As I commented on Bob’s blog when he commended LUSH for their support of the No-one Is Illegal campaign,
“Lush – yep, a lot of what they sell is really weird and unnecessary and they put a hell of a lot of matter down the drain, but because so much of it is vegan and solid form and so unpackaged, and because of this kind of campaign, I’m mostly cleaned and softened by Lush products. “
Well, for some time since then I have been actively seeking alternatives to LUSH. First it was LUSH’s implicit campaign against Israel while whitewashing its aggressors and embracing Saudi Arabia. That was alienating enough, although so normal these days that I thought I might be able to get over it. Then while shopping in the Liverpool Street Station branch some weeks ago I picked up a leaflet accusing the Basildon authorities of ‘ethnic cleansing’ at Dale Farm.
I think Basildon Council’s treatment of the Dale Farm residents is wrong, even if it’s legally justifiable. It wasn’t virgin meadow they built on, travellers have terrible difficulty getting planning permission, travellers have a terrible time in Essex – the sites they’re permitted to camp on are short term and they can’t gather in groups of more than, I think, three vehicles. Dale Farm is a close mutually supportive community of the kind you’d think a Conservative government or council would be touting as some kind of paragon. The idea that the community will be broken up horrifies me. I’m still smarting from the C18th Enclosure Acts. But to be a stickler for planning law and greenbelt law is not ethic cleansing. Ethnic cleansing is a legal term. Ethnic cleansing has aims to purify a region for one ethnic group. Ethnic cleansers use weapons and rape. For LUSH to call Basildon Council’s activity ethnic cleansing was pernicious. I’d already written to them with unsatisfactory effect, and then no effect. Dale Farm was the final straw for me and LUSH. I began to think of them as an ideological purchase, and wonder what kind of movement I was helping to get off the ground.
In this state of disaffection I got to thinking about LUSH’s owner Mark Constantine, this purveyor of very expensive toiletries, many with confectionery fragrances and whimsical names which make me think they are aimed at the young. How do you persuade young people, who are often poor people, to part with so much cash? You’re idealistic but you’re also a for-profit company and you are chasing pounds. You know that society’s idealism resides overwhelmingly in the young. You calculate that if you give the young a little hit of feel-good, a warm feeling in their hearts that their purchase from you has helped to heal the world, then they will feel like they’ve made a selfless donation to charity with the added benefit of receiving a free luxury bath time product, and they’ll be more likely to come back and cough up again.
The other cynical thing LUSH has done for a long time is to put a little sticker with a drawing of a named worker on the back of things that come in pots. It gives you a sense of connection, as if you have done an individual a good turn. And this is kind of warm and treacley – until you remember that it was only in April 2011 that Mark Constantine finally capitulated to the demands of the LUSH workforce to be paid a living wage – and that only in London. All that time he’d been cheaply and sleazily massaging our most moral parts and he wasn’t even paying his workforce a living wage. They had to campaign.
All I want is vegan stuff, ethically made. I don’t want Mark Constantine stereotyping me as somebody with an off-the-shelf portfolio of – in my view – incompatible causes. I mean, I could deal with the causes, if I agreed with them. But I can’t go along with his. (Just a quibble – if you support an organisation which rejects immigration controls, is it coherent to also support the creation of a new state of Palestine which proposes to expel Jews living within it? It may be pragmatic for the Palestinian Authority and Israeli progressives who fear civil war unless the settler movement is defeated – but I can’t see that it’s coherent for a shampoo vendor, so why force it on your customers?).
It’s sad. LUSH creates the most wonderful fragrances on the high street – unless you work there, in which case I speculate you must be breathing in borderline unhealthy amounts of parfum. My sense of smell is so acute that I get as much pleasure as a canine from sniffing interesting scents (though never other dogs behinds). I’ll miss those. I’ll miss the sweet young women at Liverpool Street, I’ll miss swallowing the vodka grapefruit seasalt scrub in the shower. But I’ve had it with LUSH. LUSH creeps me out. They tried so hard to make me feel good than when they failed they had the opposite effect.
See also this.