Buy Nothing Day –Friday, November 28

Long time, no blog! Well, this week’s inspiration came after two events. Event One: Going into multiple stores, and coming out empty-handed. Somehow, somewhere, I think I picked up this ridiculous notion that if I left a store without so much as buying a stick of gum, I would hurt someone’s feelings. I can’t believe I admitted that. Well, anyway, I do feel that way sometimes. I don’t give in to it much, but it’s a feeling. Therefore, I rarely enter a store without a clear idea of what I’m there to buy. I don’t do much window shopping, but I don’t often go somewhere and walk out without a purchase, either.

Event Two: A trip to the local “dollar store.” Going there with kids, you’d think the place was nirvana on a stick. Every conceivable plastic thingamabob you could dream of, and cheap. All kinds of neat things, which, of course, wind up in the landfill in about the time it took you to drive to the store and back. Things made with sweatshop labor. Things that have no use, but look interesting. Things that smell like what would happen if you burned a cheap flip-flop. Seriously. Go sometime, and don’t look. Just smell. It’s quite alarming to think of what possible chemical concoction could produce such a smell. I do not recommend doing this if you’re pregnant, by the way. If you didn’t lose your dinner or pass out, you’d probably be harming your unborn child from the fumes. So, this time I went without kids, and without all the excitement over cheap plastic things. I perused the toy section. Oh. My. Goodness!!!

First, I noticed the “polly pocket” knockoff dolls, all missing paint from one place or another (they looked like they did their makeup while riding on an amusement park ride), and one poor gal was completely decapitated in the package. Fortunately, the package boasted a small parts choking hazard warning, so if Sally choked on said detachable head, mom and dad couldn’t say they weren’t warned. The lovely aroma of burning rubber and flip-flop flambe alerted me to the feature in the middle of the aisle –those stretchy balls with spikes all over, only, these weren’t the cool full-price variety that you could stretch over your head (at least those are multi-purpose), but the sort that you could play with and have fun sniffing the chemical fumes left on your hands when you quit playing with it.

All this to bring me to the point that I am convinced that our national religion is materialism. If you look at the panic instigated by the difficulty of our economy, you could make a case that it’s a state religion (Economic Stimulus Check, anyone?). Our gods are metal and plastic and silicon. They glow, they sing to us, they fill our tummies, they drive us to soccer games and give us a DVD to watch so we don’t have to watch the scenery (…or what used to be scenery, anyway) and they make us happy. All for only $19.98 or 34,000, or 4.03, or just a buck …but that’s not all!!! Is it ever? Is it ever enough?

Look what’s happened to Christmas. It used to be the celebration of God becoming flesh. Now, it’s an occasion that causes stress and bother and increases the suicide rate. What a mess! You’ll hear a lot of people complain of materialism at Christmas, but what I’m seeing now –Christmas is only the most obvious example of a year-long problem. We live in a society that thinks happiness is only a chocolate bar or a flat screen or a SUV or a condominium in Florida away. Our goal in life is to retire with enough to sit on our behinds and let the young’uns support the economy and provide labor to run the casino we go to every Tuesday. Is this what it’s all about? NO!!!

I’m really hoping this recent economic downturn and political change will get at least some people’s attention to look further into what got us into this mess. We should be getting the message that we can’t pay our Mastercard bill with our Visa card anymore. Instead, I’m watching people venting on the 6 o’clock news that they’re mad that THEY don’t get a bailout! They’re mad that they have to make a LIST when they go shopping now, and they have a b*dget. We have no concept, when we complain about climbing grocery prices, that people in other countries don’t have this problem. If their food prices go up, THEY DON’T EAT. We –well, we just pass the Starbucks on our way home. Oh, the sacrifice!

When we moved to Arizona in the summer of ’96, we moved right before the peak of the “housing bubble.” I briefly browsed real estate in Chandler, just to see what we were getting into, should we want to buy a home in the future there. In May, when we visited for the interview, you could, if you looked hard, find a fixer-upper (and I do mean fixer-upper) in a …shall we say “challenging neighborhood” for 80 or 90 thousand. By the time we moved in July, you couldn’t find a cardboard box for under 100 thousand. I remember commenting to Sam, jokingly, “Don’t worry –in about five years, all these crazies who got an ARM will suddenly not be able to make the payments, and we can get a sweet deal on a foreclosure!” I’m not joking any more. And it hasn’t even been five years. As it was, we found ourselves a cheap apartment, and the rest was history.

The moral of my ramble? It’s just stuff, people! Just stuff! Flammable, rustable, non-eternal STUFF! Is it really worth getting this bent out of shape and mis-spending our lives and time in pursuit of future Goodwill fodder? NO! So, I hope maybe at least one of you will join me and participate in Buy Nothing Day, celebrated every year on “Black Friday.” …Yes, I know you really want to sit in the freezing cold in front of Best Buy at 4 a.m. with your $4.03 a cup Starbucks so you can buy a $150 laptop, but, really… wouldn’t you rather snuggle in bed with your family a little longer that morning? Stay home and make muffins, and –I know this is extreme– but think about this a minute… make your own coffee!!!