I started to read Judith Levine's Not Buying It this weekend. I didn't expect I'd like it that much. I assumed Levine was younger than she is, and I kind of figured that she would be more of a cheerleader for the non-consumerist movement, trying to "convert" people to the fold. Since I'm already a non-consumer, I didn't think I had much to gain from reading the book, but I wanted a book for this month's challenge, and this seemed to fit the bill.
And now I am so glad I decided to read the book. Because while Not Buying It is a personal account of Levine's year off from shopping, but it's more than that. It's about the societal, moral, and philosophical implications of non-consumerism as well.
For example, Levine reminds us that after September 11th, Americans were exhorted to do our patriotic duty and shop. What does that mean? What did it mean?
Honda and I moved to Los Angeles three days before September 11th. On the morning of the eleventh, I was sleeping on a futon mattress on the floor when a friend called with the news. Still half asleep, I didn't understand the gravity of the situation. "But everyone's all right, right?" I asked.
"No, Arduous, two PLANES hit the World Trade Center. A lot of people just died."
I woke up Honda and we wandered around our half-furnished apartment wondering what to do with ourselves. Our cable wasn't installed yet, so we couldn't watch CNN. Finally, we decided that we should go to the Red Cross and donate blood.
I am completely and totally terrified of needles, so I don't like to give blood. But that day, that was all I wanted to do. It was all I could think to do to help my country. So we drove out to the Red Cross. Where they were no longer taking donations for blood. Droves of people had been donating blood non-stop all day. "Make an appointment to come back in a few weeks," they told us.
We never did.
Instead we watched the president as he called on us to go forth and shop. So we hit the stores. On the late afternoon of September 11th, Honda and I bought our fridge. We bought mini-flags to attach to our car antennaes. And later that week we went to the mall, and I remember feeling pride, as I carried my multiple shopping bags with me. I felt proud to be an American and proud that I was "doing my bit" by going shopping. Oh, the shopping was with a sense of irony, no doubt. I was self-aware enough to realize that being told to shop after such a calamity was at the very least, a little odd. But I never REALLY unpacked why exactly shopping in the face of tragedy was so bizarre. I never really thought about how I desperately wanted to help my country, and how sad it was, that the only opportunity I was given to provide such help was ... to shop.
5 weeks ago