Thursday, November 20, 2008
Anti-Anti Buy Nothing Day
Today I've been reading all about Buy Nothing Day-- a sort of protest of Black Friday that many in the counter-culture have been participating in for years (heck, I remember hanging up posters for buy nothing day in high school). So, as is always the case in liberal circles, something can only be revolutionary for so long before we liberals have to start a revolution against the revolution. I've come across several opinion pieces/blogs challenging buy nothing day as a white liberal elitism (and make something day, the recent spin off where people are called to get crafty as essentially a waste of time and craft supplies). Some of the arguments resonate with me: people have said that the true poor rely on opportunities like black friday to get things that they really need, like computers for their children. Others have said that we should save all the energy spent on crafts towards getting things that people actually need. So, I get the arguments. But come on, people. Can't we just come together behind a noble cause for more than a week before we start splintering into factions and somehow claiming that we're more enlightened than the enlightened?**
Here's why I like buy nothing day: it challenges consummerism on the single day the most symbolically associated with overconsumption. Perhaps there are a few low income folks waiting in line for their first computer, but I bet that the vast majority of people are waiting for their new i-phone, luxury sneakers, or flat screen television. If black friday is a cornerstone in your survival strategy, then by all means get in line! But let's not pretend that somehow that's what it is for most people. Events like black friday are put on by retailers precicely because the frenzy of it all causes people to act irrationally and buy crazy amounts of stuff. Think Filene's Basement wedding dresses. People start grabbing for anything and everything and it gets ugly. This is not survival, it's gluttony.
This black friday I plan on avoiding the retail scene, mainly because I don't care for it and don't need the kinds of things that one is likely to get a "steal" on on black friday... they are the sorts of things that are the bells and whistles of life and not the bare bones. I think it's great if others decide to do the same. It's not going to change the world (it might not change anything at all), but it's still powerful to participate in a noble cause together with others that are filled with hope for the future.
** Of course, I guess that makes me the person who thinks that I'm more enlightened than the people who are more enlightened than the enlightened. Whew, this is why I went to Harvard!