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Black Friday Or Buy Nothing Day? Where Do You Fall On North America's Insatiable Appetite for Consumption?

Friday, November 25, 2016

By Antoinette Herrmann-Condobrey

Buy Nothing Day is a day set aside internationally to protest overconsumption. With North America as the face of this bad habit, Buy Nothing Day aims to change consumer attitudes in rich countries especially.

Founded in 1997 by Canadian artist, Ted Dave, in Vancouver, Buy Nothing Day sounds simple, but the campaign speaks to an array of issues far more complex than merely restraining oneself from shopping on a single occasion. It links North America's consumer habit to some of the world's most challenging problems. These include environmental degradation, corporate greed, economic disparity, government failures, global trust and security.

The social purpose of Buy Nothing Day is to persuade consumers to be wiser, less wasteful, and save Mother Earth.  

Buy Nothing Day conscientizes consumers on rising overindulgence in inessentials. The campaign emphasizes environmental pollution, neglect, and lack of judgement by consumers in North America. These habits, it argues, lead to repulsion in other parts of the world against the West, and threatens global trust and security as a result. Also among the campaign's primary objectives is exposing corporate industries as predators that thrive on the vulnerabilities of consumers.
Buy Nothing Day combines physical activities with multimedia to drum its message home. The campaign is known for using provocative language. It portrays Black Friday shoppers as weak and overpowered. It uses symbols like zombies and clowns that paint embarrassing pictures of spendthrifts. The approach, condemned by some, aims to counter the powerful images crafted and used by the marketing and advertising industry to lure consumers. 

Corporate industries like to tell consumers to spend liberally or risk having a dead economy. But the shredding of credit cards at the entrance of malls on Buy Nothing Day symbolizes a rejection of this business culture.

Most notable are the two days set aside for observing Buy Nothing DayBlack Friday and the Saturday after Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. Strategically, the campaign pitches a revered family occasion against vanity, in an attempt to discourage families from engaging in what it believes to be a wasteful and costly habit. 

Even Santa makes an appearance, asking consumers to "rise above it." 
The most telling of all however is the symbol of a pig. The size of this pig sitting across North America, licking its lips and burping, paints a shameful picture of the people in this zone as the planet's most voracious consumers.  Against pleasure and pride, Buy Nothing Day invokes disgust and shame. The giant pile of waste that emerges, following the pig's burps, is disgusting. It is nothing like the privilege associated with consumption in North America.

The numbers are sickening: "The average North American consumes five times more than a Mexican, ten times more than a Chinese and thirty-times more than a person from India," the campaign emphasizes. 

But can a once-a-year event solve the huge problems the campaign seeks to address? Like many of the solutions 

activists seek to some of the world's biggest problems, some are of the view that the Buy Nothing Day approach is too little and merely symbolic.

One thing is undeniable: It is hard to see that pig and the landfill and not feel disgusted; even guilty.
Antoinette Herrmann-Condobrey is a U.S. based professional journalist and digital media specialist from Ghana. Herrmann-Condobrey is the Editor of The Gbi Voice and administrator of Gbi Viwo. 

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