Happy Fourth of July! The Revolution being unfinished, this may be a good time to consider the power of saying “no.” The collective power of it, I mean, for individual acts of rebellion are largely useless. History shows us over and over again that only the gathered power of people can counteract the power of gathered wealth.
And yet, I still think it important, morally, to say “no” as an individual. I say no to owning a television or a car; I say no to fast food and shopping in malls; I say no to consumption, as much as I can, buying much of my food from a co-operative and many of my clothes second-hand; I say no to the pirate banking corporations, and keep accounts at a union bank; I say no to celebrity and most other aspects of pop culture (I haven’t been to a contemporary movie in well over a year); I say no to the sports spectacle complex, “amateur” or pro (FIFA and the IOOC are criminal enterprises); I say no to wearing “brands,” which to me are marks of ownership on the flesh of animals and slaves; I say no to the impotent irony/satire packaged under the aegis of multinational corporations (e.g., Viacom’s Jon Stewart).
There are a few sacrifices, of course. I don’t have as many free ATMs available; I have to walk to the bookstore instead of pushing an Amazon button; I would like to see some soccer. But because I think complicity only empowers the corporate kleptocrats/oligarchs/authoritarians, these are hardly sacrifices.
Of course, try as I might, I’m as wrapped up in this world as the next person. But I really do make an effort to try to create a little breathing room for myself. What do you do to breathe? After all, there is so much we don’t need to live lives of depth and meaning.
It may seem somewhat ugly to have to keeping saying “no” all the time. Culturally, this is considered excessively negative, but then, I have a beef with this culture. I’ll wear the badge of “killjoy” proudly if that joy is nothing but corporate pablum. Because, really, that’s no joy at all.
You may gather from this blog that I do not take my contrariness from Bartleby. True, I would prefer not to, and often choose not to, but not to the nihilistic ends of that poor, hopeless clerk. Old B needed to get out of his cubbyhole and smell the Thoreau.