According to AdBusters who "originated" this idea (there is some
controversy over whether or not they stole this concept)...
Our consumer culture is absurd. We buy to feel good; we buy to
impress each other. Our consumer culture is greedy. We in the affluent
west - only 20% of the world's population - consume 80% of the natural
resources. Our consumer culture is tragic. As a result of our
consumption, nature is dying.
The shining hope for a revolution in human consciousness lies in the
actions of everyday people.
Edward Abbey said: "Sentiment without action is the ruin of
the soul." So do something. For one day, on November 27...stop
buying. And spread the word. Tell your friends. Challenge your
family. Simplify your lifestyle.
Can't really argue with this. We, as residents of the North American
continent have been indoctrinated since childhood that we must "shop till
we drop". Continuing on, AdBusters offers the following proposal:
Buy Nothing Day is a simple idea with profound and far-reaching
repercussions. It is the only environmental campaign in the world that
directly confronts the issue of sustainable consumption in a way that the
average citizen can grasp and understand, yet as political ideology, it
challenges the very tenents of neoclassical economics and casts a hard
light on our shop-till-you-drop culture and the methods we use to measure
wealth and progress."
I don't know about the rest of you, but I personally have had my fill of
dogma sandwiches in the past few months. I'm don't need another trip to the
all-you-can-eat "let's-educate-millions" buffet.
Buy Nothing Day has been going on for about six years now. A few of my
friends claim to even participate. Though it should be pointed out that
they are usually too poor to go out shopping anyway. Others will stand
outside of shopping centers, or other places of massive retail consumption.
They'll hold up signs, hand out literature, and chant slogans in the hopes
that they can convince people to not shop.
It's now November 26, 1998. Traditionally, the day after turkey day is the
busiest shopping day of the year. Buy Nothing Day, or BND for short,
targets this day for obvious reasons. What they are forgetting, is that
more and more people are utilizing the Internet for making purchases. And
with all the advantages, it's no wonder. No parking hassles, no lines, no
disgruntled clerks, and no product shortages. And with improved credit card
security transactions, it's no wonder that it's gaining in popularity. And
unless the supporters of BND are very good at breaking into systems, it's
going to be damn difficult for them to make their presence known on a web
site as a consumer peruses Christmas merchandise.
Recently, in Missoula Montana, my favorite bookstore (Freddy's Feed 'n'
Read) has gone belly up. Freddy's was an independent and local bookstore
that found itself on the losing end of the on-going battle with mega-chains
such as Barnes & Noble and Borders (even joining in a lawsuit against
them). In the end though, they had to shut down.
This is just one case of a local business that finds that it's being forced
out of business. It's happening all over the North American Continent. Just
look at what happens to local businesses when Wal-Mart moves into a small
city. Local shops find themselves trying to go up against an out-of-town
corporation that has the economic muscle to offer lower prices, larger
selections, and in most cases convenient locations. The local shops go
under, in turn local jobs disappear, and the local economy takes a beating.
All because people make their purchases at an out-of town store. Do I need
to mention that with the exception of minimum wage paychecks to employees,
the money being forked over certainly isn't going back into the community?
But I digress.
AdBusters would like you to go out and picket outside of stores & malls,
put up flyers, place news announcements in local papers and so on. What
they don't mention is that people who do this are normally considered to be
crackpots by the very consumers they are trying to reach. So little of a
difference is made, people might just as well join the throngs of shoppers
in the retail feeding frenzy.
But there is hope. I propose that trying to get a person to stop doing
something that has been so ingrained into their synapses that it's almost
second nature is a futile waste of time. One might as well try to fill the
Grand Canyon with beach sand. Instead, I submit that re-channeling this
into a more positive, more beneficial direction should be considered.
Rather than telling people to not shop, teach people to shop SMART.
Encourage shoppers to patronize local businesses. Work with local
businesses and your local chamber of commerce to come up with discounts for
shoppers on that day. Think up entertaining gimmicks to attract people away
from the malls and into the community-owned stores. In a small town in
Alaska, the local businesses offer food & spirits to their shoppers as a
way of saying thanks. Try to get businesses to do this. Show consumers that
the money they are giving to these chain companies not only goes out of the
community, but out of the state (playing on the person's patriotism does
wonders- "So you like giving money to some yuppie in California/New
And as far as Internet shopping goes...
If you can design a web page or know someone that can, make a page with
local businesses links, especially if those businesses can do online
transactions. If the pickings are slim, include small businesses from a
nearby city or who do things such as give a percentage of their proceeds to
charity or offer unique items not found elsewhere (or in Wal-Mart). One of
my favorites is Khatsa, who are not only a small business, but they offer
some of the greatest culinary delights on the planet. They also aid in
making people aware of what's happening in Tibet
In conclusion: tomorrow you can go stand outside the mall and have people
treat you like a side-show act, or you can do something that will not only
aid the place that you live, but will have a greater impact than BND will.