buy nothing day?

bnd_detoxThis year is the 22nd annual “Buy Nothing Day,” celebrated in the USA on the day after Thanksgiving, and in sixty-five other countries on the following Saturday. Not only do “Buy Nothing Day” supporters encourage us to forego shopping on that day, they also hold “credit card cut-ups” to help people get a handle on their debt, and they stage “zombie walks” where people dressed like horror-movie zombies shamble through shopping malls, inspiring people to wake up and be more aware and intentional about their shopping habits.

So: what are we to think of someone who does shop on Buy Nothing day?

Our western consumerist culture tries to convince us that most of life’s problems can be solved by buying something. The implicit message in most advertising is that we can finally find true happiness if we drive the right car, or wear the correct clothing, or use the right brand of whatever it is they are selling.

The people in the commercials are all smiling and laughing; most of them have loving family and attractive friends around them. None of them appear lonely or worried or depressed—unless they are shown *before* they buy and use the advertised product or service, after which they are again exuberant and connected and gleeful.

We naturally want to be as happy and as well-adjusted as the people in the commercials. It is good and appropriate to value those feelings. And the truth is, if we are seeking meaning, or human connection or purpose or true, deep gladness, there is *no* app for that. If you want to find the score of the big game, there is an app for that. If you want to buy some stocks, or find a good car repair shop, or look up a recipe for vegetarian chili, there is an app for that.

If you want to work for justice, or reduce pollution, or provide a living wage to all workers, or if you want to find real encouragement, and share that hope with other people, there is no app for that. There is no button to push, no special thing to buy, that will help create more justice or more compassion in the world.

That understanding is what “Buy Nothing Day” is about. For 364 days a year, we see and hear thousands and millions of ads subtly reinforcing the idea that buying things can make us happy. One day per year, we *need* the reminder that real joy does not come from buying something, but rather from human  connection, and work and dedication and loving awareness.

Buy Nothing Day skewers the idolatry of out-of-control consumerism; but it can be taken *too* seriously, so that it becomes its own idolatry.

If a person wants to express her love by buying nice gifts for her family; if the best time for him to shop is the day after Thanksgiving, because he is already off work that day; if they *need* to join the crowds and the lines because they only have so much money, and the best sales are on that particular day, then who are we to judge? How can we insist that a person observe “Buy Nothing Day” instead of shopping for their family?

What we’re trying to do here is live better lives—we want to lead happier, healthier, more meaningful lives, and we want to help each other to do the same, as we journey together.


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so may we categorize: