I had a bit of unpleasantness yesterday with some chap on a friend’s Google+ stream (which I feel horrible about.) The catalyst of the argument was precipitated by a disagreement over Buy Nothing Day. I will share the thoughts I shared on the thread, and my observations about this person’s reaction to them.
I am in participating in Buy Nothing Day. After Thanksgiving Sales are just a vat of deceptive advertising and manipulation of consumers. It really bothers me that stores can advertise a huge special on some coveted item (that’s more often than not pure hype,) yet only stock four of the darn thing. Unfortunately, most don’t realize as the vague fine print usually only talks about “limited quantities”. People camp out and sometimes even resort to violence for the sake of the prized item. An honest business should not treat its customers like this.
I am not a liberal. I am conservative to the point that I find Republicanism to be offensive in its belief that consumerism is more important than actual conservative values such as family unity, thrift, honesty, quality, savings and helping fellow Americans. Buy Nothing Day is a fantastic idea. Thanksgiving weekend should be about gratitude and family, not getting the best deal on foreign crap made by slave labor and sold by corporate welfare queens on a huge shopping day. You can thank Franklin Delano Roosevelt for that.
In addition to Buy Nothing Day, I am also supporting Small Business Saturday. I am very grateful to American small businesses for their contribution in our communities and for being the true engines of our economy. These businesses are the ones that deserve my dollars. I am not supporting semi-nationalized (and often foreign) corporations that only drain our economic resources and rob Americans of their prosperity with government-sponsored sweetheart deals, just because they sell goods cheap. That’s an affront to conservatism.
Part of the reason I often feel compelled to buy at thrift stores, especially when certain durable goods are no longer made in a country I wish to support, is that those appliances and goods will last for decades as opposed to just a few years, if that long. Consumerism as we know it today, is what has deprived me of the choice to buy these quality (and often) American-made products. I want my choice back, so I will do my part to make it happen. Cheap is no substitute for good values, and it is certainly not a reason to betray my fellow Americans. I will pay more for an item if I know that there is honesty behind it and will cost me and my country less in the long-run. Buy Nothing Day is not the admission that our only meaningful choices are choices about consumption. On the contrary, it’s about the admission that consumption itself is about choices.
Businesses do notice sales drops. That’s why retailers often discount their merchandise and lay off staff when they feel like the holiday season is going to be a profits stinker. Sometimes the panic among shareholders cause cuts in staff and prices, in an effort to attract more customers and retain profit earnings. Unfortunately, this often ends up backfiring and causing businesses to self-destruct. I’ve seen this time and time again.
It is immoral for government to prop up bad businesses that self-destruct, even if it costs jobs in the short run. At least unemployed or exploited people are willing to protest and stop being politically apathetic. The TEA Party and OWS are perfect examples of this. Adversity provides the possibility that people will have better jobs and a better economy in the long run, because business will be forced to listen to their customers and workers. The original unions and labor reforms were not formed by the complacent. This might seem a cruel sentiment, but sometimes people need to be shaken out of their haze and awakened to the reality of an inexcusable situation.
The person who I debated, apparently was angered by my opinion. He opposed to “Buy Nothing Day” because the action seemed like an empty token. I disagreed. Businesses live and die because of Black Friday. It can portend the rest of the holiday shopping season. This day is huge enough that a progressive President felt it necessary to change a holiday’s date as a gift to large corporations.
Because I expressed these thoughts, my antagonist on Google+ assumed that just because I retired at 38 and am not liberal, I earned what I have by taking advantage of surplus labor. He seemed to be under the impression that I was in favor of corporate exploitation and accused me of being a raging “self-justifying asshole,” because of said prosperity. He was so angry, his attacks consisted mostly of personal digs. Now, that doesn’t bother me because I realized that this person was just expressing his beliefs. He is entitled to do so by constitutional right. What did bother me is the fact that he assumed that being well off automatically means that someone earned it by exploiting others.
I dug myself out of the worst poverty possible. I paid a huge price. I destroyed my body to the point of disability, left my family and loved ones for weeks at a time on work-related touring, had to put up with a lot of business politics and suffered through 16-20 hour workdays (often without pay) as a self-employed person. Yet, I also know that some lazy people earn prosperity simply by mooching off inheritance interest or taking advantage of corporate welfare. How one earns wealth can be so variable in morality and mode and, it is often unfair.
With these disparities in mind and this man’s irate reaction, I ran into the following article. I don’t necessarily agree with every point in it, but it’s food for thought.