When the Going Gets Tough…A Million Dollar Question
May 29, 2017
How do you finish the saying, “When the going gets tough?” Perhaps you respond with the original quip, “the tough get going” typically attributed to either Joseph Kennedy Sr. or Football Coach Knute Rockne. (Can you hear the Billy Ocean song of the same title looping through your head?) Or perhaps you went for the more modern and cute, “the tough go shopping?”Well, I have a somewhat cynical (and much less catchy) saying for you: “When the going gets tough, we hire slave laborers and children around the world to amuse us for a moment’s happiness.” True statement.
It is a moral dilemma that many people understand but choose not to see. In 2009 there was a forgettable film entitled The Box based on the much more compelling 1970 short story “Button, Button.” The plot starts like this: A mysterious man comes to a couple’s home when they are in financial trouble. He says that if they want a million dollars, they only have to press a button he carries around with him. The catch is that if they do, a person somewhere in the world will die.
Would you push the button for a million dollars? How about for a tee-shirt? Would you conscript a person to years of hard labor (somewhere in the world) so that you can go to a chain clothing store and buy cheaply made ‘fashion’ at ever cheaper prices? That consumer mentality is discussed in the book Overdressed: the Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, by Elizabeth Cline. It answers many questions and causes people to think before spending money at stores that use sweatshops in Thailand, Mexico, China, the U.S. – we are what we eat and apparently what we wear too. In this election year, I hear politicians (some of whom sent millions of jobs overseas in earlier careers) say that the solution to the country’s problems is to, “get manufacturing jobs back in the U.S. again.” This book provides the back story to why the jobs vanished and makes it clear that these jobs will never return. The genie is out of the bottle and for a myriad of reasons we will not go back there again. I beg you to please read this book.
Before you think I am a do-good Pollyanna, know that there are a few things I would do for a million dollars. On the movie front, do you remember the 1993 philosophical classic Indecent Proposal with Demi Moore and Robert Redford? In that she is propositioned by Redford. If she will spend one night with him, he will give her a million bucks. I remember working in an office in NYC when this movie came out and all my coworkers discussed the scenario and the choice we would make. I questioned how tough a choice it really is. Remember, younger Robert Redford (56 when the movie debuted) was not bad to look at, and I calculated that at the time it would take me 40+ years of working to earn a million dollars.
Some choices are easy to make but then tough to stick to. I for one recently cleaned out my cavernous closet (before reading the book) and was disgusted with the amount of clothes I had. I made a pledge at the time to not buy anymore for one year and in the future to be conscious about my choices. Like my food selections, I will buy quality, only what I need, and know where it comes from. I will (mostly) patronize stores that are ethical in their manufacturing practices and that have a strong service component. Or I will be naked walking the streets of Boston. Either way it will be an adventure who’s with me?