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Text taken from the pages at Adbusters logodevoted to 'Buy Nothing Day'.

Word version of the text

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President Bush, Prime Minister Blair, Prime Minister Chretien and other world leaders are a one-note choir these days. "Shop!" they cry. "Shop like you've never shopped, shop like you're not already sinking in personal debt. Shop because at this time of crisis your country needs you to. Shop because the economy – and hence the whole world's economic well-being – is at stake.

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In this climate, Adbusters' call for a 24-hour consumer fast seems to some folks to be coming out of deep left field.

Our annual campaign has, from what we're hearing, utterly polarized readers. Some are sympathetic – indeed, they think the idea of breaking the trance of consumer culture for a day has never been more relevant. But some reckon this year we should just shut up about Buy Nothing Day. And some folks seem genuinely baffled why we would even suggest such a thing in the first place.

This may be because in the official "Shop while the bombs drop" rhetoric is coming out of Washington and London and Ottawa without any context or caveats at all. No mention that it's a short-term emergency measure that comes at the long-term expense of the planet. No suggestion that our economic policy makers, as they tote up this year’s GDP, may actually have no idea about how to measure real economic progress. And not much tolerance for the notion that frugality rather than spending may, in the long run, be the only rational response to S-11.

What do you think? Should we shelve our Buy Nothing Day campaign in light of the tragedy, or should we shout the message from the highest rooftop?

Since its launch in the Pacific Northwest eight years ago, Buy Nothing Day has grown into a worldwide celebration of consumer awareness and simple living. Observed on the day after US Thanksgiving – America's busiest shopping day of the year – the campaign has sparked debate, radio talk shows, TV news items and newspaper headlines around the world.

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People in more than thirty countries have made a pact with themselves and, as a personal experiment and public statement, stepped out of the consumer stream for 24 hours. The ways in which people have marked the event worldwide have been as diverse as the participants themselves.

Many play with the icons of our consumer landscape by taking off on mock shopping sprees, by hawking "hope" and "happiness," or simply by opening up shop and selling nothing more.

The daredevils of the Ruckus Society, a California-based direct-action group, dropped a boxcar-sized banner ridiculing overconsumption smack in the middle of the Mall of America. Other more down-to-earth-types created and distributed the Gift Exemption Voucher – a polite way of saying, Let's not get each other anything this year, out of principle. In Seattle, helpful Buy Nothing Day celebrants offered a credit-card cut-up service outside a downtown mall.

In America, Buy Nothing Day played out in some of the nation's last remaining public spaces – its malls. Costumed groups of revelers managed to slip in and stay long enough to set up tables and suggest alternatives to heavy holiday spending such as giving to charity. Spend time with family and friends, rather than money on them, was the message. If there's one thing the terror attacks have driven home this year, it's that the things no-one can buy – love, ritual, attention, sacrifice, freedom–are the only things worth pursuing, and exchanging.

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Buy Nothing Day just wouldn't be the same if the networks didn't reject our opt-not-to-shop TV uncommercial. Every season, we approach ABC, CBS and NBC to air the spot, and every year they refuse us–claiming our ad asking people not to buy anything threatens "the current economic policy of the United States." It will be interesting to see if this year CNN Headline News, the one show that has taken our money and aired the spot (after their "Dollars and Sense" program since 1996) continues to break ranks.

Most constitutional-law experts aren't bothered by the networks' refusal of the spot, according to Robert Berner in The Wall Street Journal. Networks aren't under any legal obligation to air it. But as Harvard Law School Professor Laurence Tribe remarked, "At least the networks make it clear who butters their bread."

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"September 11," the mainstream-media consensus seems to be, "changed everything." But did it? The millennial world was already at a crisis point between a sustainable rebirth and the final sale of its assets. The global economy was on track to use up our resources sooner rather than later. The tragic events of two months ago just sharpened our appreciation of how tenuous and potentially catastrophic is a voracious First World's dependence on foreign oil, networked international money markets, and the utterly uncompassionate survival instincts of multinational corporations.

Lost in the breast-beating of recent weeks is any critical discussion of the *point* of all this economic patriotism. The goal is to boost the flagging gross domestic product. The GDP is the usual measurement of the strength of the economy, but how useful is it? Consider that whenever there's an ecological or human disaster in the U.S., the GDP goes up, and we call it "progress." By that logic, the crash of those jets into the Twin Towers was a good thing, because it, too, sent the GDP up (or it almost certainly would have, with new billions spent on defense and health and cleanup, had the fear factor not kicked in). The point is, we measure the goods, but we do not measure the bads – and, unchecked, it’s the bads that will bury us. (For more on this subject, check out the website of the folks at Redefining Progress in San Francisco. Overconsumption creates long-term ecological problems that aren't accounted for in the GDP. That’s one of the things Buy Nothing Day is all about.

There’s no right way to celebrate Buy Nothing Day. The idea is to do *something* to spark up debate, not shut it down. The shining hope for a revolution in human consciousness lies in the actions of everyday people. And so in the most profound sense, nothing has changed at all.

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