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24 November 2005
'Buy Something Meaningful' Day

The folks at AdBusters are admirably pushing a very admirable idea--declaring November 25, the day after Thanksgiving, as 'Buy Nothing Day'. The idea is that for this day, we are to not participate in the economy, not fall for the marketing gimmicks and sales that run so much of our consumptive lives. It's a venture with a noble aim and I support their pursuit of it.

(As an aside, I do think the overall approach of AdBusters is a bit questionable; to me they're an example of the message being communicated in a method [obtuse, artsy abstraction] wholly inappropriate for its most important potential recipients [the regular, non-artsy people actually fueling the corporate marketing machines]. And you have to chuckle at a group proposing Buy Nothing Day whose own web site features their merchandise available for purchase on the home page. But their hearts are in the right place, and more power to them.)

But as attractive as that idea might sound, here's my proposal: perhaps we could instead make the day 'Buy Something Meaningful Day'. By the same logic that voting is better than not voting, spending money on things which enrich our lives is arguably a better form of encouraging social change than is dropping out.

So instead of getting groceries at Wal-Mart, we can buy fresh produce or free-range turkeys at the local farmer's market or natural foods store. Instead of buying decorative gifts at the mall, we can go to the colorful locally-owned stores downtown that sell local artists' work. Instead of eating at a large chain restaurant, we can go to a local place, whether an exotic vegan cafe or a working-class greasy spoon. Instead of going to Barnes & Noble, we can explore the invitingly labyrinthine locally-owned bookstores. Instead of shopping at the massive Bass Pro Shop, we can buy our hunting, fishing, and camping gear at the smaller local store that's been serving the community for many years. Instead of standing in the cold to rush into some department store at 6am in a frenetic bid to grab the cheapest crap possible, we can move more slowly and thoughtfully and buy goods that are of better quality from local businesspeople who truly care about what they sell.

As admirable as it is to stand apart altogether from the economic machine, I'll choose instead to cast my vote for the elements of my local world that I want to see flourish. So today I'll be heading downtown to the Beaux Arts Bizarre to check out the works of many local artists and eating lunch at the deliciously vegan Main Squeeze cafe. And I know I won't be alone.



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