the world of producing the many things we want, use and inhabit.
And in the U.S. there is big business in pushing us to buy things rather than to face hard things.
Since becoming a mother, I think a lot about the effects of commercialism and greed on other mothers. Factory working mothers, mothers without healthcare, mothers whose children are in prison, mothers from entire countries so poor they are faced with impossible choices trying to keep a child alive and with her– or to place a child for adoption. I ask myself whose mother sewed the clothing I wear and for what hourly wage, whose mother cleans the places I go or prepares/cleans/ harvests the food I buy? I think in more detail about it often being someone’s mother who does these things, than I used to.
With that in mind, here is a sobering bit of information that I read about mother’s day in the U.S. The prediction for this year was that roughly $14.6 billion would be spent in the U.S. alone– on Mother’s Day. This figure comes straight from the National Retail Federation– and believe me they oughtta know what we are spending. http://www.nrf.com/modules.php?name=News&op=viewlive&sp_id=918
That sum includes $2.9 billion in meals, $2.5 billion in jewelry and $1.9 billion in flowers. All of this in the name of honoring our important, human unpaid labor. I like the idea of a national day to pause and think about what we’ve done and given as mothers. But if it didn’t involve buying things– if I weren’t so honored, and if instead our schools and childcare were properly funded and doubly or triply staffed with loving competent people– if there weren’t so many commercial dangers to watch for in my daughter’s life as she watches tv, eats food, shops for things in stores and learns to use the internet– well my job would be a whole lot easier. It would really be honor enough to have a world in better shape, not driven by greed. Then I and a lot of other mothers could really relax now and then.
It would be a real honor if all working mothers earned a living wage with great health care and lots of time off to be with our children, go to their schools, hang with them and their friends. A list serve that I am on indicates that someone calculated that the sum which we spent on commercial things for Mother’s Day this year is enough to pay for a primary school education for all 60 million girls around the world who aren’t attending school. If that is true, I am thinking that with that sum we could end female illiteracy and probably end many other kinds of exploitation of girls and women.
In my paid job we are painfully aware and involved in trying to challenge massive budget cuts in schools and human services this year, right here in our city. Many, though not all, of these cuts will fall most heavily on women and children. A very small bit of 14.6 billion would go a long way right here, for many women and children and others in need– in my own community.
How shall we join together as a powerful group of women/ mothers to stand up against commercialism and greed– commercialism and greed with the added indignity of being masked as something especially nice for us– for moms and for young girls, for our children’s birthdays, etc.
Should we start an anti-commercialism campaign centered around Mother’s Day? Maybe we could call it– “Not in my name”. How shall we begin to stand up for a real Mother’s day? How shall we make Mother’s Day a day when we make meaningful progress to make things better for women/ mothers across the world; a day when no one gets to further greed and exploitation and loss in our good names.