Last Thursday was a very special day. In addition to being Inauguration Day, it was also dubbed "Not a Damn Dime Day." Someone emailed the idea around the internet that we could all protest the war in Iraq, and other bungles of the Bush administration by refraining from spending a single dime on the day of his inauguration.
As a die-hard liberal, I felt it was my duty to participate. But did I? No.
It sounds good to spend no money for a day in order to show your dissatisfaction with our corporate masters. If enough people refrained from chucking dollars into their coffers, then it would have quite an impact.
Imagine half of America not showing up to buy anything from any store; corporations would have to take notice. I see the point of it, but attaining the goal of buying nothing for a day, even for a loyal liberal like myself, is still a huge cramp on my routine without lots of planning.
Why don’t we realign the purpose of the day, to attain the results we want? The impact of a collective boycott will only be felt if there is mass participation. So what’s the problem? What makes these days of fasting from consuming so tough?
This past Thursday, I awoke with the purpose in my head to spend "not a damn dime." But I need coffee in the morning, and my home brewer was on the fritz. So I stopped at my neighborhood coffee shop for my fix. By 10 a.m. I had already spent a dozen dimes. On the way home I realized that the dinner I had been planning lacked an essential ingredient. And while I was at the co-op buying it, I remembered using the last of the toilet paper that morning – quickly I was spending a lot of dimes. My participation in the protest was as low as any suburban Republican.
But still, I gave nothing to corporations. When this thought first occurred to me, I took it for a rationalization. But now I realize it was an insight.
We need a more effective and easier method to economically protest. Take Buy Nothing Day, for example. Many retailers refer to the Friday after Thanksgiving as Black Friday because that’s the day that most people start their Christmas shopping. In 1995, Kalle Lasn, the editor of Adbusters Magazine and a fervent anti-corporatist, coined "Buy Nothing Day" to fall on that same Friday day as a statement about counter-corporate culture.
The dream was to not only foster awareness of the inherent flaws in consumerism, but to also affect the corporate behemoths that we purchase our goods from. If enough people bought nothing, reversing the market trend, Wal-Mart, Target, and the Gap would be brought to their knees – for one single day. But if that’s the purpose of the day, why don’t we change both the approach and the name to Buy Local Day?
This is something that everyone can get behind, and instead of making U.S. citizens abstain from consuming altogether, we could simply add an extra step into our routines to branch out and support local businesses. Buy Local Day, supplanting Black Friday, would still give one the option to buy nothing; but if you need to buy groceries, you can go to the community co-op that’s just down the street from the big box grocery store.
If you really want to start your Christmas shopping when your belly is full of turkey, then go to a locally owned retail shop instead of Wal-Mart. If you want to go see a movie, patronize an independent theater instead of one of the many Regals that spread over our land like a virus.
I’m all for anti-corporate consuming; but refraining from consuming altogether is a monastic step that, while virtuous, is too difficult for most people to take. The point of the collective boycott is to get enough people to participate in it that it makes a dent.
Buy Local Day is something that everyone can participate in, and would give local economies a boost at the expense of the evil corporations.
A simple change in strategy, and we can make it work. Let’s all push for the first Buy Local Day, Nov. 25, 2005.