a time for action: sometimes, no matter how many ways you try to describe a thing, you have to experience it to know what it really is. i’ve been talking about transformative change: what it is and isn’t. what it could look like and what it can make possible in the world. “beyond the boycott” is the birthplace of an experience of transformative change rooted in nonviolent action. rather than a campaign against Whole Foods, it’s a committment to real healthcare & wellness for all. it’s a campaign for a more “whole truth.” if you’re interested, join in the experience, and together, we’ll transform the world. -aKw
Two weeks ago, like now tens of thousands of others on Facebook, I ran across a post on Why You Should Boycott Whole Foods. If you’re like me, you may have experienced a deeply conflicted moment of some combination of shock, disgust, rage and, um…fear. Fear that you will now have to figure out where to get those admittedly pricey but picturesquely beautiful organic foods you’ve come to know and love and, for some of us, give your whole paycheck for.
I’m a stalwart soldier that can take a strong stand for what I believe in. The truth is though, I live in Berkeley, CA, the uber-progressive Republic rivaled only by my hometown of New York City for access to “whole foods” from places other than Whole Foods. As annoying as it might be, it won’t exactly be a hardship for me to go spend my dollars at Berkeley Bowl, Trader Joe’s and the stunning array of year-round weekly farmer’s markets.
But how true is that for thousands of us? Especially when Whole Foods is the only game in town—exactly what has made it such a national success—and exactly what I believe John Mackey was counting on when he wrote his now-infamous op-ed The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare.
Here’s another truth, sheepish as it may be: I Like Whole Foods. After kavetching like many about the high pricetag on everything from Abalone to Zinneas, and derisively calling it by its’ Whole Paycheck moniker every chance I could get, I surrendered to its wide open aisles, carefully stacked vine-ripened tomatoes and apparently happy-to-be-working-there-employees’ smiles. I do spend my whole paycheck, though not being able to afford health insurance frees up a little cash.
And since we’re on a truth roll: I like most of the eight points Mackey made in his piece. I certainly think they’re worth looking into. So I don’t think he’s evil and I definitely don’t think he’s stupid. In fact, I think he smartly calculated the risk of framing his plan as he did. I think John Mackey, like any businessman capable of building a $8B business did some accounting. He accounted for the risk of pissing off a central base. He accounted for sparking a firestorm at a critical point in the healthcare discourse, and I even think he accounted for some boycotts here and there. But he calculated that he would win. Why? Because:
- Most Americans (myself included) have dwindled down to the attention span of a 140-character tweet.
- Boycotts take time, patience and commitment to work. Understandably, we’re sorely lacking on most of that these days, and most impactfully:
- Whole Foods IS the only game in town in too many places for a sustained boycott over an indefinite period of time.
So what to do? Something John Mackey hasn’t accounted for—take the Whole Foods Boycott to another level—tell Whole Foods “I Don’t Buy It.”
If given an invitation, they don’t respond meaningfully to the concerns of their offended core base and those impacted by his statements, we should all get together and go beyond the boycott. Sending peopleTO Whole Foods to SHOP, but DON’T BUY is an action that will get their attention. It’s time to increase the pressure and urgency on Whole Foods, leaving no doubt that we will not only withhold our dollars from them, but will take positive action to drain them of resources. But it’s also time for those of us pushing for change to do so in a way that actually seeks resolution, transforming the issue into an opportunity for real change: change that matters. Thus, any action taken should be thoughtful, respectful, measured and leveraged only if it is needed: if understanding where this is headed, Whole Foods won’t come to the table. Ignoring it away is not an option.
Just like it sounds, in a SHOP. DON’T BUY action, people would:
SHOP for groceries, then “pay” with a symbolic 60-Person bill and tell the cashier that their CEO, in effect, said this is acceptable:
- that it’s OK that 60 people die every day without access to healthcare
- that it’s OK that uninsured adults are 25% more likely to die prematurely
- that it’s OK the lack of health insurance is the third leading cause of death for the near-elderly
Naturally they won’t accept the 60P so shoppers get to tell Whole Foods “I DON’T BUY It.”
- DON’T BUY their food.
- DON’T BUY their excuse for John Mackey’s irresponsible statements.
- DON’T BUY any position that allows corporations to avoids responsibility for their leadership when offering a personal view under the banner of their brand.
Leave the store without the groceries.
This simple but powerful action can give us voice to acknowledge that, contrary to what Mackey suggests, healthcare IS a right. It is buying from Whole Foods that is a privilege.
Going beyond the boycott—which is hard to measure the impact of, potentially loses steam and often devolves into angry protest because people want to DO something—each of us can say “Whole Foods, I’m commited to take action because…
I don’t buy it that Mackey benignly used scare tactic phrases “socialism” and “government takeover.”
I don’t buy it that healthcare is something that every American shouldn’t have access to because “a careful reading of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution will not reveal any intrinsic right…”
I don’t buy it “that every American adult is responsible for his or her own health” even though a flawed system has sold access to healthcare from under the feet of 47 million people.
I don’t buy it “voluntary, tax-deductible donation” is sufficient to address that lack of access, and
I don’t buy it that even if “many of our health-care problems are self-inflicted” for the many reasons–systemic, market-driven, lack of information–that may be true, 60 people should die everyday.
And I don’t buy it for Whole Foods to explain this away as “personal opinions” because Mackey used his access and status as CEO to make his surprisingly irresponsible and self-serving statements, branding it “The Whole Foods Alternative…”
We can leverage our commitment to action for a more satisfying resolution to the betrayal of our trust in shared values. Now that their CEO has publicly stood against so many, what will Whole Foods stand for? In the absence of a meaningful response to their leader’s maybe personal, likely uninformed, but still irresponsible statements, love Whole Foods as we may—-in fact because we love them—-we need to hold them accountable. An organized, nonviolent Shop, Don’t Buy action can do that.
Finally, Mr. Mackey, I acknowledge that your “eight reforms” might work. But this is no longer only about lowering costs, it’s about life and our inalienable Rights—as a careful reading of the Declaration of Independence does reveal—to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. None of those are possible without our health. You’ve got good ideas but you didn’t have to slap us with them. Relationship repair starts with conversations. Can we talk?
Some powers that be, naysayers, talking heads and even John Mackey may believe Whole Foods can just wait out a boycott and continue business as usual without significant impact on their bottom line.
I don’t buy it. And you shouldn’t either.
Get details on Shop. Don’t Buy: http://bit.ly/idbi
copyright MMIX. angel Kyodo williams
angel Kyodo williams is a maverick teacher, author, social visionary
and founder of Center for Transformative Change. she posts, tweets &
blogs on all things change. permission granted to retweet, repost,
repaste & repeat with contact information intact.
Note: The above essay was modified from the original written 8/25/09 —aKw