Consumer culture is a hideous thing. Yes, it is currently extending its massive tentacles all over the globe, making sure that people in developing countries know that they too need sneakers manufactured by their own children at 10 cents an hour. Making sure than war-torn nations know they need to eat their Wheaties so that they can build strong healthy bones (which are more resistant, I'll have you know, to landmines).

Yes, consumer culture is insidious. Certain advertising campaigns champion individualism by assembling a gaggle of attractive young people, (making sure of course to represent every racial or ethnic group ever conceived of), all arrayed in the same plain-front khakis and V-neck stretch cardigans. Singing the same song. With faces that have had every hint of expression pounded out of them with a meat-cleaver. Yes, the Gap is a propaganda machine for some fascist state soon to emerge...

Yes.

I agree.

Now shut the fuck up.

It's either that, or action.

You have a few choices. You can use a home-made pipe bomb to dislodge a large mobile piece of corporate art so that it trashes a franchise coffee bar. Please do this. A part of me would love to see it happen in the real world.

However, not all of us can afford to get arrested.

So, instead, stop buying these products. Do not feed the animals. Do not shop at Gap or Banana Republic or Abercrombie and Fitch. Do not patronize Starbucks or McDonalds. Boycott Exxon, Sunoco and the like. Do this.

Do something. Despite the fact that it's inconvenient. Despite the fact that your actions aren't going to bring these institutions down. Do something that will make you less comfortable. Perhaps then I will have the patience to listen to your condemnations of consumerism.

Coffy's suggestions are good. But here are a few of my own:

  • Patronize local small businesses, even though prices may be higher and selection may be less. When you do so, money circulates in the immediate community instead of being locked up in the bank account of a corporate behemoth. Remember that money is the lifeblood of any corporation.
  • Work out arrangements with your neighbors to take care of your mutual needs together. By pooling your money and other resources, you can do interesting things like buying staple food at wholesale quantities from local farmers or farmers' markets, or watching each other's houses instead of installing expensive alarm systems.
  • Use less stuff. Buy less stuff. Shop with a critical, suspicious eye.
  • Sell your television. Or shoot it.
  • If you are extremely ambitious, for about $6000 you can buy a house and a decent-sized plot of land in Oklaholma. Of course, your average noder knows about as much about farming as a cow knows about noding, but it's still possible. With a good artesian well and solar panels (or simply learning to live without electricity) you can go off-grid entirely.
quoting from crayz above (from his now departed writeup):
" unless it is like the antidote to some poison.."
that is IT exactly. That's the point.

Every dollar NOT spent in Walmart is a drop of water NOT poured down that sewer.
People can, and do, vote with their feet.
How many of you still have cable tv?

A very small number of people can make a small difference because, at least in America, numbers matter.

Remember New Coke? How about divx?

OK, let's get to work.

Please allow me to recommend the glories of monkeywrenching and culture jamming. It can be as simple as going to the AdBusters' website at www.adbusters.org, printing some of their flyers, and handing them out at your local Wal-Mart and McDonald's. If you prefer to gum up the wheels of corporate culture without pre-printed brochures, here are some things you can try.

First, some no-nos: Don't commit any felonies, don't vandalize property, and don't hack anyone's website--they are ineffective methods of persuasion, because John Q. Public associates all of these activities with murderous thugs who deserve to spend at least five years in prison. Don't stand outside a store and holler at customers--anyone who hears you will write you off as a crazy street preacher. Don't insult customers; you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Don't lose your sense of humor--people remember funny stuff. And most importantly, don't get caught--if the store owner chooses to press any kind of charges against you, the cops'll be on to your scheme, and you'll never be able to successfully monkeywrench again. Be prepared to drop the gag at a moment's notice, if necessary.

Now here's some stuff to do: If you have some artistic skill, make disturbing works of art out of recognizable products sold by the offending corporation: sculpt a baby out of meat from the non-unionized butcher area at Wal-Mart, then re-package it and sneak it into the meat case. Construct a diorama of the destruction of the rain forest using McDonald's food packaging and display it in the restaurant. Of course, these won't last long, so you may want to take photographs of your work and post them instead. Or you may want to enter your works in art shows.

Put together some colorful anti-corporation brochures or flyers (a quick web search should turn up several sites opposing corporations like Wal-Mart, McDonald's, the Gap, and Disney--snag something factual and eye-catching, then slap something together on your word processor). Then take the flyers and hide them around the store. This is fairly tough to do in a restaurant--they're too small, too quick to patrol, and too easy to clean--but it's a piece of cake in a big store like a Wal-Mart or in a large department store. Just take a bunch of your flyers into the store (hide 'em in your hat or your jacket), then tape them to products--if you tape one to the back of a cereal box, the inside of a saucepan, the back of an over-priced T-shirt, or on the front of one of the CDs in the back of the bin, the store employees probably won't notice what you've done until well after you've left the store. Make sure you spread your brochures around a wide area--more shoppers will be exposed to your propaganda that way. Best of all, when the store finally realizes what you've done, they'll have to check every piece of merchandise they sell to make sure your message doesn't accidentally get out.

Here's a quick one to pull in fast food restaurants. Go in during the busiest part of lunch hour, start to make your order, then point behind the counter and yell, "Oh my God, it's a RAT!" Then high-tail it for the door--others will follow you. If you aren't squeamish and have some talent for sleight of hand magic tricks, try this: catch and kill a cockroach (probably in your home, you filthy pig!), take it with you into a restaurant, order a burger, take a bite, gag, and spit on the floor, dropping the dead roach on the floor in front of the lunchtime rush (extra points for cutting the roach in half to make it look like you bit it in two). Do NOT accept your money back or any free food for compensation--that's called fraud and it means jail time. Just enjoy the spectacle of an entire restaurant turning green and bolting for the bathroom.

If you're lucky enough to get your grubby mitts on some stationery and envelopes with the corporate letterhead, you've reached the holy grail of monkeywrenching. Send some letters to students offering generous scholarships. Send random letters to people informing them that they are no longer welcome in the store. Send out Burger King coupons in McDonald's envelopes. Send public service announcements to radio stations promoting charitable events that don't actually exist (don't make it look like an advertisement--radio stations will call the store asking for payment first, but for charities and fundraisers, they'll usually read those on the air for free). Just make sure you type your letter and envelope, do NOT sign it, and mail it from a drop box in a high-traffic area, not from a post office or from your home mailbox--if the store wants to accuse you of mail fraud, that's a federal felony and 20 years in Leavenworth.
Let me tell you a little story, about a place called Shanghai. In the 1930's, it was the Pearl of the Orient, a cosumerist haven. In fact, it was probably more capitalistic than many Canadian cities today. Indeed, some people did suffer greatly from this system, and in came a little meddler named Mao Zedong, who promised everyone that he would throw off the shackles of capitalism for a better, Marxist future. By the way, this person was educated by the French communists. Notice how Pol Pot came out of Paris as well. Those meddling French... Anyways...

Shanghai became a fanatical Maoist stronghold, no doubt a backlash of the capitalist excesses prior to 1949. Collectivism was installed here much more rigorously than the rest of China, the rapid deconstruction of consumerist society caused an overnight collapse of the regional economy. Money itself was removed, in its place were "goods coupons", which could be exchanged for (inferior) consumer goods. There was no consumer choice, everything was government issue. Shanghainese left their home in a mass exodus in the early 50's, many went to Hong Kong, some went to America.

Incidentally, some stores retained their consumerist traits, but they were patrolled by armed guards, and only the communist elite were allowed to shop in its glitzy grounds.

The 1980's brought about an economic restructuring. Consumerism rushed back into Shanghai, overnight there were massive shopping malls for the common people. Like an opiated mass, the Chinese people gleefully subjected themselves to consumerism. They embraced consumer culture and everything else that goes with it. While Americans were mourning the loss of their culture to the monster that is consumerism, the long deprived Chinese were plunging headfirst into it while a smile on their faces.

What does this mean? Not much. Just that Americans have had the privilege of capitalism for so many decades, they will never know how it would be to live in another system of government, say communism. People dissatisfied with capitalism should give some serious thought about the execution of its alternatives in history. Incidentally, and this is in all honesty, every single person I've ever met who is not satisfied with capitalism has never lived under anything else other than capitalism.

Every time I meet an American who rambles about the evils of capitalism, I have to think, "You fool. You should be glad you live in a capitalist society. I know 1 billion of my countrymen would die to live in a place like this." Consumerism may be ugly sometimes, but the alternatives are all much, much worse.

There I go again. Look. To the anti-capitalists out there, the next time you start to ramble about the evils of Americana, just give this a thought. Be glad you live in the greatest nation on Earth, because admit it, capitalism made it the way it is today.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.