Thursday, December 11, 2014

What "Boycott" Means To Me

Sometimes it's very easy to start a fire, and sometimes it's very hard.  It can also be hard to channel fire to useful purposes, and sometimes it's hard to know whether your efforts to do so are succeeding.

The #blackoutblackfriday boycott, however, seems to have lit a fire, and it seems to be succeeding.  To me, one evidence of success is the fact that retail sales on Black Friday this year were down 11 percent from last year.  The explanations offered by the pundits for this drop all omit the economic boycott of major retailers by Black Americans who are tired of being harassed by people in this country who want to turn the clock back on human rights.  Because the pundits don't take this into account, their explanations sound rather lame.

Now it seems that my call to extend the boycott through the entire holiday season is catching fire.  A number of other websites are echoing the call.  However, I think some folks may be confused over the meaning of the word "boycott."  I think of one site which urges its followers to do the following:

"Purchase ONLY necessities during the holiday buying season.  "Necessities" include:
  • Day-to-day items needed for grooming and hygiene
  • Gasoline
  • Food that can be cooked or prepped at home
  • Electronic devices vital to businesses and personal communication.
 "Boycott the purchase of non-essential, high price retail items.  These include: ...Entertainment, unless the entertainment has to do with justice (e.g. - has a social commentary as its subject matter.  Hunger Games, yes.  Horrible Bosses 2, no."
 I say "Amen" to limiting purchases solely to "necessities."  But what is "necessary"?  Personal grooming items like soap and toothpaste, yes.  Gasoline, yes.  Food that can be prepared at home (raw meat, uncooked beans, rice, vegetables, etc.), yes.  But electronic devices??  Let's the owner of the aforementioned site, do you see the potential for watering down your proposed "boycott"? 

And what about entertainment?  Of course, we should not consume "light" entertainment this season.  But what could possibly be wrong with Hunger Games - except that the story told in Hunger Games is already being played out in real life in the Greatest Country On Earth, and we don't need a movie to get the point.  That, and one very significant difference between the book and the movie.  (For another example of the same thing, see this.)  And what about the Book of Exodus?  It contains a great deal of social commentary, but why should I support the Hollywood dream-maker machine by watching that movie?  Just about every drama in the theater nowadays can claim to "have social commentary as its subject matter."  Yet they all share the same characteristic: they continue to portray one group of people, and one group only, as genuinely human, while all the other peoples of the earth are either ignored or caricatured.  To go to the movies at all right now is to continue to support Hollywood in its efforts to provide the privileged members of a dysfunctional nation with narcissistic supply for a little while longer.

Meanwhile, in real life, Syrians are being bombed for the "crime" of simply wanting to exist as a people separate from the control of the United States.  This is the same "crime" that was committed by the Iraqis, the Libyans, the Afghans, the people of Ukraine, the people of Vietnam, the Native Americans, and others too numerous to mention.  And in the United States, people of color are still being targeted and framed by police for crimes they did not commit.  "Conscious consumerism" won't stop these things from happening.  The only thing that will is to starve the beast.  I don't feel like watching a movie.  I'm not spending any money for the holidays.  Not one dime!

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