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Redundancy 101: Shop till you drop

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
November 21, 2001


"If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got." — Jackie "Moms" Mabley

As someone who has spent the majority of his life tethered to one media outlet or another, life after September 11th has been one of disillusionment and betrayal, feelings usually reserved for a wronged spouse, or a Clinton supporter. Educated in the ways of television and communication, I was still unprepared for a national media intent on making sure the calm shattered by terrorism would never be regained.

For those of you who haven't noticed, fear mongering is all the rage. No where is safe, except TV Land and the Playboy Channel, if one is trying to get away from a corporate media intent on fanning the flames of global demise, selling us things to make the decline that much more comfortable. As the towers of the World Trade Center collapsed I told myself that things would never be the same. Boy, was I wrong!

Before September 11th, the goal of the media was always been to sell us things we don't need, at prices that don't reflect the true cost to the planet and the life forms residing here. Now after September 11th, the same call to over consume is being packaged as patriotism, as if materialism was a type of laundry detergent requiring a new and improved marketing campaign to wet the appetite of wary Americans.

The United States of America came into being as a grand experiment in democracy, and personal freedom. At the time the Declaration of Independence was signed, ours was an agrarian economy where citizens and local communities were self sufficient. Early Americans took pride in doing for themselves, never taking more from the environment than needed for their own survival. Except for a few luxury items, such as tea and certain spices, if they couldn't make it, bake it, raise it or graze it, they did without.

Today America is hardly independent, what we have now is a consumer society with an economy based in hyper-consumption, where the majority of people wouldn't know how to grow their own food if given the land to do so. Self-sufficiency was abandoned for convenience, hence the reason we find ourselves fighting wars on the other side of the planet. And now we are being told to ignore the looming recession, and shop like there's no tomorrow. As if putting ourselves deeper in debt will somehow make things right.

A neighbor of mine, an individual who spends freely and often, recently said something completely out of character. While gardening he turned to me and said, "Bob, you should do a column on the short sighted rhetoric coming from the Bush Administration." My jaw dropped. We agreed, asking Americans to spend money at a time when they should be saving it, was reckless at such an uncertain time.

The economic stimulus package currently making the rounds in Washington D.C. does absolutely nothing for those the government is asking to consume at all costs. Giving millions, if not billions, to multinational corporations, the Republican economic stimulus package will rob from the poor and give to the rich. And like good little sheep we will continue to shop. Talk about the malling of America.

There is a way we can fight back, if only for a day. Friday, November 23rd is international Buy Nothing Day. Originating from Vancouver in 1992 as "No shop day" this global event was designed to shine the spotlight resource depletion, environmental pollution, and social inequities related to globalization. And now that the broadcast media has declared the day after Thanksgiving as the "busiest shopping day of the year, basically declaring it a high holy day for consumer culture, Buy Nothing Day is now seen as a way of providing an alternative to the wholesale manipulation of needs and desires.

On November 23rd I will buy nothing other than locally grown produce as a way of saying no to globalization, and yes to sustainable, self sufficient communities. I will also ask those around me to do the same. I will point out that if they can't get the consumption monkey off their back for one day out 365, then not only are they not free, they are slaves to demons of materialism.

*(Note to copy editor: I have used the word malling on purpose. Please do not change to mauling, as this is not the word I wish to use.)

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