Friday, November 26, 2010

Buy Nothing Day = Black Friday = Conflicted

Every year I Like a Buy Nothing Day group on Facebook.  Shortly after I do this, my wife returns with my sister and mother from the mall.

The logo changes from year to year, but the concept is always the same.

image image

Around yesterday’s turkey extravaganza, we discussed the irony.  Every year it comes up.  Some years more loudly than others.  This year I wasn’t too high on my pedestal; it’s hard to yell at consumerism vociferiously when you’re unwrapping birthday gifts.

In my aged wisdom I realize now that you can’t buy nothing (well actually there’s some nice stories on how you can).  But what bothers me about Black Friday is the sport of buying things that aren’t needed.  A 2006 survey showed that the average American spends $850 on Christmas.  It wouldn’t bother me if everyone received $850 worth of things they need.  But inevitably my guess is that $600 of it is stuff people will throw away, only $250 will actually go to things we need.  The exchange is as locked into our consciousness as apple pie … “thanks for the ummm gift.  I love it.” Etc.  

Kids get hordes of gifts that quickly pile up.  Adults get sweaters and calendars.  Lots of merriment climaxes quickly on Christmas morning only to be followed by the roll over and the cigarette by 4pm.

The only winners are the condom makers and marketers.  The cash rolls in.  And it needs to roll in.  Without consumer spending, which accounts for 2/3rds of our economy, there are no tax receipts, no holiday bonuses, no employment for assembly liners in Southeast Asia.

I’m watching a series my Dad recommended today by Michael Palin (the less wierd Palin, of Monty Python lore).  It’s really 80s, revived by Netflix, complete with Norwegian skier women with massive hair and the remnants of the Cold War.  In the series, Michael Palin travels from the North Pole to the South Pole along the 30th meridian and meets and greets all sorts of cultures – right now he’s in Finland, soon to head to Estonia. 

Pole to Pole Poster

Imagine what we could do with that $850 spent every year for our entire lives.  That’s $68,000.  And we wouldn’t have to carry around all that stuff.  You know, the sweaters and calendars.  Well, I imagine our lives would be a little more like Michael Palin’s adventure.  Meeting people, taking baths with Norwegians or taking the bus across Lapland.  In other words, we wouldn’t be so encumbered by the purchases that are suppose to make us happy.

Anyways, I’m re-inspired to celebrate Buy Nothing Day.  Now to make lunch for the kids.

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