What Can One Person Do? A New Tactic for Change

We do not have a functioning democracy. Too often the will of the majority is ignored. The politicians and their big money donors do what they want. Money rules. Corporate lobbying trumps public opinion. Voters are apathetic. Crazy reactionaries succeed and common sense reforms go nowhere.

Too often we organize, march, write letters, contact our legislators, sign petitions, seemingly to no avail. It is time progressives try new methods. We need a new protest tool that will demand attention. I believe we need to use our economic power as consumers to demand sensible change.

In a consumer based economy, people do have real power. What we buy, or do not buy, does have an impact on what is produced, imported, and sold. This gives us collective power. Why don’t we use this power? Can we demand change by stopping, or reducing, our consumer spending? I think it is worth trying.

Ultimately all governments require the acceptance, or at least acquiescence, of the people. No government can function if enough of the governed refuse to obey. This principle is clear but getting enough people to act is the problem. Massive civil disobedience would stop the march to war. A general strike that shut down the country could force policy changes on gun control. But civil disobedience and strikes ask people to risk losing their jobs and whatever small financial security they may have. Strikes, civil disobedience and even peaceful protests can get you beat up, jailed, or even killed. Most people can’t, or won’t, take these risks.

We need actions that will hurt the powerful and that every citizen can take. We need a tool government can’t stop with intimidation, social pressure, arrests, and police violence. We need a tool so easy, and risk free, that everyone can participate. With some 70% of the economy depending on consumer spending, a spending reduction could be that tool.

I would suggest two coordinated actions. The first action would be a general reduction in purchasing. There are many ways most of us could reduce our spending without significant sacrifice. In fact it would probably be good for our own family budgets! Most of us could get by with less. We could stop all the “impulse” and “recreational” buying. We could cancel or delay major purchases. Everyone could contribute to the effort in ways that fit their situation.

There must be no ambiguity as to why spending is off and business is down. We need to “connected the dots” for the business owners. The second action dramatizes the reduced spending and makes it VISIBLE.

I call it the “Family Values Weekend.” The first weekend of each month people simple stay home with their families. DON’T GO ANYWHERE OR BUY ANYTHING. The goal is to create a reduction activity that is VISIBLE enough to upset the power structure. As more and more people stay home, as the mall becomes less crowded and as the traffic is less congested maybe the power structure will wonder what is going on. Maybe they will get concerned about their profits. Maybe they will decide the endless war and unlimited guns are not in their best interests either.

The Family Values Weekend, combined with reducing unnecessary, discretionary spending, are easy to do, sustainable, and expandable. EVERYONE can do it from ANYHERE. Families are not placed at risk or asked to sacrifice anything significant. The government can’t stop it using the police. It can grow each month as more people participate. It can be maintained indefinitely. Let’s defeat the big money interests by NOT SHOPPING.