I sulked and moaned and whenever I heard my name. I said, “I don’t want to!”
from: No, I Won’t!
written by Manica K. Musil
Windmill Books, 2020
A couple of years ago, when a new Mejiers was being built in the town next to mine, I vowed to not shop there. I have nothing particular against the store. It stocks everything from soup to nuts. Clothing, food, books, towels, pet toys, garden supplies, and a pharmacy. I took a look at their website just now. It looks great, but I still won’t go there.
The company built on land that was wild. They built a retention pond because the amount of land they needed for the store and the parking lot is vast. Now it’s paved and landscaped. I’m sure some people were hired. In my area of Ohio that’s not nothing. I understand.
My priorities are different, though. I value the land more than I value another one-stop- shopping store. But that’s just me. My personal boycott, even though I told many people about it, and now I’m mentioning it here, won’t make a bit of difference to Mr. Mejiers’s bottom line. I don’t need to shop there, and I don’t. It makes me feel like I’m at least doing something to defend Mother Earth, even though I know that something is very small.
It’s my personal boycott. Which got me thinking about the word boycott. It’s an odd-duck of a word. Not made up. Not derived from another language. Not even very old, for a word. Turns out boycott is really Boycott, as in Charles Cunningham Boycott (March 12, 1832 - June 19, 1897). He was a land agent in Ireland. It was his job to make sure seasonal workers harvested the crops on Boycott’s boss’s land. When local activists decided to protect workers’ rights, they encouraged Boycott’s employees to “withdraw their labour.” Even the shop owners in nearby towns refused to serve Boycott. He wrote a letter of complaint to the London Times that got the attention of the local Irish government. Some sources say the work stoppage cost the British government and others ￡10,000 to protect the workers and make sure the crops were harvested.
It was such a big deal, that Boycott’s name lost its capital B. Just like kleenex, xerox, and white-out, (wite-out is the brand’s spelling) boycott, as a word, was coined.
Individuals have reasons to boycott. Activists have reasons to boycott, too. Even governments have reasons to boycott. In its simplest terms, a boycott is a refusal to buy something from a company or an individual whose policies you disagree with. A boycott could be a refusal to work for an employer whose work ethic is immoral or unethical. It could be a refusal to participate in activities financially beneficial to a country whose government acts immorally or unethically toward its citizens.
And here we are at the Winter Olympics, 2022 in Beijing. The Biden administration is staging a diplomatic boycott over what it calls genocide and crimes against humanity in the Xinjiang region of China. The humanity he’s referring to is the Uyghur population. They are Muslim. And Chinese. It has been said that more than a million Uyghurs have been detained in “re-education camps” (read: concentration camps). They are not allowed to use their native language and must speak Chinese. There is evidence of forced labor, torture, and sexual abuse.
The United States is not alone our diplomatic boycott condemning this behavior. Canada, Australia, Japan, Lithuania, and the United Kingdom have all announced diplomatic boycotts.
The Games have been boycotted before for different reasons, by other countries.
1956: Seven countries boycotted the games held in Melbourne, Australia for a variety of reasons.
The Soviet Union had invaded Hungary in an attempt to stop a
revolution against the Communist regime. In protest, the
Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland all refused to participate.
The People’s Republic of China withdrew because Taiwan
was allowed to participate as a separate country.
Egypt, Iraq, and Lebanon boycotted the Olympics due to the
British-Israeli-French invasion of Egypt to control the Suez
Canal. That year, 1956, in a show of peace, the Olympic
athletes, for the first time, marched into the closing
ceremony mixed together, rather than as separate nations.
It’s a tradition that continues today.
1976: Twenty-eight African nations decided to boycott the games when the IOC allowed New Zealand to compete. New Zealand’s Rugby team had recently toured South Africa, defying an international sports embargo due to South Africa’s apartheid policies.
1980: Sixty-five countries supported the US-led boycott of the Games held in Moscow. Soviet Russia had invaded Afghanistan and the world spoke out. Some athletes competed without a flag, some competed under the Olympic flag, but most sat out the games entirely. With so many powerful athletes out of the competition, the Soviets won 195 medals, an Olympic record that still stands.
1984: Fourteen countries followed the Soviet Unions’s retaliation of the 1980 games. Even so, the Olympic Games set a record for the most-seen event in TV history.
1988: Cuba, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, and North Korea boycotted the events held in Seoul, South Korea, claiming security issues. Even with the boycott, the Games set new participation records. Eight thousand athletes competed from 159 nations.
All these boycotts are motivated by politics. This year, though, the United States did not prohibit our athletes from competing. President Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki stated, “The athletes on Team USA have our full support, we will be behind them 100% as we cheer them on from home.”
While protests are also political, a boycott usually has some financial consequences attached to it. While I continue to boycott Mejiers, Home Depot, and Chick Fil-A, I know I’m doing so for my own reasons, not for any financial repercussions to the companies. After all, I’m a pretty small coin in a very large banking system.
-—stay curious! (and true to your convictions)