Anti-consumers are today's conscientious objectors. Remember September 2001 and the Bush regime's deadpan exhortation that, in order to recover from the attack on the World Trade Center, we all need to shop more? Bush hadn't read the wrong cue card -- he was greasing the tank treads. That fact wasn't lost on the people at Adbusters, the creators of the annual international Buy Nothing Day. "Alignment with the peace movement," says a document on their Web site, "gave the day a wider resonance."
The connection to the movement might seem arbitrary at first, but an anti-war movement calling only for a vague "peace" seems to be selling itself short: we want war to stop, but only so we can continue living lifestyles that necessitate war. "No blood for oil," you say? Better stop driving. Buy Nothing Day, in theory, could contribute as much to stopping the war as peace marches.
In practice, though, something tells me that "ordinary" people will be quite happy to ignore activists telling them to give up yet another thing.
Rather than asking people to "buy nothing today," why not ask them to "buy local and independent today, then do it again tomorrow"? And the next day. And so on. It's not a cure on its own, but neither is buying nothing, since Buy Nothing Day is always accompanied by Buy Everything You'll Need The Day Before Buy Nothing Day Day and Buy Twice As Much The Day After Day.
The quasi-truth about homo domesticus is that people really like stuff. And without an alternative that's more appealing it's unlikely that many except those of us already allergic to shopping malls are going to leap at the chance to participate in not participating.
As we rely less and less on our imaginations and communities to enrich us, our manufactured need to consume starts to spiral. If activists are to have any hope of talking serial shoppers out of that tailspin, they need to change from anti-consumers to pro-creators, to couple the need to abandon something cherished with the possibility of gaining something never found before.
The point is to remind ourselves what we really are -- not consumers, but creatures of self-expression. The market is just buying that creative power, marking it up and selling it back to us, so why not cut out the middle person? The trick is to develop a personal life more present and vibrant than could ever be found in the daily Eaton Centre shuffle.