Of iPhones, Predators, poultry and evil

Today, I’d like to talk about the Confiteor, the Macbook and free-range chickens. The Confiteor is a Christian prayer, a confession of sin that prepares the soul for Holy Communion. In my Episcopal church, we often recite a modern version that never fails to move me.

In one part, it goes: “We repent of the evil that enslaves us, the evil we have done and the evil done on our behalf.” It’s the last part that gets me. “The evil done on our behalf.”

The calculus there is mysterious and weighty. It haunts me.

I live comfortably in the richest, most powerful society history has ever seen. Toting up all the evil done to ensure me those blessings — wow, that’s a tough one.

Some things done in the name of my safety I know about and abhor, like Abu Ghraib. Other deeds are morally dubious, but perhaps pragmatically justified, like Predator drone strikes in Afghanistan.

But that is still the easy stuff.

Let’s look at the tool on which I type these words, my MacBook Air. I admit, I love this slim little sucker. Owning Macs is supposedly cool.

But the recently deceased and totally overpraised Steve Jobs was not only a total jerk in his personal life but in his professional dealings as well. While obsessing over the aesthetics of his products, he didn’t much sweat the ethics of how they were produced. More and more reports emerge that Apple factories in China are abusive sweat shops that exploit child labor.

So add Macs to the list of products whose ethics I must weigh along with price and performance. A part of me rebels at the notion I have a duty to track such things.

Partly, it’s just that I hate spending brain cells on any consumer choices. My wife marvels, not in an admiring way, at how I whirl through a supermarket yanking items off shelves, without regard to price, calories or fat content.

Then there’s the political correctness factor. How can you keep straight which boycotts and preferences really relate to justice, and which smack of that stance of self-righteous superiority that certain Americans love to adopt?

And today, marketers move at warp speed to colonize and drain of meaning words devised to import values into the retail aisles. What do words like green, organic or free range really mean anymore? I’m not sure.

It makes my brain hurt. I’d like to be absolved of the responsibility. But every Sunday the prayer book reminds me that I can’t be.

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