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Where Does Your Money Go?

"Can you be a decent person and buy R. Kelly's Music?" the headline asks

I'm intrigued. I try to be a decent person, which, to me, includes not necessarily judging other people by the music they buy.  I don't buy R. Kelly's  music or know much about him, other than watching a few episodes of "Trapped in the Closet."

The article on the Ms. magazine blog is commentary on a Village Voice story about the singer's behavior with women ... uh, make that girls. The writer, Stephanie Hallet, poses the question: Is it OK to be a feminist and enjoy R. Kelly's music?

“The politic thing to say is that everybody has to make these decisions for themselves; they have to weigh their own ethical boundaries,” says feminist media critic Jennifer L. Pozner, author of “Reality Bites Back” and executive director of Women in Media & News. “But I’m not interested in being politic. I don’t believe you can be a feminist and pay for R. Kelly’s music. I think the broader question is, can you be a decent human being and buy R. Kelly’s music? And I think the answer to that is no.”

She goes on to say that by paying for R. Kelly’s music and praising him, fans are "contributing to a culture that emboldens the singer to continue raping with impunity and boasting about it – explicitly and implicitly – in his music."

It’s not about whether or not you can enjoy the art of somebody who’s a bad boy. It’s about [whether] your money and your love and praise of an artist embolden and allow that artist to continue to evade justice for deeply violent, misogynistic, racist crimes.

I don't know enough about R. Kelly to know whether that last statement is fair. I don't buy his music.

But I do buy lots of things. As many Buddhist teachers have noted, the proof of interdependence is all around us. Everything I'm wearing has passed through many minds and hands, from growers to designers to production workers and transport drivers and salespeople. I did nothing but offer my money as support.

I try to know what my money supports. I check clothing labels to see where clothing is made and try not to buy things made in the countries with the worst worker conditions. I try to buy from stores that at least acknowledge the need to have a statement about human rights for the workers who make their clothing. When I buy something suspect, I know that and make a conscious choice.

In some areas it's hard to make what feels like a clean choice. In others, it isn't difficult at all.

As a member of the Interdependence Project, I give money each month. I also contribute to the year-end fund drive. 

I don't live in NYC, so I don't take part in the in-person offerings except on special occasions like the annual holiday party. But living in an area where there aren't a lot of options for in-person Buddhist study makes IDP even more valuable. Lots of Buddhist teachers offer podcasts; very few places offer the opportunity to take classes online and to interact with teachers and students, as you can do on the IDP class forums.

IDP needs money to continue operating as it does and to reach even more students who are interested in the dharma and willing to commit time but don't have access to teachers. You can read the details about why more money is needed and what it will go toward here (and make a donation, coincidentally).

I don't like asking people to give money to specific causes. Most people I know don't have enough money to waste it -- they're aware of where it goes and make deliberate choices. There are a lot of organizations and people doing good work, and I, for sure, don't make enough to support all of the causes and groups that I'd like to.

But I'm all for asking you to reflect on your actions. What do you believe is important, what do you say is important, and where does your money go? What do you support -- with your practice, your commitment, your material wealth? Where do you spend your time, treasure, and talent?

If you believe the world can be a kinder, more compassionate place, you have to support the people who are working toward that. It's the decent thing to do.

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