When shopping can help you change the world

The rehabilitation of the marine eco-system at Koh Samet - partly affected by the recent oil spill by PTT Global Chemical - is still on-going and will take months.
 
But there was never a chance of a boycott of PTT products by a large sector of the Thai population, even though they were appalled by the company's actions and handling of the incident. Perhaps, Thais are not used to engaging in consumer boycotts. 
 
Elsewhere, as an example, Russian vodka is still being hit by boycotts because of the country's anti-gay laws.
 
Thais generally may not possess the determination to boycott products, but in an age of globalisation where products and produce from around the globe are available at your local supermarket or mall in big cities, urban middle-class Thais regularly consume goods from across the globe.
 
Instead of leaving the choice on whether to buy a US or New Zealand apple, Australian or French butter, Italian or Californian wine, merely to our taste buds, we can in our tiny little way engage in a quiet and personal diplomacy of consumption.
 
To give you some personal examples: I use Finland's Nokia smart phone and a Tuscan-made Boldrini bag partly as a gesture of support for the European Union (EU) and its progressive policies on human rights issues such as its support for the abolition of the death penalty, freedom of expression, rule of law and more.
 
The United Kingdom, meanwhile, holds a special place in my heart as long ago I received a generous UK government scholarship. So, whenever I can, I shop at Boots, visit Paul Smith, buy Stilton cheese or tea from Twining and more. I also received a generous fellowship from the Kettering Foundation in Dayton, Ohio, some years ago and try in my little way to support some union-made products from the USA, although some don't come cheap.
 
Most recently, Australia's Walkley Foundation for Journalism invited me to speak in Sydney and I hope I can repay my debt of gratitude for an enjoyable week there in my little way by buying more butter, fruit, wine and cheese from Down Under. My Swiss watch also reminds me of the quiet diplomacy for a more democratic and reconciled Thailand that the Swiss Embassy here in Bangkok has been working hard for. The list of embassies and countries and people whose works I have enjoyed, and their courtesy, is indeed lengthy. You may feel other countries have been kind to you personally, or feel they support the right kind of cause that you hold close to your heart, and in your little way, you wish to reciprocate.
 
Sure, even my Nokia phone is made, or at least assembled, in China. But some euros would certainly have trickled back to Finland.
 
Some may say such quiet and personal diplomacy of consumption is akin to a drop in the ocean, and that most people buy goods for the brand and what it promises to do for the endorphins in your brain - but imagine what millions of collective drops in the ocean could do.
 
In the end, we might be able to help a humane society to prosper even more, in our own little way. And even if it makes little difference, I'm at least conscious of what I buy and why, while re-connecting consumption with international relations - in a personal way.