There are some pretty good deals on Black Friday. That's partly why—and partly because—it's the biggest shopping day of the year. Americans writ large head to major retail outlets, stand in line for hours, and take home more stuff and more debt. Retailers go from “in the red” to “in the black” for the year, and we all get some shiny new gifts for the holidays. The American way, right?
But corporations are thriving while real income for Americans lags stagnant. Buy Nothing Day is also the Friday after Thanksgiving and it's here to offer another option for all of us who shudder at the prospect of shopping mall mayhem.
“Consumerism is based on the idea in society that we never have enough and that getting more things will make us happier. It is preying on people’s basic feelings of contentment in order to make a profit for the few,” says Cindy Rosin, a spokesperson for the New York City-based Freegans and a supporter of Buy Nothing Day.
This alternative approach to Black Friday started in 1992 by Canadian artist Ted Dave to bring awareness to the social, economic, environmental and psychological effects of over-consumption. It is currently promoted by Adbusters magazine with worldwide Buy Nothing Day Meetup groups.
Billy Talen, the Reverend of the performance group The Church of Life After Shopping and former New York City mayoral candidate for the Green Party, is an outspoken critic of the culture of consumption. “You’re distracted in the society of the spectacle because you have so little to do with making it,” Talen tells me by phone. “It’s the corporation’s creation. So you’re left with a processed sensation.”
This consumer rebellion is as much for the individual non-shopper as it is a statement of protest against a corporate state by his view. “When you leave a product on the shelf, your body and soul start reclaiming itself,” says Talen. “Consumerism is never surprising. It is predicable." His alternative call to arms? "Be imaginative.”
Last year we found five groups who particularly excel at not buying things. Consider teaming up with one of them if you're worried about being lonely in your celebration of Buy Nothing Day.
Or head to an event:
The Freegans are hosting a Whirlmart, where individuals will silently push empty shopping carts through the aisles of a large store. PETA has organized a nationwide Fur-Free Friday, and Reverend Billy and the Church of Life After Shopping are hosting the 8th Buy Nothing Day Parade in New York City at 3p.m.