Bourgeois Deviant

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Buy Local, Buy Responsible

Happy Chriskwazukka everyone! Its that buying and soon to be gift-giving time of year again. Actually, its has been the buying time since before Thanksgiving, which is totally ridiculous. That very fact alone is enough to make me want to join a certain church. But, I suppose I am a little late in starting to properly rail against it this year. Anyhoo...

I enjoy getting and giving gifts as much as the next person. At the same time, I am keenly aware of the trend in our materialist society to get what is wanted over what is needed. I don't mean to speak ill of this entirely. I have friends whose families ask "What do you want for Christmas?" and stick solely to the answers given. This is, at the very least, highly efficient. Efficiency is good. And truly, if one leads the life of temperance and frugality the whole year through, the holidays are a great time to throw caution to the wind and consume with gluttonous abandon. Generally speaking, I don't find this to be the American way. In fact, all the year though it would seem that its quite the opposite. I point to our debt culture and obesity statistics as corroborating proof.

All that isn't good. Its easy to say it doesn't matter, though. Its the holidays, right? We're supposed to splurge. Well, yes and no. The giving of gifts be it over eight nights or on one morning binge is a wonderful thing and culturally is distinctly American. Realizing this, it is far from incumbent upon me or any other to cure the illness by killing the patient. But, I'd like to tweak the patient and change their mindset as much as I could, if I could. Stick with me.

While there are reactionary movements against things like Black Friday, they'll never fly with any kind of majority in the United States. They are good ideas to be sure, but lets be realistic and pragmatic about it. It takes the far left to advance the center, but when the center's average weight is over 200 lbs., its not going to move very far very fast. Think in responsible baby steps. Buying gifts that people need is a great idea. Not that all you should be getting is socks and underwear, but using some creativity can get the job done with none of the gift giving potency lost. Moreover, consider the ways of giving. If you had to get socks for someone, maybe get them organic cotton or hemp woven socks. Buck the trend while in the trend. That's one way to go. The other, easier and perhaps more immediately beneficial way to do your shopping is to buy local. Don't shop at a chain store. Don't buy anything mass produced by some company that outsources all of its labor and materials to China. This way, your gift can have the added bonus of being unique or having some local color about it, perhaps.

Another way to think of it is that you are voting with your dollar and by spending, you are choosing what you support. Do you support your neighborhood or community? Do you support socially responsible or sustainable businesses and/or their products? Or, do you support saving two bucks and some big business that might churn out some banal and lesser quality items. More gently put, if you buy local, whatever it is, you are giving two gifts. One, obviously to the person who receives the gift, but the other to the place where you live. Its easy to forget that one of the things that sustains cities, towns and neighborhoods is business. So, if you like where you live and call it home, bear some of this stuff in mind. Its certainly not the solution, but its a start.

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