No Shopping Day? It’s just moral masturbation

spiked editor Mick Hume in The Times (London).

Mick Hume

Mick Hume

Topics Politics

Never mind poison gas attacks. On Saturday, Christmas shoppers in London might have to contend with a campaign of politically motivated puking. Activists plan to vomit in busy shopping streets, in protest at being ‘force-fed’ by big retailers and advertisers. ‘Puking might not be pleasant,’ they say, ‘but neither is our current consumer society. Return your consumption.’

This execrable excuse for a political protest is part of No Shopping Day, a worldwide ‘festival for frugal living’ that sums up the most miserable spirit of today’s ‘anti-capitalist’ movement. Street protesters pledge to throw leaflets around, cut up credit cards and, in Bristol, ‘set up a living room with broken TVs and shopping trolleys filled with rubbish’. And you thought they were against polluting the environment with useless trash.

The message of No Shopping Day is that we should all stop consuming and choose from ‘101 things to do’ instead, ranging from ‘Grow your own beansprouts’ or ‘Clean your windows – but be careful’, to ‘Think about sex and sexuality’. Never has a grim afternoon toiling up and down Oxford Street sounded so attractive.

Like all self-righteous crusaders, the No Shopping Day people claim to act on behalf of those less fortunate; the people of the Third World, our planet’s trees and animals, even ‘future generations’. How could you object to some herbert chundering into your pocket if it’s for the good of your great-grandchildren?

In reality, of course, economic underdevelopment elsewhere has nothing to do with us buying ‘too much’ at Christmas. These protests are staged entirely for the benefit of the protesters’ consciences. ‘You’ll feel detoxed from consumerism,’ boasts the NSD website. It is all just an exercise in moral masturbation, to flatter those taking part that they are better than the McDonald’s-eating, label-buying masses. It cannot be aimed at converting the rest of us; puking in public is not widely considered a persuasive argument.

The real hate figures of No Shopping Day are not multinationals, but you and I. The literature drips with contempt for consumers – those ‘greedy’, ‘mindless’, ‘irresponsible’, ‘soulless’ zombies, who ‘stare blankly at their screens’ and gobble up whatever ‘they have been told to buy by their TVs’. Shoppers are depicted as polluters, thieves, sheep and pigs. No wonder we are deemed fit to be puked on. There are plenty of problems with the world today. But who wants a future where ‘frugal living’ is considered something to celebrate?

The NSD alliance lectures that we already have ‘enough’ and don’t ‘need’ anything more. No doubt there were some in the cave-dweller community who said the same after they had discovered fire and fur skins.

In America (where today is No Shopping Day), the alliance is linked to Buy Nothing Christmas, a group protesting that Christmas now means ‘Santa Claus and the promise of material reward, not the Christ Child and the divine humility of the manger’. Today’s anti-capitalist movement and religious fundamentalists share a distaste for modernity, and reject a Western culture they see symbolised by a fat Santa drinking coffee at Starbucks with Miss World on his knee.

Jesus may or may not have joined a No Shopping Day protest, but Karl Marx, whose Communist Manifesto praised the ‘wonders’ of capitalist progress, would not have been seen dead on such a reactionary stunt. The anti-capitalists of yesteryear wanted to build on the achievements of modern industry and science. By contrast, the logic of No Shopping Day is that we should change the world, not by raising up the poor, but by sharing out the misery. So have yourself a Merry Make-Do-And Mend Christmas.

The new religion offers us life in a second-hand hair shirt, without even the promise of everlasting redemption. The miracles of genetic science mean that it may soon be possible for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. But it appears it is still impossible for a rich man (that is, anybody with a credit card) to enter Heaven and share His home-grown beansprouts.

This article is republished from The Times (London)

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Topics Politics


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