Monday, November 10, 2008

Buy Nothing Day

You are not your bank account

You are not the clothes you wear

You are not your Grande Latte

You are not the car you drive

You are not your fucking khakis[1]

Buy Nothing Day, as described by one if its biggest backers, Adbusters Magazine, is a “24 hour moratorium on consumer spending” observed on November 28th in North America and November 29th internationally. [1]

This movement started as something of an underground sentiment of fighting back against the amount of rule corporations have over our daily lives and against the capitalist culture we have embedded ourselves in. To, for one day, be free from all this and make a stance against the bureaucracy behind international trade is a big step in creating an awareness of the pitfalls of globalization. Though McLuhan spoke of his dream of a “Global Village”, he was at the same time surely aware of the consequences of such mechanized society. “It is not an easy period in which to live, especially for the television-conditioned young who, unlike their literate elders, cannot take refuge in the zombie trance of Narcissus narcosis that numbs the state of psychic shock induced by the impact of the new media. From Tokyo to Paris to Columbia, youth mindlessly acts out its identity quest in the theater of the streets, searching not for goals but for roles, striving for an identity that eludes them.” [2] At the time McLuhan spoke these words (1969), he surely could not have even fathomed the technological strides we would make in such a short amount of time – and the colossal impact they would have globally.

Ursula Franklin spoke of the damaging effects of the impact of new technologies on a global scale, outlining it perfectly with her example of the sewing machine. “With the help of the new machines [sewing machines], sewing came to be done in a factory setting, in sweatshops that exploited the labour of women and particularly the labour of women immigrants. Sewing machines became, in fact, synonymous not with liberation but with exploitation.” [3] This is truer than ever nowadays, with practically everything we possess and wear coming from the Far East or elsewhere and having been made in sweatshops. Such realities are exactly what the “Buy Nothing Day” movement is trying to bring awareness to; if for one day we can make the conscious effort to not buy anything and be aware of just how much we, as North Americans, really consume every single day, perhaps we can brake out of the very “Narcissus narcosis” McLuhan was talking about.

One movement that spawned from “Buy Nothing Day” is “Buy Nothing Christmas”, which essentially advocates spending time with family and making homemade gifts and cards as opposed to maxing out for the corporation’s favourite time of the year. As much as I love shopping and I love going downtown during Christmas time (yes, I’m completely sucked in by the pretty displays in the shop windows on Queen West…just like the rest of you), I think I love the idea not having to worry about getting the “perfect” gift anymore (think of the “Best Buy” commercial… “I’m looking for the ‘OHMIGOD I LOVE IT! section?”) It’s weird to think that although Christmas has its roots as a religious holiday, how much of a corporate monster it has become since. Anyways, here’s the link to Buy Nothing Christmas so you can make up your own mind:

[1] “Buy Nothing Day.” Adbusters: Campaigns. 2008. Adbusters. 10 Nov 2008. .

[2] Playboy, "The Playboy Interview: Marshall McLuhan." Playboy Magazine March 1969. 10 Nov 2008 . <>.

[3] Franklin, Ursula M.. The Real World of Technology. Toronto: House of Anansi Press Inc., 1999.

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