Shopping may provide comfort during the stressful moments we have felt as citizens of a nation under attack and at war, but what are the real costs of consumers flocking to the stores on the busiest shopping day of the year? While retailers see "Black Friday" as a godsend, Bush looks to the market for consent for the war in Afghanistan. But as politicians have been telling us for decades, the market is where the democratic process happens.
Shop, shop, shop. Or so go the pleas of George W., Tony Blair, and leaders of other industrialized nations whose citizens can afford to do so. Clearly, in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks and the ensuing War on Terrorism our great nation has waged there is nothing to do but to shop. And, what the hell, the holidays are just around the corner, we might as well.
Never mind that Americans have entrenched themselves in their own war against their creditors, struggling to pay off high credit card premiums. Never mind that because of the plane crashes and the downturn of the economy many are out of work. The solution to all that ails a warring nation is a trip to the mall -- a cappuccino from Starbucks, a DVD from Wal-Mart, and a sweater from The Gap
tra la la.
But while many Americans will shop on November 23rd, the busiest shopping day of the year (also referred to lovingly by retailers as Black Friday) just to get away from CNN or to garner a smidgen of normalcy in their day, others will be out in the battlefield of the mall parking lot. These anti-corporateers will be trying to convince the masses to celebrate Buy Nothing Day.
Started in 1992 by Adbusters -- a non-profit quarterly magazine satirizing and criticizing the effect of advertising on culture -- Buy Nothing Day has spread into an international phenomenon celebrated by people in more than 30 countries. This year however, the cause is a little stickier. With government officials across the globe urging their constituents to spend those hard-earned dollars, many feel consuming is their patriotic duty.
And while that is what Bush and leaders of other industrialized nations would like their shoppers, er citizens, to think, the Buy Nothing Day campaign has a different idea. "If there's one thing the terror attacks have driven home this year," states Adbusters website, "it's that the things no one can buy -- love, ritual, attention, sacrifice, freedom -- are the only things worth pursuing and exchanging."
But love will not make the GNP rise, and corporations and the government are doing all they can to get Americans out there and spending. Though raising the GNP will make the big boys happy, it will do little to curb environmental degradation or decrease the gap between the rich and poor. In fact, raising the GNP will not free Americans from the endless cycle of work and consumption that leaves them with little or no leisure time. As Juliet Schor (author of The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure) points out, while the GNP rises, measures of the Quality of Life or Social Health move in the opposite direction. She goes on to state that though Americans have more than doubled their productivity potential had our focus been on leisure time instead, we may have already reached the 20-hour work week.
But only on its surface is this call to spend nothing more than a drive to boost the GNP. Dig a little deeper, and its a plea for approval for the War on Terrorism.
While Bush calls spending a patriotic duty, what he is really fishing for is consent. Consent for the actions our government is taking in Afgahanistan and at home. Bombing, killing civilians, restricting our civil liberties -- it will all be OK if we just go to Target. As Adbusters puts it: "Shop while the bombs drop."
If we are shopping, then we arent complaining, and Bush gets a virtual thumbs up for his handling of the War on Terrorism.
Culture pundit Thomas Frank puts it best when he says, tongue lodged in cheek, that "corporations are the product of a democratic process far more sensitive and sophisticated than elections; by definition corporate behavior reflects popular consent. Compared to the market, government just plain sucks."
So this November 23rd, the busiest shopping day of the year, every point a nation full of shoppers raises the NYSE and the NASDAQ is another vote for the war against terror civilian deaths, massive wartime spending, increased police tactics
the whole nine.
Maybe the American Automobile Manufacturers Association puts it best in their slogan: "What America drives, drives America." But maybe its time to take a look at what we are driving and what is driving us. Are we spending of our own free will? Really, there is only one way to tell. For the 24 hours that makes up November 23rd, buy nothing. Join in on your own personal anti-consumer revolution or join activists at the mall in credit card cutting ceremonies, hand out Adbusters Gift Exemption Vouchers this year instead of presents, open up shop and sell nothing.
Lets take the reflection and community that the Thanksgiving holiday affords many of us and extend it one more day. Lets show the rest of the world that our hearts and compassion dont rest in our checkbooks.
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