Click Click Activismby Mahala High Five Brigade / 01.12.2009
Since its inception, Facebook has become increasingly helpful and concerned about its users. Always dropping little hints and suggestions about how you can make it better for others, or telling me to connect with that long-lost-psycopath-I’ve-never-met-and-whose-friend-request-I’m-certain-I-rejected. It also updates me on what my friends are feeling, thinking and doing. As well as how many cows they’ve slain in Farmville, which 80’s song best describes them and what faux charitable cause they are supporting with just a click. So this morning, in between fielding notifications, requests, comments and messages with the deft skill not unlike that of Billy-Bob Thornton circa Pushing Tin, I couldn’t help but notice a fair amount of my virtual compadres had given up the ‘Like’ for a certain Buy Nothing Day.
Now naturally, being one to hate parting with my hard-earned pennies, my finger hovered over my mouse button. The thought of sticking it to The Man, of not buying anything for 24 hours seemed noble and conscious. A proud statement that I am not what I buy, that my possessions do not define me. That I will not champion the rights of a corporate over those of human beings. Hell, was I ever ready to ‘Like’! I was on the brink of ‘Like’! I was a woman on the burning, fearsome edge of ‘Like’… But something made me hesitate. I scrutinized the synopsis a little further. DETOX FROM CONSUMERISM, the headline pleaded. Yes! I cried. Yes! I need a consumerism enema! A week at the consumerism spa with lots of de-consumerising face packs. And then I thought about it a bit more.
Now, I’m not about to get into the nitty gritty pros and cons of our world monetary system. Nor am I going to attempt to deny the evils of certain corporations who think nothing of exploiting anything with small enough fingers. But come on people. Put down that copy of No Logo, get off thine soapbox and get real. If you think you’re going to achieve anything more than a feeble show of Virtual Activism, by eschewing the trade of goods and cash for a day, you’re sorely mistaken. Further, if you think you’re in anyway detoxing from consumerism by doing so, you’re doubly as duped. But let’s play devil’s advocate. Suppose I boycott buying and selling. I don’t buy groceries. Fine. I had some stuff in the fridge. I don’t put petrol in my car. It’s ok, I had some already. Next, I tell my maid not to come in to work today. I mean, she needs the money but rules are rules. I don’t go into work, and take a day of unpaid leave. I don’t log on to Facebook. Or Twitter. Or Google. Because every time I do its just ching-ching-kaching in someone else’s account. I don’t buy the homeless man lunch as is my Friday tradition. That bastard! Suckling on the privileged teet of consumerism, I’ll show him! I don’t pay my gardener, who will have to wait until 2 weeks time before he can next expect his loot. I don’t buy my kid his chronic illness medication. But who cares? I’m making a stand! One day’s sacrifice for… for… for awareness! But really? What, exactly, has been achieved? Is it not a self-defeating purpose that those least effected by one pithy day of no-buy are those who “the system” affords that very luxury? Would a poverty stricken single mother be able to exercise such “awareness”? After all, isn’t she the one who should be protesting consumerisms many evils? But I digress.
See, like most Detoxes, this Buy Nothing Day, while lodged in good intentions, is horribly misdirected. Ask any health professional. Detoxes are fads, and more often than not, unhealthy ones. Short term gratification over long term gain. And, time and time again, the only “diet” that ever really works is one that addresses your lifestyle, and daily routine. Otherwise you end up locked in a hapless yo-yo scenario that can only end in tears. Like Oprah. If the analogy is lost on you, then what I’m saying is this. There is nothing inherently wrong with consumerism. In fact, if people spent less time bitching about Nike, and more time supporting their local veggie market, the better. Spend that money. Spend it on people that deserve it, who need it, who have earned it. Spend it on products and companies who use their powers for good, and who practice sustainable methods. Buy and sell and spend and buy all you want. But be informed about what you’re spending on, and take responsibility for your choice to do so. Don’t spend more than you have. Don’t get 30 credit cards. Don’t take out a second bond, then gamble it away, or spend it on shoes. And then blame the advertising industry for filling you with all these consumeristic needs and wants beyond your control. Exercise your right to say ‘No’, and your responsibility to ask ‘Why’. If you don’t agree with something, choose something else. There are more than enough alternate solutions out there, if we feel strongly enough about it. It all comes down to making that choice. And therein lies the dilemma, because unlike the click of a button, real choices require real effort and real change. And so long as we have an economy, it is the buying-power public’s right to make the right choices to make it work. The markets don’t crash because someone pushes a button (despite what conspiracy theorists have us believe), they crash because of irresponsible, greedy and short-sighted behaviour on the account of global financial structures, local governments and individuals alike. They crash because of bad choices.
So. don’t be lured into the false sense of security that Facebook Activism provides. The notion that the click of a button, or, not buying anything for a day, can really make a difference, is as much of a swindle as the one of If You But This Record Your Life Will Be Better. The only thing that makes life better, is living a better life. And that, ‘Like’ it or not, is the truth