Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Forget About Buy Nothing Day:
KGNU led off their Morning Magazine program today with a round-up of the Buy Nothing Day events in Boulder - Naropa students would be bearing witness to conspicuous consumption on the Pearl Street mall out in front of the courthouse (if there's one thing that makes me crazy about my school and my fellow students, it's all this bearing witness shit. I think the only people who get what bearing witness means are other witnesses who bear), and Left Hand Books, Boulder's anarchist, volunteer-run bookstore, would be closed today in observance of buying nothing.
Buy Nothing Day sounded good once upon a time - okay, it sounded good in the mid 1990s, during that godawful spate of cross-market mergers and suddenly every major manufacturer had a radio station and a morning television show to flog they junk and celebrity-tell-alls at the Wal-Marts that were springing up everywhere overnight. For a very, very short while, it felt like taking a little something back, a little bit of mental and spiritual resistance in a time when every day was shopping a-go-go.
But only for a very, very short while - BND became as stupidly reflexive as the Best Shopping Day of The Year. It is - and let's face it, probably always was - an empty gesture, the bumpersticker equivalent of activism. Bearing witness against consumerism sounds about as hollow as a War On Terror, as Terry Jones has said, the struggle against an abstract noun: it's not a boycott, or a protest, or even street theater. So, then, is it supposed to be connected to something? Is there or has there ever been a concerted effort around BND to right a wrong, like healthcare for retail workers or shit wages (over there and over here) or more recently, the war?
And just what "consumerism" is it that BND witness-bearers are bearing witness to? Is it just buying, or a kind of buying, at a kind of place? The people that "observe" BND probably weren't going to get crazy at the box store with the rest of the mouthbreathers on the 25th anyway, so who is this supposed to make a difference to? I'm sure Baltimore's Devine, who runs a used bookstore, would love to hear all of the leftier-than-thou reasons for not spending money at her store today. Indeed, this sort of thing is okay in Boulder, a college town that dreamed it was a hippie oasis but when it woke up it had turned into someone's suburb, and just about everyone and everything looks the same. Purity's great when no one gives a shit, and, hey, newsflash, independent business is Boulderese for white millionare. But for those of us who live in the city, we value our independent businesses - they give our neighborhoods character and make them unlike any other place in the city or even the world sometimes, and help tell the story of the lives we live.
There are other, more meaningful ways to withold cash, means that have ends, means that carry risk, which is the mark of real activistm, instead of BND's self-congratulatory bullshit.