On Black Friday/Buy Nothing Day -- we enjoyed our annual turn on national television, cutting into the heavy-breathing shopping reports with our alternative Christmas. A comment like "But if we stopped shopping -- what about jobs? -- what about the economy?" would ring in the air again and again.
Then we try to describe a quiet revolution that is already more extensive than anyone knows, a transition many of us are making to the realities of peak oil and climate change. Our solution is such a Norman Rockwell painting of a small town, or a Langston Hughes poem of a city neighborhood, with farmer's markets, old shops and everyone knowing the first name of the person they are talking to... that the "revolution" we're describing seems simply the good way to do things. Then the choir belts out "What Would Jesus Buy?" and we sing and shout until the producer gives us the slit-throat signal.
We do this every year and it's not a bad life. But this year I do feel like singing "If You Don't Know Me By Now." Because there is -- you noticed? -- a dispiriting return to the corporate Christmas by many consumers. The myth of the single oil-based economy still glories in its unstoppable ads. On the international level there wasn't a leader who explained during the recession that there was an alternative to it. Obama sure didn't.
We are finally suffering from the consequences of the mind-bath of marketing. The psychic environment, the thousands of gushing products that we walk through, has altered are basic perceptions. Our "pattern consciousness" is shattered. We have come to believe the basic con-job of Consumerism, which is: "This product on the shelf has no past, no labor or natural resources history. The reality of this shiny package begins with buying it."
Thus the emotional report of the shopping grosses on Black Friday -- that it increased by 5 percent and that this is a stand alone American triumph. The fetish for the retail grosses... what a weird horse race! The Wall Street expectations are met, disappointed or surpassed and we are taught to obey the applause signs. But if our pattern consciousness hadn't broken down, we wouldn't act like we are outside of time. We would sense a history in these products.
We would see through the hypnotizing horse race to the real impact of consumerism in the world. We would connect this kind of shopping to sweatshops, to the dying oceans, to wars for oil, to the silencing waves of extinction.
We would look down at our hand, hovering there over the counter with money in the fingers. How much power is in this gesture? Consumerism keeps this economy going, which is destroying life. This Christmas is selling everything.
And how deeply felt would be our recognition -- that living sustainably isn't just a political position. Will our children live?