You can’t buy what’s really important
If the idea of running to a mall to be one of the masses of pushing crowds, spending what has been projected to be $683 dollars apiece this holiday season leaves you cold, you have other options. You can join the protest of Buy Nothing Day.
The concept of Buy Nothing Day is simple. On a symbolic day, people across the country can opt out of consumerism. This year, as in years past, Buy Nothing Day was Black Friday, one of the single biggest shopping days of the year.
The message of Buy Nothing Day was probably lost in the stampede and the sound of cash drawers opening and closing. However, I think that it brings attention to an important cultural trend: American overconsumption of goods and the drift away from real values.
Holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas have become valued for their profit producing abilities rather than their deeper meaning. The shift is indicative of a greater cultural phenomenon, of valuing corporations above citizens, of trading life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for work, debt and the pursuit of a paycheck.
It could be said that with the way the economy has been looking for the last year or so, they best thing we can do would be to shop. I challenge that notion.
Why should we devote our lives to a system that doesn’t benefit us and is set up for the benefit of a powerful two percent elite? How many mothers and fathers worked hard for years of their lives for companies that laid them off when they started to go under? How many of those companies received bailout money, which saved them from going under? How much of that money did your mother or father, or any of those who lost their jobs, see?
While mega-transnational corporations took tax dollars and bought yachts and beach-resort vacations, thousands of families lost their homes. Why should we spend our money in support of a system that hurts us?
Those that are fortunate enough to be employed don’t have much to be thankful about either. Americans work an average of 46 hours a week, with four weeks of vacation (including holidays). Maternity leave is shorter here than almost anywhere is the industrialized world. Our health is poor, our happiness is low and our divorce rates are high. We’ve traded in our time for money.
Economies, whether in the form of bartering or stock trading have always existed and there have been many kinds throughout history. With all the options and all the brilliant minds, is corporate consumer Keynesian capitalism the best system we can come up with? Can’t we think of something that doesn’t have built-in crashes? That isn’t programmed to fail?
I believe that we can find a new way of organizing business and trade, a way that values people, increases the quality of life and gives workers time to live. Buy Nothing Day therefore is not as much about feebly “sticking it to the man” as it is about forming solidarity with others who want a better life. It is a statement as much to yourself as to those around you that you support active change.
So, next Thanksgiving, eat with your family and remember to be grateful for all the things that money can’t buy. Then on Black Friday 2010, join the movement, help raise awareness, eat leftovers and buy nothing.
Kathleen Broadhurst is a UMass student. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.