What Does Buy Nothing Day Mean this Holiday Season?
When I was growing up my mother worked in a small local book and gift store. I would always go there after school and sit in the back room watching the employees dart about. This is where I learned about Black Friday, the Friday after American Thanksgiving and one of the U.S.'s biggest shopping days. All Thanksgiving dinner my mom would be dreading having to go to work the next morning, because the store would be packed, tinny Christmas music would be blaring and she'd have to ring up countless useless knick-knacks that would cost hundreds of dollars. "Innane" is a word that crept onto the Thankgiving dinner table again and again.
In 1992, in response to this over-consumerism, Vancouver based artist and activist, Ted Dave, orchestrated the event Buy Nothing Day. It was quickly taken up and promoted by Canadian magazine Adbusters. Now the demonstration is protested annually around the world on Black Friday (though internationally the date doesn't always fall on this Friday, but usually close to it).
Suddenly, we ran out of money and, to avoid collapse, we quickly pumped liquidity back into the system. But behind our financial crisis a much more ominous crisis looms: we are running out of nature… fish, forests, fresh water, minerals, soil. What are we going to do when supplies of these vital resources run low?
There’s only one way to avoid the collapse of this human experiment of ours on Planet Earth: we have to consume less.
It will take a massive mindshift. You can start the ball rolling by buying nothing on November 28th. Then celebrate Christmas differently this year, and make a New Year’s resolution to change your lifestyle in 2009.
It’s now or never!
So this is what you do: buy nothing. Pass on that coffee, Tuperware your lunch, forego the visit to the mall. Easy, well easy-ish. Mainly the day is meant to make people conscious of their spending habits.
There is some controversy surrounding the demonstration though. Take for example people who hadn't bought anything the day before and the day before that and most likely won't be able to buy anything for the next few days after Buy Nothing Day. Though Adbusters likes to emphasize that this is a global problem, how global is it?
Tyee writer Jean Ferrel explores what Buy Nothing Day means to her.
As a mom myself, and at one point, a single welfare mom, I can't help but remember my own "buy nothing" days all too well. Now that I actually earn some money and creep ever closer to the happy side of the poverty line, I'm beyond grateful that I'm able to buy something every day if I need to. I don't ever want to go back to diluting the milk for my cereal with water, thanks very much.
So who is Buy Nothing Day really for? It's certainly not for most wealthy, high consumers, who largely couldn't give a toot what the hoi polloi are protesting about now. And it's not for those who are already not buying anything and long to escape those circumstances. So that leaves Whitey McPrivileged, who can check to make sure he's got enough toilet paper and tea bags in the house before the big day. And while the campaign ostensibly acts as a springboard to creating more lasting change, I bet a lot of participants breathe a sigh of relief the next morning, when they can get back to business as usual. Remind me again how this changes anything?
This is an important point but there's also the issue of middle class families that might depend on Black Friday deals to make it through the Christmas financial squeeze. While my mom always hated working Black Friday, she was always quick to remind herself that this was the day that paid her paychecks.
Important to keep in mind too this particular holiday season is the economic situation at hand; this year's Christmas squeeze is going to be pretty tight. Lots of middle class families, who are keeping an eye on their pocket books will want to use Black Friday deals to save a few bucks. And businesses trying to kick start the economy will be putting on a lot of sales.
I mean even Apple is said to be conducting Black Friday deals. And that's big!
Apple will be holding a one-day shopping event on Black Friday, according to a teaser up on Apple's Web site. Every sale on the Apple Store is an event, as it happens very rarely, and discounts on Apple products are meager throughout the year.
What will this mean for this year's Buy Nothing Day? Will the day really make the difference it says it will? We'll just have to wait and see...
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Culver City, California, United States