Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Contributing to one’s own Poverty and Exploitation

Written by: on February 12, 2015

Confession:  I just contributed to the “collateral damage” of which I am a part.  I bought my wife Valentine’s Day flowers from proflowers.com.  I am a horrible man.  I was listening to the radio and on came the commercial.  It was a special like no other.  If I ordered today, I would be able to get the “deal” … Unbelievable price … Unbelievable value.  I didn’t even think I really needed to buy her flowers this year (I was just going to make time and spend the day with her, silly me), but when I heard the commercial, I was suddenly left without a choice.  I had to buy them, if I wanted to be the man I, no she, wants me to be.  So I went online, ordered them and signed, sealed and all but delivered (which is guaranteed to happen by noon today) the deal.  I took care if it and wouldn’t have to think about it one more little bit.

All except just about the time I was feeling pretty good, I passed the flower shop in my little town of Lowell, MI where a local flower shop was offering their Valentine special.  Not as slick, not as cheap … but in our small little town way, where we know each other’s name, I realized I just jipped our local Daisy’s Flowers shop buy going with the proflowers.com deal and sold out the local shop my friend owns.  Additionally by the time I selected the vase, the additional dozen, the chocolates, and the “guaranteed” delivery option from proflowers.com, it actually wasn’t cheaper as I ended up paying $79.95 instead of the $39.95 on the initial sticker price.  So not only did I end up paying more than if I would have just bought them myself and delivered them, I missed out on the human interaction in the flower shop and in the school office where I would have taken them to give them to my wife in person.

And if that isn’t all a big enough kicker, as I write this post and realized I am going to have to tell my wife that I spent $80 on her flowers, and from that fact alone, any time we do end up spending together on Valentine’s Day will be fractured with the stress and tension of my stupid financial decision (spending money we don’t have).  Ultimately this is all because some greed filled, power-wielding capitalists have figured out how to steal roses from the land and people who grow them, cutting out all the little people with their own flower shops trying to make a small honest living with something they are passionate about, creating a nationwide marketing campaign to exploit a bunch of suckers into thinking they need something they don’t even want, driving the price of what gets them to initially sign-up to double the cost, and ultimately in the end creating a whole bunch of “collateral damage” along the way.

While obviously a slightly goofy dramatization, Zygmunt Bauman, a Polish sociologist, in his book, “Collateral Damage: Social inequalities in a global age”, writes a more technical account of the onset, decay, ruin and eventual “hope” for society and its battle between the human nature and the human politic.  As Bauman states:

I am sure, however, that the explosive compound of growing social inequality and the rising volume of human suffering relegated to the status of ‘collaterality’ (marginality, externality, disposability, not a legitimate part of the political agenda) has all the markings of being potentially the most disastrous among the many problems humanity may be forced to confront, deal, with and resolve in the current century.1

In a nutshell, I believe Bauman believes humanity went south when society and its care for the individual became hijacked by the individual and the individual’s care for itself.  Due to greed and a blatant abuse of power of a few, exploiting the masses of humanity, created for a “social economy”, was put under for a humanity who had to learn to survive in a “market economy”.  With all kinds of long swirling schuttes and high reaching ladders throughout his book, Bauman’s ultimate hope is in sociology being recognized as a true and valid science with enough authority for people to hear as gospel and in turn lead humanity back to the social creation it was meant to be caring about and for one another.

The greatest issue I have with Bauman’s thinking is that his hope of society correcting itself through the efforts of sociology is impossible.  It is funny to me that he knows the need for the second part of the great commandment, ‘love your neighbor as yourself’, but has no concept of the first part of a ‘love the Lord your God’ being the first and greatest prerequisite.  Without acknowledging that something is broke within in the human condition and will, that eventually if not regularly will act towards and center-on self and all the self-suffixes, (self-centered, self-reliant, self-preserving, etc … ) Bauman offers no reasonable hope for a cure to the ultimate corruption of sin, of broken humanity in need of a savior outside of self and humanity, to remedy the greater exploitation of our souls and all creation.  Bauman thinks: 

As views memorized and skills acquired are poor and all too often misleading or even treacherous guides to action and as the knowledge available transcends the individual capacity to assimilate it, whereas the assimilated fraction usually falls far short of what is required by an understanding of the situation (the knowledge of how to go on, that is) – the condition of frailty, transience and contingency has become for the duration, and perhaps for very long time to come, the natural human habitat.  And so it is with the sort of human experience that sociology needs to engage in the continuous dialogue.2

So while I ponder the “collateral damage” of the exploitation and poverty I am experiencing this Valentine’s Day weekend, at least I can do so knowing I have a Savior who will forgive me, heal my broken relationships, and set all things right in the Kingdom economy I am praying to be a part of in this world and the next.

1 Zygmunt Bauman. Collateral Damage: Social Inequalities in a Global Age. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2011. p. 9.

2 Zygmunt Bauman. Collateral Damage: Social Inequalities in a Global Age. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2011. p. 171.


About the Author

Phillip Struckmeyer

11 responses to “Contributing to one’s own Poverty and Exploitation”

  1. Travis Biglow says:

    Dont you just hate that when you think you getting a deal and the price changes. Phil, you are the man if you bought your wife that for Valentines day. Its the spirit of consumerism that gets us all the time. And we are always sucked into because our society is just that way. God bless

  2. Brian Yost says:

    So if I hear you right, I do not need to buy my wife flowers and I can tell her that Phil said it would be wrong if I did. Thanks man, you just saved me $80 bucks!
    On a serious note, it is interesting how we make purchasing choices now based on how it will affect others rather than just on what is cheapest or most convenient.
    I loved your quote, “something is broke within in the human condition”. That is really the issue, isn’t it? Our systems are broke because human beings are broke.

  3. Jon spellman says:

    Phil, you know when you walked into that office where your wife works, carrying those roses and whatever else you put with it, you would have been the man! All the other ladies in there would have been thinking “now THATS what a real man does” and all the men would have been thinking “THANKS Struckmeyer! Way take make us all look like a bunch of jerks!”

    Just sayin… Tactical error! Ha!

  4. Nick Martineau says:

    Phil…Those marketers sure know who to suck us in. I didn’t get my wife flowers this year but I have made similar dumb financial moves. It usually involves me being lazy and choosing to spend a few extra bucks to make my life easier. Like you clearly pointed out I then miss out on the actual personal interactions. Thanks Phil for making it real.

  5. Dave Young says:

    Phil… I needed that smile. Thanks. The great commandment does have two postures and without vertical orientation the horizontal will turn selfish and certainly consumeristic. Someone once told me (memory is shot) that efficiency always violates relationship. Your post reminded me of that important value, and you’re right it’s the ones we love that are the victims our our efficiency. Thanks for the reminder.

  6. Mary Pandiani says:

    As I sit right now in a little market near our cabin (we have the grandboys this weekend, and we figured taking them to the cabin would be the best use of time), I’m struck by your and Dave’s comment on efficiency. This little market is the only place I can get internet in the area, and so I come to talk briefly with Gail, the owner, buy a few things, and then set to work to respond to our posts. But other than my exchange with Gail, I’m trying to hide from all the local people so I can get my work done and then be done. But alas, people keep coming up to me wanting to talk (it’s a friendly area).
    So I’m reminded of when I was working in the church – I was always so torn between wanting to be present to people while getting my work done. How can we hold those things in tension?
    By the way, I hope you and your wife enjoy Valentine’s Day, not because the marketers and florists want you to, but because you know love between the two of you. 🙂

  7. Dawnel Volzke says:


    Isn’t it amazing the influence that marketing has on each of us? Thank you for being so transparent in your story this week! My husband has done the same thing in the past – wanting to show me how much he loves me by spending money on things that don’t impress me.:) I now tell him that the most romantic things he can do cost $0. It is way too easy to buy flowers or gifts – but very romantic when he picks flowers himself from a random roadside field! When Christopher was little, he followed his Dad’s example and came home with flowers for me that he picked – only his came from the neighbor’s yard!

    Do people really believe that expensive gifts or flowers equates to romance and love? Thousands and thousands of men out there showed their love this Valentine’s Day based on advice from a commercial or advertisement that they saw. This is how our society does things, and we tend to follow. To all you guys, I recommend giving the gift of time and attention…

  8. Brian Yost says:

    My wife would like to know how the flowers arrived. Did they come fedex or did they come FTD style (sent through your local florist)? What she really wants to know is whether or not your local florist knows you outsourced. ; )

Leave a Reply