Leave it to college students to be struggling with the task of defining what it means to "live within your means". That was funny. They actually may not have heard the phrase before. Um.... it means actually saving up for that iPod, laptop, etc. instead of putting it on the credit card!
Okay, #1 - no one, apparently, understands how capitalism WORKS. It does work. It is quite simply the exchange of money for goods and services. There is nothing inherently wrong with profit. It's how people make a living. If someone has a business selling clothing, and sells it for simply the cost of the fabric, thread, etc, then they have no way to keep their business afloat, let alone feed, clothe, and house themselves and their family. There has to be a profit, or they go out of business. Capitalism is not evil, any more than a knife or gun. A gun can be used in a drive-by or to take what isn't yours, or used for self-protection and obtaining food. A gun is an instrument. Capitalism is a system. Nothing more.
#2, It does no good to complain about business practices you think are wrong, if you also think that "Oh, no one can do anything, I can't do anything, it's just the way things are." Capitalism runs on money! OUR money! And WE decide, not anyone else, where our money goes. I vote with my pocketbook every time I see a commercial that rubs me the wrong way and decide that I'm not buying that product (I've done that for about as long as I've been watching commercials). If money runs the economy, which it does, then YOUR money is YOUR power. I am exercising my power as a consumer every time I go to Food Fantasies (tiny little health-food store), Country Market (tiny little local grocery), or the Farmer's Market in the summer, instead of going to a chain grocery, because when I can afford it, which is not always, I ask myself what business actually needs my money. It really is as simple as that. CAPITALISM WORKS! Just ask Kmart. I forget how long ago, I believe it was during my lifetime, they invested in companies connected to pornography. THEY CLOSED STORES because people boycotted. They lost a LOT of money. Capitalism works.
And my gosh, the next person who whines, "Oh, but people won't do this, and people won't do that, and wah wah wah, no one's doing anything," needs a boot to the head. WE are people. YOU are people. One student stood up and asked, rhetorically I believe, "Who here has actually grown their own food?" like that's just unimaginable. Don and I both raised our hands! My garden was not terribly successful this year, but it will be next year. Don and Carey's garden is HUGE, their entire pantry is full of jars. And making our own clothes is another thing that was mentioned as if it were unthinkable. The clothes I've made myself might not be all that well-designed, but if I have to, I can. Skirts are easiest, but I've made shirts. And I'M people! One person doesn't change much, but NO people change NOTHING. I mean, DUH! Change is brought about by one person - plus one person - plus one person - and so on and so forth. It's not about the government having to legislate anything (a government of which we all are constituents), it's about one person and one person and one person times thousands just deciding to live differently.
I've never felt like such an optimist! And I'm NOT an optimist by nature, but I am by contrast to most of the students there.
It was very funny, that at the end of the forum, after Don getting up and talking about Food Not Lawns and pointing out (in a room full of mainly dorm-dwellers) that we're working on putting together people who have land with people who don't (Bill and his square of beans in our yard), we gave away exactly three pamphlets. One went to a faculty member. One guy did stop and talk to us, though, about edible weeds, so that was cool. Hopefully we see him again! After all, that's one person...