There has been talk of boycotts in the air this week. The Russian government's actions against LGBT people have prompted a call for a boycott of Russian vodka.
I can't say I drink much vodka, and if I did I don't think I'd shell out for the Russian stuff, it's expensive here in the UK. But if I did then yes, I'd probably order something else.
There, that'll show them.
You see, there's the problem with consumer boycotts in a nutshell. They feel good, but do they make any difference? We've stopped buying vodka, there, that'll show Putin and his cronies! While meanwhile the police in Greece are rounding up LGBT people by the trainload, yet I haven't heard so much of a whisper about boycotting feta or Kalamata olives.
Fortunate that, I like feta and Kalamata olives, it'd be a shame to have to give them up.
Pretty pointless, huh. Like the boycott of Outspan oranges and Cape pears from South Africa in the 1980s while anything with gold or diamonds in it probably came direct from a South African mine.
The trouble is, I want to believe. I should stop buying Greek and Russian products just like I stopped buying Israeli products a few years ago following one of their more outrageous military actions in the Occupied Territories. Hell, I should stop buying Chinese products over their human rights record, or American products because of Guantanamo Bay. And don't mention the Chagos Islanders too close to any Buy British campaigns.
But it's no good really. Even full-on UN sanctions haven't dislodged the governments in Iran and North Korea, so why should a few privileged Westerners with a consumer boycott do anything to unsettle Putin, or Golden Dawn? Russian gas keeps the rest of Europe warm in winter, are German gay people going to freeze for their principles? Didn't think so.
So there you go. A defeatist post, there's nothing you can do, go home.
There is one thing a consumer boycott does do very well, it keeps the issue alive. "Oh, that vodka's Russian, I'm not buying that!" - "Oh, why's that?". If people are talking about an issue that is inconvenient for the government in question, it makes it less easy for that government to put a positive spin on it or push it under the carpet. And it's embarrassing to find your government's actions have caused you to be unwelcome on your travels.
So by all means boycott vodka. Boycott olives or cheese. It's not entirely pointless.