I recognize that there is an inherent selfishness in many of the current social movements. Coordinating efforts to reduce waste and to organize distribution to the needy are certainly valuable, and could be more effective in reducing waste and assisting the needy than digging through the trash. Sometimes, though, it is our individualism, maybe even our selfish need for actualization, our need to be recognized and to make a difference, that drives us to attempt the impossible.
Freegans are a counter culture movement. There is danger in being counter cultural, but there are those who will always be involved in the counter cultural. It is the essence of our need to be our own person within the larger cultural context. If the society that you find yourself in is not behaving in a way that creates harmony with your own values, then the true civil social movement makes an effort to organize and make a difference within the rules and practices of the system.
But not everyone is interested in contributing to the system. There is something that resonates with me about the freegans, the anarchists, and those who operate outside of our daily routine. These are people who swim upstream, who hear the message that is being delivered from the Corporate American Pulpit and they choose not to subscribe to the newsletter. We can evaluate them and try to figure out why they waste their time with dumpsters and why they insist on putting energy into seemingly fruitless activities, but we miss an opportunity to look at them as people who encourage us to evaluate our own lifestyles. They are so radically disconnected from what we are doing that they evoke a response, and that response is one that does not allow us to look away and forget. We can cuss about them, point and laugh, try to pin them down and define their actions in a cultural context, but we can’t do anything without seeing a little bit of ourselves, and that is the true value of counter cultural movements.
Businesses try to market to them, Scholars try to write dissertations about them, preachers tend to villify or deify them, but ultimately the kinds of people who dig through the trash to make a statement are the kinds of people that make incremental changes. The colonial farmers did it. The early union organizers did it, the hippies did it, and now the freegans do it.
For someone trying to change the world, any press is good press.