With politicians and business leaders informing me through my aged television and steam-powered wireless that it is my patriotic duty to visit the shops and buy stuff, you can guarantee that my reaction is a single-digit salute.
Today is Buy Nothing Day in North America. For those of us who dwell in the rest of the world, tomorrow is the day on which we are encouraged to forego the pleasures of conspicuous consumption.
Buy Nothing Day is an informal protest established in 1992 by the kind of social activists infamous for rallying against globalisation and terrorising financial centres on Mayday. While I may not agree with some of the politics involved (globalisation has some definite pluses, and truly free markets would be a jolly good thing), there is nothing wrong with a good riot, and for some of us economic subversion is a moral imperative.
Buy Nothing Day is of course a symbolic protest that merely defers purchases that will necessarily be made. But what matters is that the idea of material consumption is regularly raised in the public consciousness, and we are encouraged to think about the real value of the stuff we buy. If consumption for the sake of it is necessary to keep the economy afloat, then there is something seriously wrong with the economy, and maybe it’s about time something was done to remedy that.
Economic growth is good, but let it be growth that adds real value to the economy and increases quality of life for all. So for one day at least this year, keep your money in your pocket.