Those who Occupy from home have a real opportunity to participate in an important action this week. Did you know that this Friday, November 25/26, is “Buy Nothing Day” (BND)? Did you know that this year, it’s also known as “Occupy Black Friday” and part of #occupyxmas?
The goal of Buy Nothing Day is to raise awareness about consumerism and its effects and to reflect on one’s own buying habits. BND was launched by the magazine Adbusters in 1992. This year it will probably get more attention because it’s been embraced by the Occupy movement (#occupyxmas). With its typical biting wit, Adbusters sets the stage:
You’ve been sleeping on the streets for two months pleading peacefully for a new spirit in economics. And just as your camps are raided, your eyes pepper sprayed and your head’s knocked in, another group of people are preparing to camp-out. Only these people aren’t here to support occupy Wall Street, they’re here to secure their spot in line for a Black Friday bargain at Super Target and Macy’s.
Adbusters suggests not just a “consumer fast” on this day, but also participating in various “shenanigans.” This is smart. There is more to not doing something than doing nothing.
Huh? In the dog training world, we say, “You can’t teach a negative.” For example, people say, “I don’t want the dog to jump up on the guests.” Okay, fine. What do you want the dog to do? Because dogs, like people, have to be doing something. We don’t cease to exist when abstaining from a certain behavior. Peeing on the carpet, humping the guests’ legs, or chewing the guests’ coats all fit under the heading, “Not jumping up.” Instead, we usually teach the dog to sit for petting or to go to its bed for a chew toy when the doorbell rings.
In other words, it’s usually a lot more productive to tell someone (whether that person is a dog, a human child, or yourself), “Do this (desirable behavior)” as opposed to, “Don’t do that (undesirable behavior).” As I indicated in my dog example, whatever “that” is can involve lots of other options that might be equally undesirable! In the case of people, we want to ask others and ourselves not to take out the credit cards, buy from the big box stores, go into debt, and purchase more petroleum-derived and -produced products that will go into the landfill. So what should we do instead?
The nice thing about an action like BND/Occupy Black Friday is that, since I pretty much live in bed, I’m not being exhorted to go out and do various things that I cannot do. However, there is also the Internet equivalent of Black Friday, “Cyber Monday,” when all the online sales take place the weekend after Thanksgiving. So, it’s not just about not going out. I could support the United Corporations of America right from bed, if I wanted to. But I don’t want to. (I don’t want to pee on the carpet, either.) What will I do?
Here’s a list! These ideas were generated by the creative and clever people on the Occupy at Home Facebook page. I hope you’ll add your ideas in the comments!
In no particular order, here are some things to do as Occupiers at home on Occupy Black Friday:
Educate Yourself (& Act on that Knowledge)
Lots of people enjoy watching a video the day after Thanksgiving. It’s a great thing to do at home with family and friends or by yourself. Here are several movies — some of which you can watch free, online — that will deepen your understanding of the importance of BND/Occupy Black Friday.
Access note: I regret that I don’t have the spoons or time to caption and/or transcribe these movies. Certainly, the full-length documentaries can be rented as DVDs with captions. I have not yet been able to find out if any are available with audio description. (If you have links to described or captioned versions of any of these films, please put a link in the comments, and I’ll add it to the post.)
– What Would Jesus Buy? Produced by Morgan Spurlock, this is a truly educational, inspirational, funny, and surprising film. I rented it on a whim because I thought the title was funny, but I learned a lot about our debt-based economy, about how people work all year to pay off their Christmas-shopping debts, and about how Disney and other multinational corporations that make things for American children do terrible harm to children (and their families and homes) in foreign countries.
A trailer for it is below. If you have already seen the movie, you can also watch videos, listen to podcasts, and read blog posts by Reverend Billy, the star of the film and the leader of the Church of Earthaleujah. Heck, you could memorize some of their clever anticonsumerist Christmas carols sung by the Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir and go enlighten and entertain your neighbors!
– Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price. You can actually watch the documentary at home, for free, on youtube! I knew there were problems with Wal-Mart before I saw this Robert Greenwald documentary — in the words of one customer review: “Closure of family stores, forcing its “associates” to work overtime without compensation, depriving them of a living wage, and forcing them onto welfare, destroying central business districts of small communities, diverting tax revenues from school districts, etc.” I knew they sold products made overseas in sweatshop conditions and full of toxic ingredients.
What I hadn’t realized just how intentional and single-minded was Wal-Mart’s mission to eliminate all competition in every community it enters, going to great lengths to do so. One example that shocked me was how one huge Wal-Mart will enter a community, squeezing out many of the local economies and then how they will open a second enormous Wal-Mart in a neighboring community; between the two megastores, all the other stores go under. Then, Wal-Mart will close one of those two massive complexes, leaving it a vacant building, and the only place for people to buy anything they need will be the one remaining store, which often means driving distances without public transportation for many people — their time and gas consumed by buying necessities from far away.
After you watch the documentary, please visit BattleMart, an activist resource, which provides data, information, resources, a blog, and activist tactics to try to prevent the destruction of communities by this behemoth retailer. Even if you cannot afford to boycott Wal-Mart entirely, BattleMart provides information on actions you can take that can make an impact. (For example, Wal-Mart has cornered 25 percent of toothpaste sales in America, so if nothing else, please buy your toothpaste elsewhere.)
Here it is!
– The Story of Stuff is another documentary that can be watched in its entirety, for free, on youtube! (It is closed captioned in Croatian, but if you choose the translation into English option, the captions are pretty accurate.) Here’s a description from the video:
From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It’ll teach you something, it’ll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.
– Hooked on Growth – A documentary with trailers and websites and a blog, and all sorts of cool, educational information that challenges the core American value of endless growth (in all areas). From their YouTube:
A documentary examining the superstitions and addictions we need to leave behind in order to become a sustainable civilization. Scheduled for completion in 2011. Join the global grass-roots network helping to fund, produce, distribute and spread the word about this non-profit project at http://www.growthbusters.org
Here’s the trailer:
Here’s a video focused on the filmmaker, David Gardner:
Chris Martenson’s video course on how the entire monetary system works (and why it’s crashing) is important information for individuals in building resilience into your life, and for the world in terms of the type of activism we choose to do. He foresaw the events that have been unfolding in the last couple of years. Particularly relevant for Occupy Black Friday is The Crash Course, Chapter 5: Growth versus Prosperity.
You can watch the entire Crash Course online, for free! If you want to see a condensed, 45-minute version of it, that’s available here. I did not see information on captioning, however The Crash Course is available in Spanish, German, and French, as well as English.
Get Playful! Get Creative with “Your Stuff”
Here are an assortment of fun ways to take part in BND/Occupy Black Friday.
– Watch George Carlin’s classic comedy routine, “A Place to Put My Stuff.”
– Sort through closets, sheds, cupboards, etc., and collect stuff you don’t use or need and post on Freecycle or Craigslist to give away, or depending on what you have, some of it might be of use to a battered women’s shelter, a homeless shelter, or an independent living center.
– Get crafty. Is there something you want or need? Is it possible you could make it yourself? My partner and I like to play backgammon. I can’t tolerate most backgammon boards due to my multiple chemical sensitivity. Then my partner found a set that was all made of glass. It was great, and we used it often until a few years ago, when we dropped the board and it broke. We still had all the pieces. Finally, I started badgering her that I wanted to make a board, which we did! It was fun! We used a piece of cardboard from a box we didn’t need and covered it with black construction paper, using purple construction paper to make the points. That’s all it took — some cardboard, a few pieces of paper, some scissors, and a nontoxic glue stick. All things we already had around the house. We’ve been playing backgammon almost every night since. It’s fun, it was cheap, and it smells like kindergarten.
– Set up a skillshare. A skillshare is a way for people to teach others skills that they know, and vice-versa. It can be done formally, in classes at the local library or community center or town hall, or one-to-one at get-togethers at someone’s home. This website, Just For the Love of It, provides information and resources on skillshares, toolshares, spaceshares, and other ways to participate in a gift economy. You have skills to offer, even if you haven’t thought of it. What kind of skills might someone want to learn? Playing bridge, knitting, bicycle repair, changing the oil in your car, editing, saving seeds, raising poultry, astrology, getting organized, learning another language, and anything else you can think of!
– Sometimes you really do need to buy things — food, clothing, soap, towels, a dog collar, a snow shovel, gardening supplies, or whatever. Because of Wal-Mart’s tactics to make them the only game in town, this might leave you with no nearby options for shopping other than a big box store. If you don’t drive, this can be particularly problematic. One possible option — and a good time to do it is around the holidays when you are in touch with family and friends — is to look into a shopping carpool trip or trips. Together, you can research family-owned and -operated or other small businesses in your area for those items you really need or want. If there aren’t any or many nearby, talk to family, friends, neighbors about setting up a carpool for shopping at independent, small businesses for the things you really need or want.
– When you do shop at small or local businesses, if possible, pay with cash or a check. With every credit card purchase, small businesses lose a portion of their profit by paying a fee to the credit card company. You can help small businesses by paying with cash or checks.
– Write letters to the stores you might normally go to, and tell them why you won’t be shopping on that day. Let them know what they could do to encourage you to shop there on the other days of the year, such as selling products made closer to home, environmentally friendly products, and products that are produced (harvested, created, shipped) in ethical ways or from union labor in your country.
– Spend time with friends and family sharing what you enjoy or appreciate about each other, realizing that the gift of companionship and love is priceless! (Cheesy, but true.) This just in! Occupy Together has created a lovely little gift exemption card (pdf) that you can print out and give to family and friends explaining why you’re participating in #occupyxmas. Check it out!
– If gift-giving at the holidays is important to you, spend some time putting thought into what small handmade and/or locally-sourced gifts would really resonate with your loved ones, or what you could make yourself.
– Write a letter asking people who would normally buy you a gift to make a donation in your name instead. That’s what I’ll be doing this year for a cause very close to my heart. I was planning on doing this anyway, but having a day set aside for it will help me to stop procrastinating.
I hope you found this helpful, informative, and inspiring. What did you do (or what do you plan to do) on Buy Nothing Day? How did it feel? What ideas do you have to share with others?