Choosing Your Battle - tuesday 2007-01-02 2035 last modified 2007-01-03 1648
Categories: Daily Grind
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I noticed a story on Slashdot expressing techno-wonderment over the YouTube clash between Oxfam and Starbucks, formerly in partnership in 2004, now in a mindshare struggle with Oxfam accusing Starbucks of failing to live up to its stated intentions regarding Ethiopian coffee bean growers and Starbucks replying in kind.

No source given, Oxfam's rallying cry appears to be claims that Ethiopians get only $0.03 per cup of coffee. Which cup? What's the profit margin on that cup? What other suppliers does Starbucks use? What other ingredients go into that cup? How does the Ethiopian $0.03 compare to the other suppliers' - is it an imbalanced portion? How many cups of coffee are being sold, and how many farmers are there, and how well distributed is that income? What does that translate to in Ethiopian monetary units, and how much is it compared to an Ethiopian living wage? How do the lives and businesses of Ethiopian coffee farmers compare to their communities? What fraction of other purchaser's cups do Ethiopians receive?

Why do we assume that a bigger number is going to solve something? Why do we assume giving them their own brand is the crowning moment in some sort of ill-defined yet epic struggle?

Since when was this an epic struggle?

Of all the battles to fight in this world, why would I participate in this one?

I'm not clear on what else Oxfam does, but this one publicity grab has ended up making them look rather petty and venal, lashing out at a former partner over one stain on a corporate record that's not as overwhelmingly evil as they would like it to be.

Even if it is some shade of evil (concentrated caffeine is the devil's work, I tells ya).

With a world full of conflicts, some completely idiotic (cf. Trump vs. Rosie, or anything else du jour in the entertainment industry), some with more weight than they deserve (artificially inflated political divisions), and most far beyond any individual's lone influence, how do you choose which battles you fight?

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