The Occupy Wall St. movement is rallying the troops to participate in an international day of non-consumption called "Buy Nothing Day." Ad Busters, the Canadian-based anti-consumerist magazine (who, by the way, initiated the Occupy movement) is also plugging Buy Nothing Day.
On the surface, BND is an exciting and creative way to live out the message of Jesus: it is an act of fasting and an explicit "No" to mammon. Jesus invites his followers to both of these practices. In Matt. 6:24 Jesus teaches, "You cannot serve God and mammon," (mammon is an Aramaic word that means "money, wealth, greed"). Jesus' words resonate exceptionally well with the principle motivation behind Buy Nothing Day. (Highly recommend this fantastic essay on mammon as a spiritual reality)
Beneath the surface, however, I am concerned with the ramifications of BND. Most specifically, I worry that a "successful" BND will only hurt the very people the Occupy movement desires to help. When "Black Friday" profits plummet, who takes the hit? The employees, not the CEOs. If seasonal sales are low, then companies are less likely to hire those extra holiday helpers. In short, my concern is that this all or nothing approach only hurts the middle class.
This is the catch 22 of our economy and, frankly, I think it is evil. We are told that the only way out of debt is to spend more. The only way to economic recovery is to shop! Do you remember President Bush's advice after 9/11? He told America to go shopping!
So... what do we do? As a frugal, graduate student who couldn't care less about holiday shopping, I am no bank of creative solutions. However, it seems to me that instead of quitting the game of consumerism altogether, we need to spend our money in smart, ethically responsible ways.
This means shopping at clothing stores like these rather than GAP or Banana Republic. It means shopping at NMC Toys rather than Five Below! There are countless companies trying to participate ethically in our capitalistic economy. Check out the Buyer's Guide on the website EthicalConsumer.org. Or try EthicalShopping.com.
As far as I'm concerned, BND is a great idea. But in the long run, I'm worried that utter non-consumption will only hurt the middle class and motivate company execs to seek alternative ways to maximize profit.
By playing the consumption game ethically perhaps we can transform things from the inside out (like yeast?).