God's Politics

God's Politics

Anita Roddick: ‘I Don’t Want to Die Rich’ (by Rose Marie Berger)

Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop chain and supporter of fair trade, died on Sept. 10 at age 64 after a major brain hemorrhage brought on by complications of hepatitis C. Roddick, who was raised Catholic but had deep suspicion of organized religion, gained a new appreciation for Christianity at the UK-based Greenbelt Christian Arts Festival in 2004.

“What’s wonderful about being my age is having to face your prejudices,” Roddick told the Church Times. “I had no idea how big Greenbelt was. I had no idea how organized it was; how free it was; how joyful it was. And I had no idea that there was such a strong activist, trade justice plank in its platform. It’s really hard, when you have had your antennae up for most of these movements, to have completely ignored it. I have fallen for the zeitgeist that says anybody who has a religious inclination has no sense of rationale or intellectual understanding and therefore should be dismissed. I am cheering the Greenbelt festival from the top of every bloody mountain … for me, it’s like a heartbeat. And it’s youth. I’m ashamed of my bloody prejudices, but I’m delighted to be a convert.”

On March 27, 1976, Roddick opened the first Body Shop in Brighton, England. When she decided to franchise the store, Roddick reached out particularly to women and trained countless of them in operating socially responsible businesses. In 2006, she sold the Body Shop empire, more than 2,000 shops worldwide, to L’Oreal for roughly £130 million. “Not content to simply run a globally successful, environmentally friendly business,” reports the CBC’s “As It Happens,” “Dame Anita founded Children on the Edge in 1990, which focused the world’s attention on the disadvantaged children in Eastern Europe. She campaigned tirelessly for environmental issues, and, as an entrepreneur and mother, became a model for businesswomen everywhere.” In 2005, Roddick announced that she would be giving away her entire fortune. “I don’t want to die rich,” she said.

Sojourners was pleased to interview Roddick in 2003. She had just published two books A Revolution in Kindness (as editor) and Brave Hearts, Rebel Spirits: A Spiritual Activists Handbook (with Brooke Shelby Biggs). Sojourners’ David Batstone interviewed Roddick in San Francisco.

Batstone: What motivated you to write about kindness?

Roddick: It was the result of something that happened to me in America. I had written a book about corporate globalization, and it was released the week of the 9/11 tragedy. On the front cover of the book I had included a tagline, “globalization and how to fight back.” So we stopped the release and shredded the cover. In its place, I wrote that we had to move toward a revolutionary kindness.

Batstone: You describe one of your books as a spiritual activists’ handbook. Do you have a religious background?

Roddick: Yes, Catholic.

Batstone: Is your faith still relevant to you?

Roddick: Absolutely. I’m in awe of liberation theology; that is where my heart is. I follow the great spiritual leaders like Jesus and Buddha who actually get their hands dirty. I do feel ashamed of the church at times. All that gold they stole from native peoples in the Americas, for instance. I think they should give it back. But that doesn’t make me cynical. I’m moved by individuals that can polish their feelings of outrage over wrongdoing and do something positive about it. Many of us talk about kindness at great length but don’t do anything. Our kindness has to be fierce.

Batstone: What does fierce kindness look like?

Roddick: It has to be bigger than the personal, and more than random acts. It is not satisfied unless human rights and social justice are present.

Rose Marie Berger is an associate editor of Sojourners. Click here to read Sojourners‘ complete interview with Anita Roddick.

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posted September 14, 2007 at 3:52 pm

Where did the post exposing Rigoberta Menchu’s plagiarism and lies go? It was removed today – maybe because ethics don’t apply when the politics are sufficiently left?
What gives, Sojourners? Are you censoring to cover up your mistake of promoting Menchu as a moral authority when she is far from that?

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posted September 14, 2007 at 4:20 pm

Despite the fact that Menchu wasn’t completely honest in relating her tale, mainly that she claimed it as her own when it was the community collective’s story, we have much to learn from her work. I believe that “soiling” her autobiography and the amazing things she’s done would be similar to impeaching President Clinton for his affair. Greater things sometimes matter than plagiarism. The stories might not be 100% true, but the injustices are.

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posted September 14, 2007 at 5:02 pm

I would think that if your cause is that great and noble, you wouldn’t want it hindered by people like Menchu who deliberately mislead her readers. A known liar does not make a good spokesperson for a cause.
There are ethical problems with using Menchu as an example of moral virtue and wisdom. If someone has a problem with truth and telling it like it was then they shouldn’t take it upon themselves to tell others how to pursue virtue and justice in society. If you are implying in your reference to Bill Clinton that he like Menchu should be excused since he has the right politics but a problem with truth and personal morality, then I guess I will have to ask why you are more interested in symbolic justice rather than genuine justice. Clinton and Menchu are excused from basic tests of reliability and honor because they give voice to the proper politics – which ends up telling us more about the virtue of the enabler all the while exposing the moral platitudes of some leftists as relatively empty. What arrogance to expect morality from some (especially your political opponents) but not all (especially your political allies).
**I am still not clear why Sojourner’s removed the post. Maybe they are embarrassed by their repeated appeal to Menchu as a moral authority?

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posted September 14, 2007 at 8:19 pm

I’m moved by individuals that can polish their feelings of outrage over wrongdoing and do something positive about it.
Our kindness has to be fierce.
It has to be bigger than the personal, and more than random acts. It is not satisfied unless human rights and social justice are present. – Anita Roddick

Sad to hear about Anita Roddick’s passing.
Her ‘fierce kindness’ has surely been satisfied.

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posted September 15, 2007 at 9:23 am

I really don’t know who Rigoberta Menchu is, but I certainly know Bill Clinton. “Slick Willie”, as he was known in Arkansas, was accused of any and every thing up to and including murder. Yet, the only thing that the Moral Masters of our part of the Universe could impeach him for was lying about sex in the White House. Certainly, he deserved to be chastised—and he eventually apologized—but if we set our standard for impeachment at such a low level, then every president from George Washington to George W. Bush should have been impeached long before completing their terms of office. It would be nice if our presidents were perfect, but any true Christian will admit that is not possible. And in the case of our latest fearless leader, it would seem that any lie will do when it comes to doing what he believes God told him what to do.
Now, to the subject at hand. I really didn’t know who Anita Roddick was either, but after reading her interview I must say that it was truly a sad day when she passed on. We need many more like her in business, politics, and most especially the religious community. It would seem that too many of our spiritual leaders today resemble the moral authorities of Jesus’ day—those self-righteous arbiters of truth and justice who conspired to send Him to the cross. Nevertheless, His sacrifice was their loss and our gain—as will be proven to all once and for all when He comes again.
Two principles I try to live by:
Everyone is family until they decide that I am not.
If I am the lowest person in Heaven, I will be the happiest man who ever lived.

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Rob D.

posted September 15, 2007 at 4:08 pm

We certainly need more people like Roddick, committed to “operating socially responsible businesses.”
I recently posted a related blog about the complex cross-section between economics and ecology:
Sustainability: Economic revolution – Ecological necessity

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posted September 17, 2007 at 12:40 pm

It is Monday and prayers were offered for the safe return of our military personnel and victory in Iraq so that they can have a country of their own and determine the future of their country.
Blessings to all –

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posted September 17, 2007 at 1:00 pm

To publicly announce that you’re praying for the troops while uncritically supporting Bush’s disastrous war policy is hypocritical cheap talk, to say the least.

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posted September 17, 2007 at 2:54 pm

We in the UK would also like the safe return of our military personnel from the illegal and ill-advised invasion and occupation which very few of the British population, including the military themselves, have ever supported. What exactly does moderatelad define as “Victory” ? Imposition of US style democracy and a puppet government sympathetic to American interests? Our prayers should focus on the suffering of the Iraqi peoples, which most commentators agree is far worse under the occupation than ever it was under Saddam. We should also be praying for strengh and courage to be given to the few Christians Iraqis remaining in the country. They enjoyed far greater freedom of worship and protection of their relious liberties under Saddam’s rule than ever they do now.

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posted September 17, 2007 at 2:59 pm

Posted by: justintime | September 17, 2007 1:00 PM
‘…hypocritical cheap talk…’
Oh please justintime – I have been praying for months on behalf of two people that post on this site with children over there and one that is there. Not to mention many others that I know personally that have been over there or are scheduled to go again.
Charles Colson has a great article about why this conflict is ‘just’ and I believe that it is too. I am not one that believes that the first thing you do is go to war. I have also gone a record that this war was the worst thing Bush could do politically – but I believe that in the future it will be shown to be the moral thing that needed to be done.
There is nothing wrong with praying for safety and victory. You can pray to the Almighty for the outcome that you desire – he listens to both. It is not demanding the Almighty to do something – just prayer. I do believe that our prayers can change the heart of God – just like the parable of the woman and the judge.
Blessings my friend –

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posted September 17, 2007 at 3:39 pm

Matt 5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.
6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

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kevin s.

posted September 17, 2007 at 3:50 pm

Well, that depends on what your intentions are. If your intention is to pray publically in an attempt to bring glory to yourself, then you are rightly chastized here. But if you are simply offering a public prayer, there is no problem with that.

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posted September 17, 2007 at 8:40 pm

To inform someone that they were prayed for is not wrong – it is more of an encouragement to them. Prayer can be both public and private.
Blessings –

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posted September 18, 2007 at 8:47 am

Posted by: kevin s.
Payday is the 20th – feel like another beer soon?
Blessings –

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babble on

posted September 18, 2007 at 8:22 pm

Posted by: kevin s.
Payday is the 20th – feel like another beer soon?
Blessings –
Posted by: Moderatelad | September 18, 2007 8:47 AM
Advise you wait until the last one has worn off, you two.

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posted September 19, 2007 at 12:29 pm

I have not posted in a very long while. Mostly because of life getting too busy, but also because I had begun to notice how much the blogs had devolved in to a right-left boxing match. Thank you for confirming my reservations.
This post was supposed to be about Anita Roddick, a fine woman, who did fine works while she was here, and leaves us all in a better place because she cared. How many of the 15 posts here actually mentioned her? Yeah…exactly.
I would hope that all of you that post regularly on these blogs could exhibit a bit more of a brotherly nature towards each other, and that we could again dialogue with each other in peace and respect.

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