activism, sustainability
Comments 19

Painting the snowflakes red: The insanity of capitalism in 500 words

Alice in Wonderland strikes again. Over the past 65 years, millions of children have marveled at the absurdity of the Red Queen making her minions paint the white roses red, or lose their heads. Unfortunately, the same children grew up and became mindless consumers of plastic junk, not giving a second thought as to who made their peculiar trinkets.

But this Christmas, a stunning article by Oliver Wainwright at The Guardian made it impossible to ignore. No art director in the world could come up with more unforgettable images of Santa’s workshop from hell. Wainwright writes: “Wai is 19. Together with his father, he works long days in the red-splattered lair, taking polystyrene snowflakes, dipping them in a bath of glue, then putting them in a powder-coating machine until they turn red – and making 5,000 of the things every day. In the process, the two of them end up dusted from head to toe in fine crimson powder. His dad wears a Santa hat (not for the festive spirit, he says, but to stop his hair from turning red) and they both get through at least 10 face masks a day, trying not to breathe in the dust.”


And this is just one among countless displays of the insanity of blind capitalism we are subjected to every year. When is it going to truly sink in?

There is not a single person on this planet who can claim that red Styrofoam snowflakes so greatly improve their quality of life, to the point that young, faceless men and women have to sacrifice their health and lives to produce them. I mean, sure, you could claim that, but then you also have to admit to being a terrible human being with no empathy or compassion for others.

Because this is what it comes down to. Most of us actually don’t know the true cost of the things we buy. If we did, we would buy less and pay more.


Humanity is pretty good at arguing about pretty much everything. But there are some infallible truths. 1) we need this planet to survive. 2) we need other people to survive. 3) we need a fair system in which to distribute goods and services.

So when designing such a system those are things to consider, in that order. Planet. People. Profit.

My article Why ‘voting with your dollars’ doesn’t work received a lot of attention. Some people agreed that we need to change our values before what we purchase really matters, and others disagreed vehemently, saying that voting with our dollars is all we can do and that the power lies with the consumer. I respectfully disagree. The power lies within the system itself, and who can manipulate it the most. But change is possible.

Consumers have a responsibility to demand ethically produced goods. Companies have a responsibility to produce goods within standards set by society at large. Lawmakers have a responsibility to pass laws that benefit, and ideally, improve the planet and people’s quality of life. Currently, we have a handful of consumers who work tirelessly to advocate and implement change in their communities. The rest are perhaps just trying to get by. We have a handful of small companies that are local, sustainable and ethical. We have massive, global corporations that are above the law, trash the planet, abuse workers, and destroy communities to make a sale. And we have a bunch of puppet politicians who allow it all to happen.

Sustainability starts with changing your values. Until then, everything else is business as usual.


  1. Beautiful article that fits so well into my plastic-free transition–are all of these novelties and disposable toys that we buy tirelessly year after year worth the environmental and human impact? I say not–shared this with my friends and followers, thank you!

    • Thank you so much! Yes, the rabbit hole into sustainability is long and full of crazy realizations you never expected to find – but I’d rather live with eyes wide open and know the truth about our lifestyle than turn away. I look forward to following your blog and your journey :)

  2. What work. They are too many stories like that, chemicals being a hazard to the workers. Even in farming with all the pesticides. Conscious consuming is the only way, if given.

  3. Excellent article on this topic and story! I have been trying to avoid buying anything from China that may promote unhealthy and unfit working conditions. In our modern world this is hard to do sometimes. I urge everyone to just look into where and how companies build their products. In the same vein; people should consider buying used. There are some great deals to be found at thrift stores. By doing this you are supporting a local economy, plus preventing more useless merchandise from being produced (in a way). Again great article, I look forward to your future work.

  4. Pingback: Painting the snowflakes red: The insanity of capitalism in 500 words | Shunyata's Apprentice

  5. Great post! Sadly, we are often aware yet push it to the back of our minds as an inconvenience. The problem is figuring how to make it personal so that people actually care. Society is far too de-sensitized to make any real change as it stands.

  6. The images of the man in face mask and paint everywhere really brings the point home – all of these Christmas knickknacks are worse than meaningless, they actually pollute and contaminate people and the planet. when is it going to end? Whatever happened to making snowflakes out of paper and straw with the kids – we used to have beautiful home-made decorations. And it was enough….that word needs to become more popular…enough…we’ve got enough already. Not a milli-ounce more of happiness can be bought with more stuff.

  7. Reblogged this on bobdillon33blog and commented:
    Good on you honeythatsok. Happy Xmas. The battle will be long. Unfortunately there is only one way to make Capitalism contribute and that is to cap it cold heart as I suggest.

  8. Excellent post! We chip away as individuals but we need systemic change and as business and vested interest will sit tight for as long as they can, we need to pipe up and demand it from companies (large and small) and politicians. And yes, it involves endlessly engaging people which can feel like a gargantuan task when we are all just muddling through. We also need to start telling a new story and reminding people that economics should serve people/humanity and not the other way round and to all those apologist who go on about the importance of economic liberalism and the market’s ability to rectify itself, economic liberal is only a theory, no more than that. Somewhere in the 20th century it got elevated to some godlike truth, but it is not a law of nature, not a mathematic axiom, just a theory and one that is not serving us well.

  9. very well said. I do not buy from china or countries when i see that the price is ridiculously low. i think of how little the workers get and I try to need as little as i can . buy vintage give as much as i can. true- my profession confuse some people but I’m just a starving artist like many of us. and happy with the little I have.

    • Thanks for your comment! You’re doing better than me, fellow starving artist – I’m still guilty of buying a few cheap nicknacks and clothes from China but every time I see a story like this it makes me think twice next time, so I like to share them far and wide because it’s a process for everyone to re-think our daily habits.

  10. svjohn says

    whoa! in-cre-dible, just another stellar piece of authorship, thought & contribution to the dialogue of change and healing our global community will benefit from tremendous :D

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