Hundreds of thousands of shoppers gleefully flocked to malls, markets and stores across the nation Friday with the official commencement of the holiday shopping season. The day following Thanksgiving (known to retail workers as “Black Friday”) annually marks the celebration of excess consumerism at home and abroad. On this busiest shopping day of the year, retailers fling their doors open wide with the intention of hawking their wares to rabid buyers for record profit margins. The story is the same every year; with the conclusion of our national day of thanks, the greed begins.
Fortunately, the more socially conscious among us have an ally in the Vancouver-based Adbusters Media Foundation, the organization behind the 11-year-old phenomenon known as “Buy Nothing Day.” The movement, designed to coincide yearly with Black Friday, is aimed at promoting awareness about the culturally detrimental aspects of American consumerism. Every year, supporters of Buy Nothing Day boycott corporate entities by denying them their patronage. The steady growth of the movement has also seen an increase in participation across the world.
In Seattle, activists offered a credit-card cut-up service outside a downtown shopping mall. Flyers in Times Square and London urged consumers to “Boycott America: The country of overconsumption.” In an effort to draw more attention to their cause, Adbusters mounted a “TV-jam” last Tuesday, in which they presented an image of a burping cartoon pig on Lou Dobbs’ “Moneyline.” More than half a million CNN viewers caught a glimpse of the 30 second “uncommercial,” which was made possible through donations.
While there does exist a need for certain levels of consumer spending (in order to ward off domestic recession), current levels of consumption, particularly within the United States, are inappropriate and generally unhealthy for the worldwide economic climate. The uncompassionate tendencies of multinational corporations, fueled by herds of blissfully uninformed spenders, perpetuate the imbalance of power between the First and Third Worlds.
Buy Nothing Day is not only an important social movement, but a significant eco-holiday, as well. Adbusters told environmental groups this year, “Over consumption is the mother of all our environmental problems.” The tradition of unfettered consumerism during the Western holiday season stands not only as an affront to economically depressed nations, but also as a serious threat to the stability of the world’s ecology. The support of corporations who flagrantly violate environmental standards cannot be tolerated.
Adbusters has almost single-handedly forged an effective campaign to combat the materialism in our society; it should be lauded for its efforts to educate a sadly misguided public about the dangers of excessive spending.