Ben Simmons: Christmas presents, consumerism and mulled wine socialism

Common Weal volunteer Ben Simmons is making an ethical call for action this Christmas - and offering shoppers an alternative

SCOTLAND, like literally the whole world, is a direct democracy. Kind of. Bear with me. 

For those of you with election fatigue I bring the bad news that we have been voting every single day, have done so forever, and will continue to do so until someone figures out a better system. And we get we what vote for in spades more or less right away.

All economies, however excitingly and destructively complex, are simply how what each person decides to buy ultimately adds up. When you decide to buy something you are saying to the supplier "make more of this", and when you choose one company over another you are saying to all possible suppliers "be more like this". There are no exceptions. It is truly a wonderful model of government-by-the-people.

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When it comes to the high street shelves, the only opinion you hold that matters is where you spend your money. We can, of course, shake our heads at the human rights abuses in the fashion industry, but when we buy the same things we decry we only make the situation worse. 

How do those reluctantly spent pounds look on the balance sheet? The same as all the rest - each penny as encouraging as the other for that business to keep doing what it is doing, the way it is doing it. No accountant anywhere has a job totting up your qualms.

The good news is that this same system can be used to make things better. We are all free to choose what we buy, right away. Don’t want to support sweatshops? Don’t buy things made in sweatshops. Want to reduce emissions? Buy things made in Scotland, not China. 

You can be more like the person you want to be just by changing your buying habits. When we support independent, domestic, ethical production we are actively supporting an alternative and sustainable approach to consumerism which keeps small businesses alive, which is especially important when these businesses are significant players in their local communities.

I recently volunteered to manage Common Market through the Christmas period because I think it is important to give people an option to buy something which makes the world better and discourages a destructive approach to retail. 

It is possible to have a lovely Christmas and give people lovely things without temporarily forgetting what we believe in. It is easy for me to be a mulled-wine socialist when I am fortunate enough not to live in poverty, and I pass no judgement on those who aren’t in a position to buy nice things and call it ethics. 

But for those of us that can, there is an alternative. All of the producers on Common Market have been vetted to make sure they produce, design, or upcycle their goods in Scotland, and many (such as GalGael or Silver Stag of Scotland) are social enterprises who use your purchases to help others. 

We have gathered some of our favourite items together to give you a taste of what is out there, and we hope you’ll find something you love. Is this a sales pitch? I’d rather see it as a call to action to be more ethical consumers - Common Market or not, but your support is appreciated. 

If you would like to support ethical domestic alternatives to the high street you can follow us on Facebook and let your friends know about us. In any case, have a lovely Christmas.

Picture courtesy of Common Market

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