For my part, I recommend considering Buy Nothing Day -- which isn't to say that consumerism will or should vanish completely, but rather to point out that this weekend is a particularly poignant time to stop and think about the overall function of shopping and consumption (and, by extension -- wastefulness) in our everyday lives, and to take part in a brief moratorium, of sorts.
Of course, its understood that shopping is inevitable to some extent, and we all participate in whatever way. If your primal urge to shop is far too overwhelming to ignore, at least please consider choosing from any of the numerous Buy Local campaigns instead, to support your local artisans and small businesses.
At a time when many people are expressing concern about the economy and how to create jobs in America, one shouldn't need a PhD in Economics to understand that shopping at big box stores who peddle cheap plastic shit from China does almost nothing to support jobs for American workers (just like its short-sighted to believe, by extension, that we can just shop our way out of the Recession -- as if job creation were based only around the solitary factor of how much worthless crap that people buy... but this is a dialogue for another day).
One of the biggest traps I think we've fallen into as a society is to have confused the line between what it means to be a "consumer" versus what it means to be a "citizen". There is an important relationship between these two ideas, and a balanced understanding of both can actually strengthen each side individually.
The "consumer" by his very nature is selfish, impetuous, irresponsible, and feels little obligation to his fellow man. This is the mentality that caused the death of Jdimytai Damour and injured dozens more (including a pregnant woman) when a mob of crazed Black Friday shoppers trampled through the doors of a Wal-Mart in Long Island a few years ago.
By contrast, if the "citizen" realizes the ramifications of his behavior and takes the long view of his unique position in a community or society, then it makes sense that citizen-minded consumers, when acting rationally instead of impulsively, have the power to create certain forms of market demand -- and its therefor crucial to harness that force to dictate the conversation on economic decisions (some call this "ethical consumerism").
Knowing that then, we shouldn't be surprised to discover that the disproportionate American demand for cheap products has been a major contributor to the outsourcing of domestic jobs to overseas nations where the low-price plastic junk we crave is produced by exploiting cheap labor and materials. So when we lament the national unemployment statistics we're currently faced with, it needs to be understood that the object of some of our anger lies squarely in the mirror.
Behold, Exhibit A:
Anyway, obviously a little comedic interlude, but also carries some serious points to it as well. Not meant as a lecture, but just food for thought while preparing for your upcoming shopping experience.
And on a last note, if you're a photographer and you're hitting the sales, be sure to take your camera and shoot some images to submit to the national Picture Black Friday project.
© Samantha VanDeman
(from Picture Black Friday 2010)
(from Picture Black Friday 2010)