Perhaps the biggest problem in the world is that most people don’t realize how powerful they are. We know that many people don’t vote because they think their ballot won’t make a difference.

Perhaps the biggest problem in the world is that most people don’t realize how powerful they are.


We know that many people don’t vote because they think their ballot won’t make a difference.


But people “vote” every day for what kind of world they want to live in. They just don’t realize it.


One example: McDonald’s Corp. is working with its pork suppliers to phase out gestation crates that severely confine pregnant sows.


According to an Associated Press story, McDonald’s is one of the nation’s biggest pork customers, so its decision is expected to have a real impact on how the pork industry operates. Animal cruelty people are applauding this step.


Several years ago, Wal-Mart announced its store-brand milk would no longer contain bovine growth hormone — good news for cows and customers alike.


There are many other examples of people voting with their dollar: Will you spend your money online or at your local mom-and-pop store? Will you decide not to purchase certain items that you suspect or know were produced in an overseas sweatshop? Will you pay extra for organic, free-range eggs? Will you buy American whenever you can?


The examples go on and on, and aren’t limited to businesses or food. The same sorts of decisions are applied to health care, charities, schools, government and almost anything else you can imagine.


Most of us will probably be able to say we do the best we can, when we can. We may know our cellphone was made by oppressed workers but be unable to figure out how to have one otherwise. We may try to avoid purchasing meat from animals we know were not raised or butchered humanely when we cook at home, but end up lowering our standards when we’re eating out.


Well, in those cases we can write letters or click on petitions, letting the company know we might be their customers but we’re not pleased.


Incidentally, Apple just announced the Fair Labor Association is inspecting the working conditions of the Chinese factories where iPads and iPhones are made. This follows a spate of bad publicity about the poor working conditions in those factories.


Anthropologist Margaret Mead’s famous quote was “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”


That’s still true, but social media makes it even more true, because now like-minded people can find each other and work together to get the word out about their pet causes and concerns. Not only that, but people who don’t feel quite as passionate about whatever cause we’re talking about — let’s say sweatshops in China — might be struck by seeing a particularly interesting piece of information, and might feel moved to lend their voice to the chorus.


Given enough noise, companies do pay attention, and if there’s anything social media can create, it’s buzz.


Vote with your dollars, vote with your feet. Vote with what you click on the Internet. And, of course, vote with your actual vote.


You have more power than you ever knew, so use it wisely.


Michelle Teheux may be reached at mteheux@pekintimes.com.