Sunday, November 24, 2013

Reject materialism this holiday season, starting with black Friday

Please Join Me in Observing
Buy Nothing Day on Black Friday

Is there a tradition any more backward or disgusting practiced across America today than that of Black Friday? Hordes of consumers mob stores for frivolous deals on ridiculously overpriced "goods" like flat screen TVs, Playstations, Xboxes, the latest gadget from Apple, boatloads of useless trinkets of dubious quality made in China and other countries you may have never heard of, or clothes manufactured by Chinese, Southeast Asian or Central American children in dangerous sweatshops. The top 1% of America's wealthy have exported our jobs to the third world for pennies on the dollar, and they're laughing at the rest of us as more and more formerly middle class Americans wind up homeless and with no job prospects.

We're in an insanely messed up place politically and environmentally. Multinational corporations and financial firms pretty much own the US government, they control Wall Street, they set the retail price people pay for anything from groceries to cars, and they are making real sure that nobody from the bottom 99% – which is us – gets their hands on any of “their” money. The use of fossil fuels is rapidly ruining our one and only planet Earth, while the development of clean-burning power plants, cars and trucks that run on electric or natural gas power, and alternative energy sources such as wind and solar, is being deliberately held back in its development by the same mega-oil companies that profit from fossil fuel use. As a result, global warming is not only a real and present danger, but it is rapidly accelerating. There is a plastic "raft" in the Pacific Ocean bigger than Texas – that's how badly polluted the world's oceans truly are. And as people we're constantly being taken advantage of to make this situation last longer so that corporate profits and bonuses can climb even higher than they are now.

The strong link between these two things – our society's consumerism and the terrible political, social, environmental, and economic situations we're in – demands action. By buying things from these corporations and feeding into this model of an economy, we only encourage it while enriching only a select few at the expense of the many. So I'm asking you: please join me in buying nothing this Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving. I can't say it any better than this: this November 29th and 30th, I and many others like me are calling for a Wildcat General Strike. We're asking tens of millions of people around the world to bring the capitalist consumption machine to a grinding – if only momentary – halt. I want you to not only stop buying for 48 hours, but to shut off your lights, televisions and other nonessential appliances. We want you to park your car, turn off your phones and log off of your computer for the day. We're calling for a Day of Atonement-like fast. From sunrise to sunset we'll abstain en masse, not only from holiday shopping, but from all the temptations of our materialistic lifestyles. Those who are healthy enough are encouraged to go on a 24-hour hunger strike on Black Friday as well.

You know what they say: a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. You feel that things are falling apart – the temperature rising, the oceans churning, the global economy heaving – why not do something? Take just one small step toward a more just and sustainable future. Make a pact with yourself: go on a consumer fast. Lock up your credit cards, put away your cash and opt out of the capitalist spectacle. It's all rigged anyway, so why bother with it? Some people may find that it's harder than they think, that the impulse to buy is more ingrained in us than you ever realized. But you will persist and you will transcend – perhaps reaching the kind of epiphany that can change the world.

Ideally, everyone will shut off their electricity for the day and just enjoy some time with their family or friends or both. If you can't do that, at least refrain from the Black Friday madness. Don't go to a store for some kind of deal. Don't shop at the big box stores - in fact, don't shop anywhere. Just take a break for one day. If you must use your electricity, then to avoid the barrage of advertisements we are exposed to constantly, don't watch television. Stream videos from the Internet instead, there's tons of free stuff you can watch. This is what I do instead of subscribing to cable TV, and it saves me nearly $100.00 per month just by doing this simple thing.

Some might criticize me for publicizing this idea during such tough economic times. "We need people to consume in order to drive the economy!" It is an established fact that 70% of America's economy is dependent on consumer spending – retail sales of products and services. Since American wages continue to wither and dry up, this is obviously unsustainable. To that I say this: it's not good if we need people to buy useless crap in order to maintain our economy. That needs to fundamentally change. And the only way towards fundamental change is to stop buying useless crap. So will you join me? Will you take the plunge and break the chord from your normal consumerist ways? Liberate yourself this holiday season!

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