As the tragedy continues to play out in Ukraine, the days of glasnost and perestroika and The Scorpions following the Moskva down to Gorky Park, seem further away than ever before. And since the fall of the former Soviet Union, we’ve witnessed the wars in Chechen and Syria.
However, the current conflict has stirred emotions and feelings of outrage in a way previously not experienced. Retailers are already reporting the impact of the invasion and perhaps the question is, how deep do those emotions run and are we as consumers willing to make personal sacrifices in support of the Ukrainian people?
If there’s one thing we all like, it’s a story of good triumphing over evil. And in this conflict we have the perfect figures on both sides by which to direct either our ire or our admiration. And of course, we all have social media in the palm of our hands, readily stoking the fire in which ever way the trolls and bots choose to influence our perception of events.
Let’s face it, if virtue signalling was an Olympic sport, we’d win gold every time
But there’s another phenomena which is rapidly emerging which is only beginning to affect the consumer but which is set to do so in far more fundamental ways in the weeks, months and possibly years to come: the impact of sanctions.
And whilst Chelsea will find another owner, brands and retailers are pouring out of Russia as fast as they possibly can; but I hear you ask, surely that will only affect Russian consumers who won’t be able to get their hands on the latest Nike trainers. True, but as we know, sanctions work both ways.
Our supermarkets might be removing Russian products from their shelves, but frankly, not being able to get hold of Russian caviar or vodka is hardly going to make a dent in the lives of the average Brit. No, more than that, it’s our collective desire to find a cause by which to channel our outrage which stirs our herd mentality, and it is this which will ultimately have far more impact on our lives. Let’s face it, if virtue signalling was an Olympic sport, we’d win gold every time.
Because as the conflict increases in intensity and more and more images of destruction and suffering are beamed into our homes, just how far will our outrage extend?
It was reported today that Shell have bought a consignment of Russian crude oil, citing that they had no choice and that their primary objective is to continue the supply of refined oil for consumers. But does this mean we should boycott Shell forecourts?
In the recent UN Security Council vote to condemn Russia’s actions, India was one of the countries which abstained, and notably has not directly condemned the Kremlin. According to The Times, its army “depends on Russia for roughly half of its defence supplies, which it sees as vital to countering border threats from China and Pakistan”
Most of our ‘Indian’ restaurants in this country are run by Bangladeshis and similarly, Bangladesh was another to abstain, so does this mean we should forego a papadum and a chicken tikka masala takeaway in order to demonstrate our solidarity with Ukraine?
As the impact of worldwide wholesale gas prices begins to tighten its grip on household budgets, how long before our ire is directed not at the source of the crisis but at our own western governments for not doing more to resolve the conflict and end the war?
Right now, we’re at the very beginning of what many experts believe could be a long and bloody conflict, our feelings of outrage stirred in part because Ukraine is a European country not far away; it also helps that their people look like us, so therefore it all feels so much more real.
Notably, in Kyiv, it was reported that there has been no panic buying in the shops and supermarkets, everyone looking out for each other. Contrast that with the scenes we witnessed here of people wrestling over loo roll during the first coronavirus lockdown.
We’ve long been aware of the behaviour gap affecting sustainability, but how long before we tire of being fed a diet of death and destruction and the blue and yellow flag becomes nothing but a fading memory and another entry in the history books?