Today, Saturday 30th November, is officially ‘Buy Nothing Day’ in the UK. A tradition that started in 1992 in Mexico to protest against overconsumption, it has become an annual fixture in the US where it rails against ‘Black Friday’. This is the day of the year on which the corporate-fanned competitive consumer frenzy reaches its peak in the US. Since 2006, 4 people have died in the ‘Black Friday’ rush. Yesterday alone, Chicago police shot an alleged shoplifter; a would-be thief shot a shopper in Las Vegas; and a California police officer was injured in a fight. Surely there has to be a better way?
‘Buy Nothing Day’ is now marked in over 65 countries, but as governments around the world urge us to reach for our wallets to inflate a zombie economy, might there be a more powerful response?
What if, this year, rather than just buying nothing, we made something instead? If we did, we’d be joining a growing groundswell of rejection of passive consumerism. Everywhere, people are beginning to make, do, share and get involved. A human response to the failure of markets is producing the opposite of the depressing phenomenon of the market’s atomisation of family and community life, and the withering of communal groups described in Robert Putnam in Bowling Alone. What if, rather than just buying nothing, we set up makeries in malls, sewing workshops in shopping centres and Hackerspaces on our high streets?
The numbers of places we can get together to make, do and share are rising rapidly. ‘Hackerspaces’, workshops where people can share tools and ideas are spreading fast. From Albania to Argentina, Poland to the Philippines and Nigeria to Norway people are meeting and making. According to a member-run list, there are now 580 active hackerspaces in the US, up from 124 at the end of 2009, and 38 in the UK and rising There are other spaces to make and learn too. Cafes and workshops around the country offer craft workshops: Craft Guerrilla operate in East London and Brighton, Craft Cafes in Govan and Castlemilk, Glasgow provide a space to meet and make for the over 50’s, Manchester has a ‘Ministry of Craft’, Totnes has the fantastically-named Social Fabric, and London, Sew Over It and the Papered Parlour to name but a few. Streetbank puts you in touch with people with things and skills to share where you live, and the Transition Network has groups around the country sharing skills. It doesn’t have to be an organised group either. Phone a friend, meet in a pub, but whatever you do, get making. Do it, and there’s a real chance that you will reach Christmas happier, freer and a little less in debt. You’re also much less likely to get trampled. Or shot…