Another Useless Column
Last Tuesday was the fifth-annual Buy Nothing Day, as organized by the Media Foundation, publishers of Adbusters magazine. You probably bought something.
Don’t feel bad. I did.
The idea behind Buy Nothing Day is to remind the capitalist establishment that it is we, the consumers, who buy their products, and without us, they are nothing. Much as their clever advertising tries to turn us into sheep with checkbooks, we ultimately have the power. If we all refrain from spending for a 24-hour period, The Powers That Be would notice.
Well, maybe. I mean, in theory this is true. In theory, communism works.
It is said that the people united will never be defeated. But I have a hard time getting a group of my friends to agree on a restaurant. And these people like each other. How are we to get a whole society to agree on anything, much less a direction for our future?
Every journey begins with the first step. But which way? Will we like it when we get there? And does the cable system there carry Comedy Central?
Besides, isn’t that the job of The Powers That Be, that elite minority to whom we have abdicated control of our lives? Sure, every four years or so they throw us a bone and let us think that we have some influence. A delightful amusement for them, no doubt, and we get to feel we’ve contributed.
They’ve set up quite a situation: whom to believe? Every statistic can be manipulated. Every “fact” can be refuted. Every Snickers is packed with peanuts. So much for reason. We follow whomever has the least offensive agenda. Or the cutest butt. On second thought, it’s probably the butt thing.
It’s sort of like playing Risk: the easiest way to win is to let the other players fight it out, then roll over their decimated armies with your culminated forces. We bicker amongst ourselves (or more accurately, we stop bickering and wallow in apathy after contemplating our lackluster choices) and the status quo is maintained. It’s insidiously ingenious.
But back to uniting the masses. Idealistic notions of equality, like labor unions and communist rule, get perverted. Take, for example, when Homer Simpson was elected union president:
Homer: “Say, how much does this job pay?”Perhaps Marx and Engels should have had better foresight, or a proper lack of faith in humanity, and abandoned hopes of worldwide revolution. If I could go back in time, I might suggest they start small and try the agree-on-a-restaurant thing first.
Carl: “Unless you’re crooked.”
The problem, again, is people. We can envision Utopia, but by our selfish nature, we are a poor choice to lead ourselves there. Unfortunately, until we get another species to take control, like the dolphins, we are our only option.
Scary, I know.
In the end, despite our best efforts of the Media Foundation, we probably are sheep with checkbooks. (And admit it: when you read the explanation of Buy Nothing Day, you wondered what the Media Foundation hoped to gain from it, didn’t you? Everybody has an angle, right? Is there such a thing as philanthropy in a capitalist society? How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?)
Personally, I hope to be a clever sheep, keeping The Powers That Be guessing. If they’re going to fool me, I’m going to make them develop new ways of doing it. Capriciousness is our trump card, kids.
Remember: the sheep united can “bah” really loud at night and keep the shepherds from getting a good night’s sleep.