It only makes sense, that after a day of overconsumption and companionship, we enjoy a day of reflection and companionship. It’s a whole new day to give thanks! It’s Buy Nothing Day!
It may seem a bit extreme to those of you who have made a tradition of getting up at the crack of dawn, throwing on your coat and preparing for the retail warfare that is Black Friday. Shopping on the day after Thanksgiving is tradition, right? Deals and lines and gadgets and toys and jewelry! It just makes sense, right?
Wrong. Shopping as tradition and leisure activity just strikes me as wrong. Especially the competitive nature that shopping takes on today. Shopping is such a mandatory and automatic part of life, I just don’t understand why we have to make a holiday out of it.
It is a holiday. It may not be government mandated, but it is a holiday. How many of you have off of work today? How many of you have planned for this, making sure friends and family members set their alarms to share this experience with you?
I’m all for joyful collective celebrations, but when the attitude is to buy as much as we can under the illusion that we are saving money… When the attitude is to best others at the strategic game of consumerism… When the attitude is that the salespeople are just in your way because you read the manual and you know what you want… When the attitude is s/he with the most toys in the SUV wins… Well… I think we have missed something.
Americans consume… aw hell… why should I go into a list of stats. Just watch this excellent commercial by the Media Foundation. (A commercial, btw, that the people at Adbusters have been trying to get on MTV for several years now. Even though they have offered to pay the going price to place a commercial, the network has turned them down.)
Now ask yourself, why would a television network with some of the most egregiously questionable morals turn down advertising money to air that commercial?
The Real American Dream
All this talk of buying nothing seems so extreme, doesn’t it? It shouldn’t. Buying nothing isn’t as hard as it seems. Take a look in your cupboards and closets and living rooms. More than likely, you have everything you need for one whole day. You, my friend, are already living the American Dream. Sure, your neighbor may have a better car or a bigger television set, but you have your family and friends and enough food to feed an entire family for a week or more in the countries where many of your clothes were made. The ads in yesterday’s newspapers may be telling you otherwise, but you’ve got it pretty damn good.
Buy Nothing Day isn’t about missing out on the great deals, it’s about rediscovering the greatness right in front of you. It represents restraint, a bit of social extremism and, most of all, the real American dream… The real global dream. The dream of peace and opportunity and equality. The dream of being the greatest, not by force and economic exploitation, but by magnanimity and example.
Today represents the inner power we all have to say “No” to the 3000-5000 advertisements and logos that permeate our senses every single day. It represents our ability to take stock in what we have and realize that it is far more than we expect and to, once again, give thanks for that and give what we don’t need anymore to those who do. It represents our willingness to take a stand for human rights, ecological health and the sanity of our fellow man.
It is so easy to ignore, but every purchase we make has an impact on the world at large. Little things add up and create big consequences. We can work toward a positive outcome or a negative one. It’s our choice. Why not take one day to examine your options instead of giving into the impulse of sales and doorbusters?
Do What You Can!
This is my third year celebrating Buy Nothing Day. As a result, I have grown accustomed to sleeping in late on Black Friday. This means that as I write this post, many of you have already been up for 6-7 hours fighting crowds and filling carts. Maybe you are taking a breather from the heat of battle and are planning on heading back out to reap the spoils and overlooked gems. Maybe you are taking the rest of the day to recover before the slower war of the holidays begins.
Regardless of your level of (non-)participation in Buy Nothing Day, you can still use the day to think about your choices and to prepare for the holiday season. Here are just a few ideas:
-Resist multinational brands and corporations with bad business practices. The Nikes and Walmarts of the world need to be unswooshed and rolled back until they start compensating their outsourced labor fairly. (if you own stock in these companies, make your voice heard to affect change)
-Buy sustainable and fair trade merchandise. I have slight problems with the Fair Trade movement resting on their laurels when they set a price, but it is a huge step in the right direction and will continue to improve with our support. Sustainable doesn’t mean green or hybrid, it means that the product’s ecological and social footprint is small or nonexistent. A little research goes a long way. ‘Green’ doesn’t necessarily mean green. (Ten Thousand Villages is a great starting point for gifts)
-Make your own holiday gifts. Some of my favorite gifts to receive are handmade works of art or freshly baked goods. These gifts mean more to me than any Playstation 3 ever could and usually taste better than a Nintendo Wii (though if you eat cheeze puffs while playing video games…)
-Shop Local! You know why that guy at the local shop on the corner always looks so bitter? It’s because no one stops in to say hello! Buying from local sources isn’t just healthier (in the case of food) and friendlier, but if you walk or bike instead of driving, it saves on pollution. It helps to create community and increases neighborhood safety better than any fence or security system could. It also spurs a local economy which is good for you and good for local business owners. Who knows, you might even end up starting a local currency of sorts through discount cards, barter or art.
-Speak and act out! Head over to Adbusters.org to educate yourself on issues of consumerism and garner ideas on how you can raise awareness on days like Buy Nothing Day and all year round!
-Have Fun! Whether you are participating in a Credit Card Cut Up on Buy Nothing Day or taking the day to spend time with your friends doing something other than shopping, don’t forget to have fun and be thankful. You don’t have to wait 364 days to do that again!
Finally, I know that the pressure and impulse to buy something nice for yourself can be unbearable during the holiday season, so may I suggest that you buy yourself a ticket to the new Reverend Billy documentary, What Would Jesus Buy? Here’s the trailer:
I invest money in the stock market, work in retail and buy things almost every day. I don’t wish for the collapse of our economy. I do, however wish for a smaller gap between classes, fair economic, social and ecological practices around the world, less exploitation of children and workers in the name of cheap goods we don’t need and a better future. I know it sounds horribly hippy, but we are the only ones who can begin this change and we must begin now.
Happy Buy Nothing Day!