Occupy Xmas campaign brings Buy Nothing Day to rest of holiday season
With the recent Black Friday, Vancouver-based magazine Adbusters launched its first Occupy Xmas, a monthlong campaign taking aim at the overconsumerism and overconsumption associated with the Christmas holidays.
Occupy Xmas brings together Adbusters’ two most popular campaigns—this year’s Occupy protests, the idea for which first appeared on their blog and later magazine, and Buy Nothing Day, created by Vancouver artist Ted Dave in 1992, and subsequently promoted by the magazine. Since 1997, Buy Nothing Day has landed on Black Friday, the day after American Thanksgiving and the United States’ biggest shopping day, and the day after internationally.
People are encouraged not to buy anything for 24 hours to reflect on spending habits. This year, Adbusters is hoping that reflection will last all through the holiday season.
“Occupy is talking about income inequality, debt, greed, and the one percent,” Lauren Bercovitch of Adbusters said. “The holidays is definitely a time we can take a step back and think about those same things.”
Beyond boycotting Black Friday, other Occupy Xmas suggestions include making or purchasing handmade gifts, supporting local companies, using cash versus credit, and spending only what one can afford. There are also what Adbusters refers to as “shenanigans”, including store sit-ins, protesters setting up with posters and pairs of scissors and encouraging shoppers to cut up their credit cards, and the “price check”, inspired by the human microphone tactic heavily used during Occupy protests, where one speaker’s words are repeated back by a large group.
“The tactics are definitely more in the spirit of Occupy this year,” Bercovitch said.
While Adbusters isn’t involved with any events directly, instead overseeing the international advertising campaign, Vancouverite Mauricio Chandia has taken steps to spread Occupy Xmas locally. Prior to Adbusters announcing its season-long campaign, Chandia had come up with a similar idea independently two months ago, when he launched the Occupy Christmas Vancouver Facebook page. Chandia is looking to expand the interest in Vancouver to undertake holiday-geared protests, such as handing out flyers at malls.
“I was down at the art gallery and saw people there just trying to give out their message and seeing a lot of business people not even looking in their direction,” Chandia said. “It just sort of occurred to me what we [can do that] impacts a society and a community, and I realized it’s mostly a monetary gain or loss that businesses really hear or understand. It’s a language that they know.”
Bercovitch is quick to note that Occupy Xmas isn’t about necessarily about abstaining from holiday gift giving. “Some people misinterpret it, that we should change it to ‘Buy Local Day’ instead of Buy Nothing Day. But it’s about testing yourself, and hopefully the next day, and for all of Christmas, you buy local and independent. It’s totally in line with supporting your local economy.”
Rania Hatz, executive director of the Cambie Village Business Improvement Association, cautiously agrees that conscious consumerism is important.
“We all have things we need to buy at the end of the day, and if we’re going to buy them we should think carefully about where we buy them, and try to support where we can what was produced or grown locally, and coming from a local business as best as we can,” Hatz said. “And when that’s not an option, we should look at what supports the local community. So you have to go in tiers.”
She notes that some large stores are still part of the local economy, citing London Drugs as a company from Vancouver, and the Canadian Tire on Cambie Street as owned by local residents.
Hatz wouldn’t comment on Best Buy, an American company with 1,150 stores internationally and a location in Cambie Village. The retailer is a frequent target of Buy Nothing Day shenanigans.
“I think you have to talk to Best Buy directly.”
Megan Drysdale is a freelance writer based in Vancouver.