It's That Time of Year Again

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No, not office Christmas party season...

Now in its 17th year, Buy Nothing Day is celebrated every November by environmentalists, social activists and concerned citizens in over 65 countries around the world. Over the years, Buy Nothing Day (followed by Buy Nothing Christmas) has exploded into a global movement, inspiring the world’s citizens to live more simply and buy a whole lot less.

Designed to coincide with Black Friday (which this year falls on Friday, November 28) in the United States, and the unofficial start of the international holiday shopping season (Saturday, November 29), the festival takes many shapes, from relaxed family outings, to free, non-commercial street parties, to politically charged public protests, credit-card cut-ups and pranks and shenanigans of all kinds. Anyone can take part provided they spend a day without spending.

Featured by such media giants as CNN, USA Today, MSNBC, Wired, the BBC, The Age and the CBC, Buy Nothing Day has gained momentum in recent years as the climate crisis has driven people to seek out greener alternatives to unrestrained consumption.

This year, Buy Nothing Day organizers are confronting the economic meltdown head-on – asking citizens, policy makers and pundits to examine our economic crisis.

“If you dig a little past the surface you’ll see that this financial meltdown is not about liquidity, toxic derivatives or unregulated markets, it’s really about culture,” says the co-founder of Adbusters Media Foundation, Kalle Lasn. “It’s our culture of excess and meaningless consumption — the glorified spending and borrowing of the past decade that’s at the root of the crisis we now find ourselves in.”

Economic meltdown, together with the ecological crisis of climate change could be the beginning of a major global cultural shift — the dawn of a new age: the age of Post-Materialism.

“A simpler, pared-down lifestyle – one in which we’re not drowning in debt – may well be the answer to this crisis we’re in,” says Lasn. “Living within our means will also make us happier and healthier than we’ve been in years.”

While I've always liked Buy Nothing Day (and frankly, it has always been easy to observe it), I think Lasn over-simplifies a very complex problem with her statements.

Just look at the everyone's favourite example de jour: the North American auto industry. On the surface, it would make a whole lot of sense to buy fewer, lighter, longer-lasting, inexpensive products. But as it stands, we also need an excuse to give lots of people decent-wage jobs, which we quixotically cannot afford to do without encouraging consumption.

Extricating ourselves from a consumption-driven economy is not going to be as simple as buying less; we also somehow have to generate alternative jobs for people, in diverse industries, at the same time. And we all know that it's particularly difficult to create jobs in any sphere in a time of recession.

I think that discouraging consumption without a more detailed plan is like trying to shift gears without using the clutch. It's possible to do, but a screw-up will be costly.

A cut and pasted go-big or go-home variation in next reply....

"But as it stands, we also need an excuse to give lots of people decent-wage jobs, which we
quixotically cannot afford to do without encouraging consumption."

Every one of those car plants should be converted to build small electrical generation and
water purification/heating units for developing nations. The same technology we are using to
move fatty-fat First Worlders in comfort and convenience would be repurposed to provide
small rural communities with the necessary power to create employment and opportunities for
all. Coupled with some micro-credit initiatives there's a huge market waiting to be tapped and
much human suffering that could be alleviated. We could keep all those auto workers
employed quite easily if we had some vision and leadership from execs and union leaders on
this issue.

We could be employing North Americans and helping others by meeting the market demand
for fresh water and power and in the same fell swoop creating new markets by lifting people
out of subsistence life-styles.

a shameless 24-hour stealing spree!

November 26, 1999 - Participate by participating!
(Press release from

For the past eight years, a few self-described "culture jammers" from
Adbusters Magazine have dubbed the last Friday in November "Buy
Nothing Day."

From their stylish home base in Vancouver's upscale suburb of
Kitsilano, the Adbusters' brain trust has encouraged conscientious
citizens worldwide to "relish [their] power as a consumer to change
the economic environment." In their words, Buy Nothing Day "proves how
empowering it is to step out of the consumption stream for even a

The geniuses at Adbusters have managed to create the perfect
feel-good, liberal, middle-class activist non-happening. A day when
the more money you make, the more influence you have (like every other
day). A day which, by definition, is insulting to the millions of
people worldwide who are too poor or marginalized to be considered

It's supposed to be a 24-hour moratorium on spending, but ends up
being a moralistic false-debate about whether or not you should really
buy that loaf of bread today or ... wait for it ... tomorrow!

Well, this year, while the Adbusters cult enjoys yet another Buy
Nothing Day, accompanied by their fancy posters, stickers, TV and
radio advertisements and slick webpages, a few self-described
anarcho-situationists from Montreal's East End are inaugurating Steal
Something Day.

Unlike Buy Nothing Day, when people are asked to "participate by not
participating," Steal Something Day demands that we "participate by
participating." Instead of downplaying or ignoring the capitalists,
CEOs, landlords, small business tyrants, bosses, PR hacks, yuppies,
media lapdogs, corporate bureaucrats, politicians and cops who are
primarily responsible for misery and exploitation in this world, Steal
Something Day demands that we steal from them, without discrimination.

The Adbusters' intellegentsia tell us that they're neither "left nor
right," and have proclaimed a non-ideological crusade against
overconsumption. Steal Something Day, on the other hand, identifies
with the historic and contemporary resistance against the causes of
capitalist exploitation, not its symptoms. If you think
overconsumption is scary, wait until you hear about capitalism and

Unlike the misplaced Buy Nothing Day notion of consumer empowerment,
Steal Something Day promotes empowerment by urging us to collectively
identify the greedy bastards who are actually responsible for
promoting misery and boredom in this world. Instead of ignoring them,
Steal Something Day encourages us to make their lives as uncomfortable
as possible.

As we like to say in Montreal: diranger les riches dans leurs niches!


And remember, we're talking about stealing, not theft. Stealing is
just. Theft is exploitative. Stealing is when you take a yuppie's BMW
for a joyride, and crash into a parked Mercedes just for the hell of
it. Theft is when you take candy from a baby's mouth.

Stealing is the re-distribution of wealth from rich to poor Theft is
making profits at the expense of the disadvantaged and the natural
environment. Stealing is an unwritten a tax on the rich. Theft is
taxing the poor to subsidize the rich. Stealing is nothing more than a
tax on the rich. There is solidarity in stealing, but property is
nothing but theft.

So, don't pay for that corporate newspaper, but steal all of them from
the box. Get some friends together and go on a "shoplifting "spree at
the local chain supermarket or upscale mall. With an even larger mob,
get together and steal from the local chain book or record store.
Pilfer purses and wallets from easily identified yuppies and business
persons. Skip out on rent. Get a credit card under a fake name and
don't pay. Keep what you can use, and give away everything else in the
spirit of mutual aid that is the hallmark of Steal Something Day.

Download our detourned poster, make copies
and stick it up wherever you can. And don't forget, send your scamming
and stealing tips to us at

See you next Steal Something Day which, unlike Buy Nothing Day,
happens every day of the year.

"Every one of those car plants should be converted to build small electrical generation and water purification/heating units for developing nations."

Seriously? Developing nations that don't already have this technology can afford to buy these units at a price and rate that could sustain the wages equivalent to the North American auto industry?

I don't see where the money will come from.

We're going to lend it to them.

"....easily identified yuppies and business persons"

Reminds me of the "with us or against us" speech. I like it! I too, despise those losers who work at their jobs to feed and house their families. The nerve! Give me anarchy any day. That would be, like, super fun.

I don't think they are anarchists. Hard-line communists probably. I think they make some valid

*correction. they are situational anarchists

I think their criticism of Buy Nothing Day is fine. I think the rest of it is so distasteful, I don't even want to dignify it by discussing it.