Thursday, June 17, 2010

Shopping - your most political act

Usually when we think of political acts, we think of voting and elections and political parties and maybe even political protests. Well, I'd like you to think about this premise: that shopping is the most political act you will ever undertake.

What?? (or, as the Thai love to shriek, "array wah??!!")

Politics is nothing more than the system we make for managing and governing groups of people, whether that be at the local community level or on a national level. And right at the heart of the growth of a community and the health of a national economy is the age-old issue of the flow of money and resources.

The choice I make of where and how I shop profoundly affects people, whether I am conscious of this fact or not.

Let me share a living example from Chiang Mai, Thailand. In my local village, there is a Thai mini-mart that sells everything you could ever want, next door to a newly established Tesco-mini mart. The Tesco is brighter and bigger and has better aircon, but is actually more expensive and has less products to choose from; it is also part of a multi-national retail group which ultimately siphons the profits back to the UK. So if I spend my 1,000 baht at Tesco, after costs and taxes etc are paid, the profit goes to the UK, which enriches the UK economy in the longer term. If, however, I choose to spend that same 1,000 baht at the Thai mini-mart next door, the same profit will be spent here in Thailand by the lovely Thai people who own that business. And then they, in turn, have the choice to enrich another Thai business, which grows the developing Thai economy.

When you buy fair trade products, you are literally buying into an ethos about all people having the right to a fair livelihood and fair employment conditions. You are literally putting money into the hands of a responsible employer so that they can go out and make another fair job for another person, which removes the financial burden from the state in the longer term.

When you buy direct from the manufacturer or grower, you are likewise making the growth of employment far more likely. With every middle man and distributor and level of administration involved in a financial transaction, you are reducing the amount that is returned to that person at the end of the line, the manufacturer, who is making something valuable and paying people to help them.

When you buy natural products that use ingredients directly grown on small farms and landholdings, you are supporting rural people who often struggle to get by. Conversely, when you buy a chemically enhanced non-natural product, you are using your money to support multi-national business, questionable industrial practices and, in the long term, depleting the health budget as the longer term results of chemical use manifest in our bodies.

Who would have thought that the simple, mindless act of a little retail therapy could have such a far reaching effect?

Next time you reach for your wallet to go shopping, think about what you're doing. Choose to shop wisely for products that will enhance the world we live in, not deplete and damage it further. Choose products that will put money back into the hands of responsible employers, not the greedy owners of a sweatshop somewhere. Choose products that will give long-term sustainability to our communities, countries and the world we live in.

So live, shop.... enjoy exercising your political rights! :)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Facebook Neck

So, we all have experienced the explosive development of social networking and social marketing. It's fun. We've probably all experienced the other new phenomenon that goes with that too, but not named it yet. Well, I'm going to. Facebook neck.

You know what I'm talking about. Burning and aching in the muscles starting from between the shoulder blades and searing right up into the base of the skull; tightness in the jaw and the tiny muscles around the ears; stiffness in the throat muscles at the front.

What causes it? Firstly and simply, poor posture. Peering at the computer screen when our eyes get tired. Craning the neck to look at tiny type instead of pressing the zoom button. Bad lighting. Leaning forward instead of adjusting the chair. Perching the laptop on pillows in bed and slouching at an odd angle. Hours and hours at the desk instead of regular mini breaks over the fit ball. Tension in the shoulders when we're arguing about free speech and the development of democracy on some political thread.....

How can we ease Facebook Neck? There are some simple, free things that can and will help.
  1. Switch off. :)
  2. Take a break - make a drink - hang forward over the fitball for at least 5 minutes every hour.
  3. Exercise - drop your chin forward as far as it will go and just hold it. Let the weight of your head gently pull your chin even further down. Gently rotate your head from side to side.
  4. Take a hot shower and let the hot water ease the stiffness.
  5. Apply a hot pack.
  6. Improve your computer work area.
These are the best and most effective long term management strategies.

But knowing that we have deadlines, e-businesses and that life isn't always optimal, we can also suggest two products that will help if your find yourself at the computer 10 hours per day crunching out a deadline.

Our Thai Herbal Massage Balls are little bundles of Thai healing herbs tied into unbleached cotton with camphor and salt; they are made wet and steamed till they are hot, and then applied to the sore areas, from the base of the neck to the skull line, up around the jaw line and on the front of the throat. We have a short youtube clip to explain what they are and how they work.

You can also apply all kinds of sports liniments and "tiger balm" type of products, which will promote circulation and ease pain. Be aware that most of these liniments are made with heavy duty chemicals in a petrochemical waste product base. Arun Thai Natural has 100% natural Phlai Traditional Thai Massage Oil and a Phlai Natural Beeswax Balm that will give rapid relief but without the toxic side-effects. You can find them on eBay or purchase directly through our website.

Whatever you do, you should not ignore facebook neck. Prolonged stiffness in the neck and shoulders will lead to jaw clenching, headaches etc and that will affect the quality of your life and work.

So enjoy your social networking (in moderation!), think about optimizing your computer environment and be smart about how you manage facebook neck.