SoulCycle is a space to come as you are and celebrate who you are; to emerge feeling ... extremely guilty about contributing to the coffers of a Donald Trump booster billionaire?
The indoor cycling and self-empowerment juggernaut might want to update its website after the revelation that majority stakeholder Stephen Ross hosted a high-dollar fundraiser Aug. 2 for the president at his Hamptons home. And those hard-pedaling patrons drawn to the company for its mantras promising actualization, community and open-mindedness might want to take their money elsewhere.
It’s said there is no ethical consumption under late capitalism, and that’s probably true. But it leaves us nowhere good, because most of us can’t stop consuming.
Those who are abandoning their skull-logo tank tops and clip-on shoes might also want to stop patronizing sister brand Equinox and Momofuku restaurants.
L.L. Bean has ties to Trump, too, so forget about going there for back-to-school bookbags and boots. If AT&T is the sole service that isn’t spotty in your office, and if Bank of America is your only option with an ATM nearby, you’re out of luck.
And that’s just the Trump stuff. Almost everything these days is a little evil — and the things that aren’t are connected to something that is.
Your go-to, fair-trade diapers are manufactured by a bona fide member of the #resistance, but the store carrying his product banks with a firm that’s in deep with a murderous Middle Eastern regime. You’re a vegetarian, but the starter you need to prepare your own tempeh is available only on Amazon, and do those warehouse workers have air conditioning yet? (Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and chief executive, also owns The Washington Post.)
And even if you find a more ethical source for boots, tempeh and exercise, are your painstaking attempts to conduct yourself morally in an immoral world going to matter? You’re not a country; you’re not a university with massive endowments such as those that helped cow South Africa into easing its apartheid regime in the 1980s.
So maybe your choices won’t change the world. But does that mean it’s ethical to refuse to even try?
Maybe some of those decisions will make a difference, if only a smidgen of one. Maybe they won’t. And maybe it doesn’t even matter. Maybe there’s something worthwhile about being principled, for principle’s sake.
If Ross is forced away from SoulCycle, he’ll invest elsewhere, and he’ll still bring in plenty of bacon. And yet still something would change. You might help SoulCycle snap its actual morality back into place with its professed morality — the morality it bases its messaging on, and the morality it makes money from. More important, it would snap into place with your morality, too, so you can be that better person you were trying to be by sweating it out on the bike in the first place, or at least be someone a little more like that person, which is what we should all be trying to do every day anyway.
We’d be fools to believe that switching to another early morning exercise class, or forgoing L.L. Bean boots this fall, automatically beatifies us. But we’d also be fools to believe that reality gives us an excuse not to pick the right thing over the wrong thing when we can, or to own up to what it means when we don’t.
Only then can we actually celebrate who we are: unethical consumers under late capitalism, refusing to bid ethics goodbye.
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