You Are Not What You Buy (BND 2008)

Buy Nothing Day | Adbusters Culturejammer Headquarters

Looking for something interesting and provocative to take part in this Thanksgiving? Forget standing in a line outside of Walmart at 4 am on Black Friday, instead consider taking part in “Buy Nothing Day.” This is a two-day event put on by Adbusters every year to make the point that we are more than consumers. Some people participate by not going shopping on Friday and Saturday (this would be me), others participate in a wide variety of antics, such as wearing interesting costumes, offering a credit card “cut up” service, the “zombie walk,” and the “Whirl–mart” game. The point is to

…get as many people as possible to buy nothing at all over a 24-hour span on Friday in the United States (and Saturday elsewhere around the world), as a small blow against what they say are the destructive efforts of advertisers and corporations to fuel the deep-rooted human tendency to want the next new thing (New York Times, A Fresh Advertising Pitch).

Buy Nothing Day raises awareness about how obsessed and controlled by consuming in our culture, and experiment with what it is like to not be a consumer for a day (especially on the biggest shopping day of the year).

From the Adbuster site:

As the planet starts heating up, maybe it’s time to finally go cold turkey. Take the personal challenge by locking up your debit card, your credit cards, your money clip, and see what it feels like to opt out of consumer culture completely, even if only for 24 hours. Like the millions of people who have done this fast before you, you may be rewarded with a life-changing epiphany. While you’re at it, what better time to point out real alternatives to unbridled consumption – and the climate uncertainty that it entails – by taking your BND spirit to the streets?

Click here if you’re interested in joining the action.

And for those of you familiar with Reverand Billy’s work, his new documentary has just come out: “What Would Jesus Buy?



Have you ever participated in this before and are you considering participating in some way?

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12 responses to “You Are Not What You Buy (BND 2008)”

  1. I participated in this last year. And the year before that. And the year before that. Actually I can't remember the last time I went shopping on Black Friday. But then, I'm a pretty avid anti-shopper (except for books, I love books).

    I will be participating this year as well. I also promise not to buy any books on the internet on Friday or Saturday. 😀

  2. "Wait a minute! There's something wrong! Everything here on Main Street USA is made in China!" That's great.

  3. When you say participate do you just mean you're not shopping or are you going and doing some kind of activity?

    I looked on the BND wiki to see if something was happening in pasadena but it looks like I'm out of luck. I'd really like to do the "whirl-mart" game…haha.

  4. I did wonder about Black Friday in light of the current economic crisis…will people shop less because they have less money? Will they shop more hoping to "do something" about the economy? And will shopping more hurt or help (especially if most of the money is going to China anyways)?

  5. I did wonder about Black Friday in light of the current economic crisis…will people shop less because they have less money? Will they shop more hoping to "do something" about the economy? And will shopping more hurt or help (especially if most of the money is going to China anyways) or really do nothing at all for the economy?

  6. I've been a struggling college student for most…wait…all of my adult life, so shopping on Black Friday has never been an issue for me. When I do find the time and don't feel horrible about joining with the sheep of consumer culture, I enjoy a bargain! On my last outing I found a Hank WIlliams Jr. Robot doll who sings me to sleep with such HWJ hits as "Family Traditiion" and "Whiskey Bent, and Hell Bound", as well as a record player with cassette player duo! Totaling 52 U.S. dollars, I would say I played the goodwill for a fool! Truly, t'was a steal to say the least.

    So how do you shop outside of the box? Is it shopping altogether that BND'ers reject? The truth is, we live in a capitalistic world whether it is an ethical system or not, and our consumption provides jobs and sustenance for many. So perhaps we shouldn't reject shopping altogether, but direct our financial support away from corporations that lead to a wealthier elite, and toward companies or businesses that embody a more ethical capitalism. It is the ethical ambivalence of the Joe Plumbers of our country that the greedy corporation direct their marketing towards. Thus, I don't think we need to reject consuming, (I think it is up to each individual to think critically and define themselves however they see fit), but send a message with our dollars: 'We are not our dollars, and we have the shrewdness to see beyond marketing ploys.' Thus, we will support a more ethical business and support them with our dollars. I support Buy Nothing Day, but I support making ethical financial investments 365 days of the year for the sake of the worker.

    PS. Wess, what is the significance of 'black' on Black Friday?

  7. i've never participated in black friday because i'm always spending it with family. i love buying cool stuff for cheap as much as the next guy, but this time of year only rolls around once… gotta keep your priorities straight!

  8. I hear you. I completely agree with the point that when we spend our money it ought to be used in the right places, or at least better places. This is of course a very hard line to follow, and even the best companies have their fallbacks, but I still think we ought to attempt this as much as we can.

    I can't speak for all BNDers but the point is to challenge consumerism for one day, and hopefully by challenging it, Jamming it, if you will, maybe other possibilities will be opened up. I have no doubt there are anti-capitalists involved in this project, but I don't think rejecting, or calling into Question, the "religion" of consumerism by participating in this means you are in this group.

    I am pretty sure "black" refers to the fact that this is the day most of these companies have historically gone in the black with their budgets due to all the shopping.

  9. I've been unwittingly participating for about 3 or 4 years now. I HATE shopping on Black Friday. It's horrible. So I don't. I don't go anywhere and instead, stay home and sew or do something fun. This year I'm making Christmas gifts, so I'll be doing that while the rest of my family goes paintballing with friends. It will be delicious! No crowds, no jostling over crap; I can be still and listen.

  10. Just got this press release via email from adbusters, the people who put on the BND. Thought you might be interested in what it says about the economic situation in the States:

    Hey jammers, creatives and meme warriors,

    Three more days to go! Check out our Buy Nothing Day action pyramid online for inspiration and ideas. Organize your own Buy Nothing Day jam (or join an existing one) by posting on our BND events wiki.


    Credit: NICHOLAS ROBERTS/AFP/Getty Images
    It's hard to explain the rationale behind BND in the middle of this economic meltdown we're in. Every day feels like BND to most people right now. So this year in our press releases, interviews with reporters and communications with BND celebrants around the world, we are confronting the issue of the economic meltdown head-on. We're asking citizens, policy makers and pundits to examine the root causes of the crunch we're in and telling them that it was not caused by lack of regulation or toxic derivatives or the usual stuff that everybody is talking about. It is in fact our culture of excess and meaningless consumption – the glorified spending and borrowing of the past decade that's at the root of the economic crisis we in.
    Here's the latest Adbusters BND Press Release. Circulate this widely–


    Now in its 17th year, Buy Nothing Day is celebrated every November by environmentalists, social activists and concerned citizens in over 65 countries around the world. Over the years, Buy Nothing Day (followed by Buy Nothing Christmas) has exploded into a global movement, inspiring the world’s citizens to live more simply and buy a whole lot less.

    Designed to coincide with Black Friday (which this year falls on Friday, November 28) in the United States, and the unofficial start of the international holiday shopping season (Saturday, November 29), the festival takes many shapes, from relaxed family outings, to free, non-commercial street parties, to politically charged public protests, credit-card cut-ups and pranks and shenanigans of all kinds. Anyone can take part provided they spend a day without spending.

    Featured by such media giants as CNN, USA Today, MSNBC, Wired, the BBC, The Age and the CBC, Buy Nothing Day has gained momentum in recent years as the climate crisis has driven people to seek out greener alternatives to unrestrained consumption.

    This year, Buy Nothing Day organizers are confronting the economic meltdown head-on – asking citizens, policy makers and pundits to examine our economic crisis.

    "If you dig a little past the surface you'll see that this financial meltdown is not about liquidity, toxic derivatives or unregulated markets, it's really about culture," says the co-founder of Adbusters Media Foundation, Kalle Lasn. "It's our culture of excess and meaningless consumption — the glorified spending and borrowing of the past decade that's at the root of the crisis we now find ourselves in."

    Economic meltdown, together with the ecological crisis of climate change could be the beginning of a major global cultural shift — the dawn of a new age: the age of Post-Materialism.

    "A simpler, pared-down lifestyle – one in which we're not drowning in debt – may well be the answer to this crisis we're in," says Lasn. "Living within our means will also make us happier and healthier than we’ve been in years."