The Season of Compulsive Consumption

Today is the day after Thanksgiving in the U.S., and the mad race is on to buy, buy, buy, until that climactic day of ecstasy in the American market system, Christmas. Although it may seem utopian for anyone to question the consumption stampede now underway, there are some brave souls and creative dissenters who’d like to stop the madness. Today seems like a fine day to showcase some of these efforts.

Sorry this post comes so late in the day, but today is “Buy Nothing Day.” For several years now, Adbusters, the culture-jamming magazine, has been promoting this alternative to the shopping frenzy that commences on the last Friday of November. It suggests various skits of street theater, posters and other consciousness-raising tactics. This year, Adbusters offers a way to hook up with “Local Jammergroups” around the country and internationally.

It’s heartening to see the number of sites protesting the Christmas Industry growing. For example, The Buy Nothing Christmas initiative, started by Canadian Mennonites, has expanded. One amusing protest posters shows Santa Claus in a Zen meditation pose, and is called “ Zenta.” The tagline: “Buy Nothing Christmas: Rise Above it.” I also discovered a growing subculture of folks who convene annual “Santacons” in December — public gatherings of people who dress up in scruffy Santa Claus outfits to drink beer and do naughty things. The “Santarchy”: site — “No force on earth can stop one hundred Santas!” — is a “global repository of the annual Santacon events.”

On a more militant note, The Christmas Resistance Movement is determined to fight the faux-Christmas cheer and consumerism. “For every 100 automatons who call you ‘Scrooge,’ there’s a sparkly-eyed CHRISTMAS RESISTOR who supports YOU in NOT BUYING INTO THE HOLIDAY HYSTERIA,” according to the site. “Together, we boycott Christmas Shopping, Christmas decorations, Christmas cards, and every variety of Christmas Crap.… You are not alone. Together, we can RESIST CHRISTMAS!”

Then there are the more established anti-consumerism groups like the Center for a New American Dream, Commercial Alert and Overcoming Consumerism. Worth a look.

The cries of protest from the periphery are not going to stop the marketing juggernaut that has debased the Christmas season. But as the “spirit of the season” — $$$$ — gets underway, it is nice to hear such voices becoming more plentiful, visible and imaginative. I’m starting to feel better already.