Azara Blog: BBC promotes "Buy Nothing Day"

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Date published: 2007/11/24

The BBC says:

Buy Nothing Day - an annual moratorium on shopping - has made little impression over the years. But campaigners marking this year's day of inaction, on Saturday, sense the tide is starting to turn.

The mere thought is almost enough to bring Maryann Poole out in a cold sweat - a day dedicated to not shopping.

Maryann, a freelance journalist from west London, says she "genuinely enjoys" shopping.

"I admire things. I like looking at the difference between products. I like going into shops and choosing things. Having a good long talk with the shop assistant - so long as they know their stuff.

"And then getting home and taking whatever it is out of the nice packaging,"

It's "a lot to do with who I am - the whole process gives me real pleasure".

Maryann is a retailer's dream. But she is also the worst nightmare of the Buy Nothing Day campaign, dedicated as it is to curbing consumerism.

She is a walking embodiment of the fact that huge numbers of people have come to enjoy shopping for its own sake. They get a thrill not for the difference that the products can make to their lives - but out of the process itself.

This "shopping as sport" phenomenon has, some say, helped to drive a wave of consumerism unprecedented in history. Never before has the world spent so much, consumed so much, and thrown so much away.

And with the biggest shopping bonanza of them all, Christmas, just a month off, the shops will be thronging with people.

Yet campaigners behind Buy Nothing Day say its time may have come. Some thinkers are pointing to growing trends towards environmental awareness and old-fashioned thrift. These, they predict, foreshadow the end of consumerism as a national obsession.

Among the campaign's most enthusiastic supporters is Pat Thomas, editor of the Ecologist magazine.

"There is no getting away from the fact that we now live in a world of diminishing resources and increasing waste," says Ms Thomas. "The answer is always: consume less."

The BBC seems to run this kind of story at least once or twice a year, and probably has since the BBC was founded. Indeed, one can imagine that the AGBC (Ancient Greek Broadcasting Corporation) was running such stories in Plato's time. ("The kids of today, you know, they just want to play games and shop instead of study philosophy.") It's not very surprising that "never before has the world spent so much, consumed so much, and thrown so much away". The world has more people and the people are richer (on average) than in the past. How dreadful. You have the feeling that the BBC and their fellow academic middle class colleagues will not be happy until there is mass starvation in the world.

And unfortunately Thomas is a classic academic middle class hypocrite. It's not that she believes "consume less", it's that she believes "consume less of what I think you should consume less of, and oh, by the way, consume more of my magazine". So, she edits a pointless magazine. And this pointless magazine is distributed to thousands of people, and its average lifespan between arrival and placement in the recycling bin is probably at best a few days or a week (and is it even read by half those who subscribe?). Talk about a throw-away culture. But of course this pointless magazine is "intellectual" (or at least academic middle class), so that kind of consumerism is ok. It's only the people who buy gadgets or clothes who should be condemned (although their purchases at least generally last longer than a week).

Well, let's get into the spirit of Buy Nothing Day. Don't buy the Ecologist magazine and don't buy any BBC DVD's.

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