Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Buy Nothing Day and the “Spirit” of Christmas

(originally published at OpEdNews)

In 1996, Greg Gerritt began encouraging people in the small state of Rhode Island to take to heart the message that is said to be at the center of what is known as The New Testament. Gerritt probably didn’t use the Bible to sell what he wanted to do in Rhode Island, but think about it.

In 1996, Greg Gerritt, who once served on the national committee of The Green Party of the United States, introduced Buy Nothing Day to Rhode Island.

Buy Nothing Day was started by a group called Adbusters out of Vancouver, Canada. Adbusters’ idea was to convert the day after Thanksgiving, a day on which more people do more shopping than on any other day of the year, into a day on which people would buy nothing. Hence the name.

Today the day after Thanksgiving is known as “Black Friday”. This ominous sounding moniker is actually a forecast of good tidings, especially if one is a money changer. No matter how poorly retail sales have been throughout the year, the giant retailers whose CEOs and top managers rake in millions and millions of dollars per year can count on Americans to put themselves, their families and other loved ones at risk by spending money they don’t have on gifts that people don’t need. Consequently, the wealthy captains of retail can be certain that their profits will be in “the black” starting on the day after Thanksgiving until December 25.

Many Americans who call themselves Christians claim that they place themselves more deeply in debt starting on the day after Thanksgiving as a way to celebrate the birth of a very special man. As with all religions, not all Christians practice their faith in the same manner. Not all Christians see the full month before the day on which this man was supposed to have been born as a time to fret over the equity with which they part with the money they borrow. Not all Christians use this time to become agitated, depressed and even angry because of the internal and external conflicts they suffer over the distribution of gifts purchased with borrowed money.

However, the man, obviously the man that people today refer to as Jesus Christ, was an extremely special man. This man is so special that we began counting time once again based upon the year in which he was supposedly born. He was supposedly born about 2,010 years ago. Therefore, many of his followers, aka, Christians, feel the need to become more reckless, not only with their financial standing, but with natural resources and Mother Earth in general starting on the day after Thanksgiving.

Adbusters had seen enough of this consumer insanity and initiated Buy Nothing Day. Adbusters were well aware that consumerism was consuming the consciousness of Americans and noted that, on the day after Thanksgiving, Americans began losing their fiscal minds more and more each year.

There’s not a lot of secular history written about Jesus Christ in spite of his amazing accomplishments and the power he claimed to have over everyone’s eternities. In fact, most of what people “know” about Jesus Christ is written in only one book and in only the second half of that book.

It’s really not important, however, to debate the historical narrative of the life and times of Jesus Christ. What’s important is that the part of the book that’s dedicated to that life and time emphasizes what many would today call “socialism”. Although it’s written that, at times, Jesus Christ warned anyone who would listen that they’d better believe in his words and follow his lead and direction lest they spend eternity experiencing unimaginable torture, torment and agony, the bulk of the writing about Jesus Christ describes giving to those less fortunate, inclusion and peace.

When Greg Gerritt decided to introduce parts of Rhode Island to the anti-consumerism message of Buy Nothing Day, he, intentionally or not, added a piece that’s much more in line with what is written about Jesus Christ. Not only does Greg Gerritt encourage consumers to spend not one penny on the day after Thanksgiving, but uses the day to collect coats from those who have extra and distribute them to those who have none.

What a different outlook we would have if, every day, from the day after Thanksgiving until December 25, the goal for those with an overabundance was to search for those who don’t have any and, when they find them, to give them what they need! Why, it would be almost like the conditional love and peace that Jesus Christ is supposed to have promoted; conditional, of course, because, to use a phrase from another religion, his message was “peace be unto you”, as long as you believe the right way.

Greg Gerritt has never said anything to me about the Biblical references I’ve made throughout this column. My impression is that Gerritt merely wants those who have too much to give to those who have too little. My impression is that Gerritt could care less about all the references I’ve made to religion.

Yet, ironically, what Greg Gerritt does in Rhode Island and a few have begun doing elsewhere is the kind of “celebration” that Jesus Christ, as portrayed in most of the New Testament, would have wanted to see.

So, how’s this giving without buying been working out since 1996? Last year, two people were trampled to death on “Black Friday” as they callously stormed into the money changers’ temples.

Thanks Greg, thanks Adbusters for your attempts to turn the time of year that’s always fallaciously referenced as a time of “peace on earth and good will toward men” into entire years of “peace on earth and good will toward men.”

To friendship,

“Whoever ceases to be a student has never been a student.” - George Iles

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