July 11, 2001
by William Rivers Pitt
"The so-called consumer society and the politics of corporate capitalism have created a second nature of man which ties him libidinally and aggressively to the commodity form. The need for possessing, consuming, handling and constantly renewing the gadgets, devices, instruments, engines, offered to and imposed upon the people, for using these wares even at the danger of one's own destruction, has become a 'biological' need." - Herbert Marcuse
I am not Robert Kennedy. I was not born to a family of American political royalty, guaranteeing that my voice be heard when I choose to speak. I have to spend a good deal of my time working, or sleeping in preparation for work, in order to keep the lights on and have food. I have very little in the way of disposable income.
Robert Kennedy said that one person could make a difference. From his Olympian height, he looked down upon all of us and saw individuals who could cut a swath through the injustice in the world, if only we would rouse ourselves. Down here on the ground, I stare up at Robert's marble bust on that mountain and think, "Easy for you to say, kid."
There is so very much I want to do, and I am mortally sure that this nation is literally teeming with those who share my desire for action. But we work. We raise kids. We take care of aging parents. Speaking bluntly, we bust our asses all week long for that paycheck and for the few precious weekend hours that more often than not are spent sleeping, drinking, shopping or watching sports on the television.
It takes a massive amount of one's mental capacities to do the mundane day-to-day activities that are required of the average American, if that American wishes to eat, be clothed, and live inside of doors. It is exhausting. There is that great line from the head of the Trade Services Union about the 'boom' years of Clinton's administration: "There have been 8 million new jobs created, and I've got three of them."
Where, then, do we find that space and time and energy needed to heal the wounds we see gaping in the body and soul of our nation? They are right there in front of us, red and bleeding, crying out for someone to do something. Too many of us, sadly, shoulder our various burdens and turn away with a prayer on our lips that somebody with the time will come along and address things.
I know a way for all of us to climb up on that Olympian perch with fallen Robert. I know a way we can make that difference. It requires sacrifice from each of us, and thus is worthy of being called a Movement. It can be something you do every moment of the day if you do it right. If enough of us do this thing, and do it well, and do it faithfully, and turn others towards it, we will bring about such a massive change as has not been seen in this nation since the shot heard 'round the world. Like so many great ideas and Movements, this one is simplicity itself.
Just boycott everything.
Take public transportation to work, or walk to the corner store, or figure out a way to leave your car in the garage for the weekend. If you own an SUV, sell it. If you are in the market for a car, look into the gas/electric hybrids that are available. Thus, you boycott the petroleum companies that rape our planet and soil our air.
Make your own coffee, or buy your morning cup of brew from the mom 'n pop joint you always walk by on your way to Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts. Sure, it's crummy brew. But you are boycotting corporate hegemony.
Turn off the God damned television. While it is on you are a vapid receptacle for all of the invasive nonsense that is our sad and deranged estate. By simply boycotting television, you are saying 'NO' to all the advertisers and corporate hucksters who have sold us all down the river. If you are a news junkie, satisfy your jones with a couple of newspapers or the internet. CNN hasn't told you anything that you need to know for a long, long time.
Go out this weekend without makeup, and do not purchase any. The cosmetics industry has perpetuated a massive crime against women, by selling to them a destructive myth of beauty that is utterly unattainable for 99% of human females. The vicious cycle of self-hatred begins at a very young age for women, brought on by images proffered by the cosmetics industry in the pages of glossy magazines. Do not allow one of your hard-earned dollars to line the pockets of those who profit by telling you that you are not beautiful enough.
Be aware of your purchases in the grocery store. Buy locally grown foods whenever possible. Using the remarkable research tools of the internet, find out which agribusinesses are selling what, and where. If you do not like what those massive corporations are doing, do not buy their products. Turn off the lights. Live without air conditioning whenever you can. Make a project out of trimming your electricity bill as much as you can.
You are expected to be a consumer. Thus, you wear the yoke. Boycott the very idea. Take your yoke and plow a new field. Be mindful of that money you have so vigorously earned, and understand that when you buy Exxon gasoline or leave the lights on when you're not in the room, you enrich those whom you lust to defy and bring low. You work against yourself. I quote Raoul Vaneigem: "Work to survive, survive by consuming, survive to consume: the hellish cycle is complete."
Boycott the idea that matters are beyond your control. They are not. This is Capitalism, Jack. You have to play by the rules if you're going to carry the day. We are a nation of consumers, and this corporate control of our politics and our future is within our grasp to overthrow. We cannot vote them out, so we must nickel and dime them out. As long as we continue to enrich those who enslave us, all our hollering and marching will come to nothing in the end. We are feeding ourselves to the beast.
Boycott everything. If you are a consumer, then so be it. Be a damned savvy consumer. Give not one shiny penny to those whom you would otherwise oppose. Figure out what you are spending your money on. You may fancy yourself as someone who is tuned into politics. Become tuned into your alter ego, the consumer you. Pay attention to where you spend your money.
The stakes in our democracy have been raised. No longer does "one person, one vote" carry the day. We are surrounded by interests who sup upon our paychecks through our consumption of their goods. They take that money and fund politicians whom we abhor, they push policies that poison us, they bankroll actions with our money that we would spend our lives opposing. This is another vicious cycle, one I am sure was never envisioned by the Framers.
We have in our wallets the power to break that cycle, and bring these dogs to heel.
This Movement will take sacrifice. A little bit here and there. Trim the lusher corners of your life. Discover some simplicity, a rare commodity indeed, one that is not sold in the aisles of Wal-Mart. If, in this simplicity, you discover that you have the time and energy and money to become more politically active, then so much the better.
Boycott everything. Tell your friends. Begin to make that difference. I am sure Robert would approve.