If Black Friday’s shopping frenzy leaves you as frazzled as it does me every year, you may be interested in its counterpoint called, “Buy Nothing Day”?
Founded by artist Ted Dave in Vancouver Canada in 1992, Buy Nothing Day or BND is an international day of protest against consumerism. In North America, Britain and Sweden the day is observed on the same day as Black Friday (the Friday after Thanksgiving) and in other countries it is on the Saturday after Black Friday.
Promoted by the “not for profit, anti-consumerist, pro-environment”, Adbusters movement, BND wants to raise awareness about the destructiveness of blind consumerism and how it affects people and the planet.
Some of the activities BND participants undertake are the public cutting up of credit cards, dressing up as zombies and wandering aimlessly through malls as a parody of shoppers, as well as public protests.
At this time of year we watch our mailboxes and magazines bulge with advertising flyers all convincing us that we cannot possibly live without the wares displayed within. So we do know just how powerful the search for bargains and special deals is. Do we ever stop to ask, “Do I really need this?”
The BND organisers realise that one day will not change consumer behaviour but they do hope to raise awareness about the insidious power of advertising to manipulate our consciousness and unleash frenetic spending. So in addition to the Buy Nothing Campaign, Adbusters also runs anti-ad campaigns blaming advertising for playing a central role in creating, and maintaining consumer culture. They argue that the advertising industry goes to great effort and expense to link our identity with commodities and brands. “Are you a (product name here) man or woman?”
These movements need to be seen against the recently released figures from the Department of Statistics, Community Survey 2016 which show that 3,3 million South African households reported running out of money to buy food in the past year. The Eastern Cape total for this phenomenon was 464 838 households. The survey also measured the possession of household appliances and stated, “Ownership of household’s goods is crucially important in measuring the standard of living for the household. Ownership of some household goods such as a cellphone, electric stove, TV, fridge, washing machine, DSTV, motor vehicle and a computer have seen significant increases in 2016 as compared to in 2011.” (the last census)
It is great that more people can live comfortably, but one has to ask how many of those appliances were bought on credit? And could debt be the reason that there sometimes isn’t money for food in over 3,3 million homes?
Christopher Lasch the American social critic and author of “The Culture of Narcissism” wrote, “It is the logic of consumerism that undermines the values of loyalty and permanence and promotes a different set of values that is destructive of family life.”
Let’s be careful not to destroy our families while shopping for them.