Cultural Abstraction

Friday, April 9, 2010

Too Little, Too Late? Responding Through Corporate Social Responsibility

As I sat in class, another student walked in and my eyes were drawn to his bare feet. Immediately I thought of how peculiar it was and how dirty campus is with all of the foot traffic. But then I realized, he was supporting a cause “One Day Without Shoes” for the company Tom’s. Their point is that many citizens in emerging countries are without shoes and end up with illnesses which could easily be prevented. Now while this may seem to be a promotion with contradictions since Tom’s sells shoes, it works. Tom’s donates a pair of shoes to developing countries for each one they sell… very noble, but could be detrimental to their bottom line. So, why does it work? Well, for the same reasons it works for any other company—because, if you are like me, you care.

If I have an option, I will opt for the substitute product that is promoting charitable deeds. Recently I chose my Earthbound Organic lettuce based on the fact they were giving money back for a cause. We like causes…it makes us feel like we are good citizens. But is it too little, too late? Only one person I noticed was wearing no shoes today, so perhaps there is not enough awareness. Participation was low; I would like to think it was because we live in MI, with the temperatures fluctuating constantly. One can say that it is never too late, but maybe from a consumer perspective it is too little.

There is only so much one individual can do, so organizations have decided to step in with their resources offering more power. Companies in developed countries are beginning to change, stand for a cause, and make a difference. Many corporations are jumping on the social responsibility band wagon, seizing the opportunities offered by the market (Stoneyfield Farms, Trader Joe’s, Ben & Jerry’s, and Starbucks to name a few). They turn these opportunities into strategies.
Are their intentions good or is their main focus based on profitability? For companies that are conscious about their surroundings, holding ethical standards and morals has been an important way of securing not only customer satisfaction, but employee acquisition and retention, all translating into an increased revenues. It is obvious that companies are being ambitious in their attempt to get publicity, but I suppose it does not matter. Companies are recognizing consumer’s desires to support a cause and if there is an opportunity within the market, there has been change for the better. Society has been demanding these changes and companies have been forced to react or act proactively.

While change may be for the wrong reasons from a consumer perspective, and while it may not be enough to reverse damage already done, there is still an effort to change and any amount counts. Companies further altering consumer behavior and shifting the general thinking will only increase effectiveness. Right now, the easiest way is the small actions and if the only way consumers can act is through company’s socially responsible policies, then consumers are advocating a revolution. I do not care why companies are socially responsible, their actions are the only thing that matters.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Alice in Wonderland

Many came to follow Alice as she made her return journey down the rabbit hole. On the premier weekend, I too came to experience the fascination I held for the film of my childhood. Enraptured by the exciting imagery and nostalgia offered by this film, it is a must to watch it in 3D. Amid the many enthusiastic movie-goers, I waited in line to enter the theater even though I purchased tickets a day prior before they sold out. The anticipation was exceedingly high as bars were set by the various forms of promotion and numerous recognized actors.

For me, Alice in Wonderland was all about reliving a childhood experience, but after watching the film, I did not understand the hype—it was a bit excessive. It was a match made in heaven; there were elements typical of both a Tim Burton film and the original Disney film—the darkness, adventure, and fantastical images. While the original Alice from the Disney film is an endearing character in her whimsy and naivety, the new Alice, played by Mia Wasikowska, portrayed a cynical young woman; she was heroic, but much less compliant. Nonetheless, Alice was still fascinating, and I think the complexity added richness to the film. The characters generated the feelings of dread, disparagement, and chaos that were part of the original film, but were disheartened—a product of the plot. The film was made for all ages; it appealed to the eager eyes of children and allowed parents to reminisce.

Although, it is an imitative adventure, the 2010 Alice in Wonderland is attractive to the imagination, offering depth and curiosity. I just felt it was disappointing because expectations were high and the storyline was mediocre and at times, lacked meaning. But, in watching a film, I suppose meaning is what many wish to escape. So, for a few moments, I sought a form of distraction. As I moved closer to the strangers in seats next to me so everyone could be accommodated, I was filled with the wonder that one experiences when assuming the role of a child. While I may not return to watch the film again, and I suggest that it is only watched in a theater amidst the enthusiasm of others, it was enjoyable and the film was a wonder to the eyes.

Monday, April 5, 2010

NCAA Championship

March Madness has made way to the final four, and now, the NCAA final. I am not a sports fanatic and I do not understand the hype. I do understand however that some are passionate about sports whether watching or playing. Along the way, I imagine the disappointment that filled people as their chosen team lost or their University’s team made it close but by a few points were out of the tournament. In a snap, a team is gone or a team has advanced. So many feelings are experienced in the course of a game; there is excitement, anticipation, and dread.
The truth is, it is just a game and basketball is a sport. Unless you are playing and it is your career, it is not the center of your life, but I cannot help but observe that many place its importance above all else. They alter their schedules and their responsibilities become secondary as people obsessively track scores and tune into the game. Everything that was once a priority now rides in the backseat. Yes, many idolize the sport, and any sport for that manner. Players are treated like gods and teams are worshipped as they become a part of one’s daily life. While the talents of these men are incredible and important to many, there are many others that deserve this amount of respect and often remain disregarded. Being a college student, I should involve myself in the spirit, but I avoid being consumed by the game. I will not be found calling off prior commitments because my own desire to watch a game has surpassed my concern for others’ time…this is just inconsiderate. I will not allow what happens in a sport to impact my life.
NCAA basketball players and other sport members devote some of their time doing something they love and are given preferential treatment because they draw in a school’s revenue. What about the many students that work hard and give the school a great reputation? That does not seem to matter until it comes time for recruitment and one is billed for tuition. They too bring in money…yes, not as much, but they also do not require as many costs. They are there to care about their education and future recognizing that they will not (most likely) have people around to take care of them every step of the way. Of course, not every athlete takes advantage of their position, but the fame they are offered can sometimes get to everyone’s head. When we put the game above the welfare or mental well being of others, the sport has surpassed passion and one should stand back and examine things.