When my father and I were in Vermont last week, we went on the Ben & Jerry’s factory tour in Waterbury. I knew that wandering through Peacenik Vermont would be a culture shock, but I insisted in indulging in some anthropological field work.
The factory was full of colorful eye candy, the tour was efficiently conducted and informative, and we were able to sample one of the ice cream flavors being processed that day (Oatmeal Cookie Chunk, which was quite tasty). It was definitely worth the stop.
The flavors are great. Yet, something annoys me about Ben & Jerry’s “progressive” company.
Now, I do not have a problem with its company mission. Indeed, I think that its three part mission statement is an admirable example for corporate America. The three parts are the social mission (being a responsible corporate member of the community), the product mission (developing and maintaining excellent products), and the economic mission (being a sustainable, profitable company for shareholders that offers opportunities for workers). I think that the last two are necessary considerations for any business, whereas many capitalists only concern themselves with the last one and subsume other considerations as merely instrumental ways to further profitability. In contrast to them, I think that the production of goods ought to aim at excellence in the product even without consideration of profit, while, of course, realizing that at a certain point one’s striving for a better product could sacrifice necessary profitability. My point is that businesses should consider both as natural ends for their activity.
I am not so sure that I agree with the “social mission,” thinking that “social justice” is an individual matter rather than business’s business. A company improves its community by employing people with honest work and fair pay. It ought to be responsible with the natural and cultural resources that its uses. Beyond that, I think that Ben & Jerry’s social activism would be better carried out by Ben and Jerry as individuals or through their charitable foundation. “Corporate charity” does cause confusion about the proper role of businesses and about the true nature of charity, in my opinion. However, it’s their company, and it certainly isn’t doing bad things.
So, what is so objectionable about these left-wing Vermonters? They shamelessly display their obnoxious, Leftist preachiness. At the factory and in every one of their ice cream parlors, one encounters in every direction the self-righteous, smug back-patting that I find so distasteful among Leftists. Signs, brochures, product design, and wall paintings all invite the snarky observer to scream out, “Good for you!” à la South Park.
What is with these latter day righteous crusaders? From folks who seem quite sensitive to the “holier than thou” attitudes of arrogant Christians, one would expect more discretion and humility.
I suspect that Ben, Jerry, and their pals would defend their self-glorification as an “awareness” campaign: “See, we do our part, and you can do your part, too.” I see the point, but I don’t believe it. Rather, I think that we see in them the secularized traits of their “divinely elected” ancestors’ spiritual prelest. For Yankee Leftists, their green communities are the City on a Hill, and their social justice activism are signs of their election. Not to preach the gospel of global warming, recycling, clean energy, and anti-racism would be to hide one’s light under a bushel. Instead, let your light shine before men—and remember to contribute to the D.N.C.