Jan 13, 2007

Union Square or the Twilight Zone?

Today I was in Union Square supporting some street theater aimed to draw attention to the plight of 395 men still detained at Guantanemo Bay. These are the things that take me to Union Square. I've never actually shopped there, can hardly afford to do so. I see Union Square and all the corporate shops while I'm at Critical Mass or for the occasional demonstration, like today. I used to pass it on my way to Arabic class but my school moved so I'm spared that now.

So yeah, two hours at Union Square was kind of annoying. While just over half of the shoppers were into us, nearly all were swamped with brightly colored bags w/ over displayed slogans and logos. Walking billboards. If you know you're going shopping, take your own bag. Spare yourself the embarrasment of being a tool for these companies.

The scene was nauseating and I felt really distanced from a lot of the shoppers. Some of them looked so familiar and I felt some jealousy toward the carefree women in tons of makeup and jewlery, loaded down with exciting new purchases. Not concerned at all with how that product was made, advertised, and delivered to the nearest Macy's. Asking me for directions to Bloomingdales (like I fucking know). Not concerned with what's going on in our American names while we get high on the haze of consumerism.

I'm serious, despite my orange attire, I was turning a pale green. It stuck with me as I rode my bike away from the demo. I was wondering what I could justify buying. I keep fantasizing about going to get bike gear for Aids LifeCycle. Damn I want a new toy.

I settled for an over packaged burrito and came home.


Fran aka Redondowriter said...

I just found your site, Rachel, although I had read about The Compact in one of the L.A. papers a few months back. The concept really intrigued me. I write about The Compact on my own blog, Sacred Ordinary, today: http://redondowriter.typepad.com

daharja said...

Damn, you want a new toy...but you know that buying it won't make you happy.

That's the point I've got to now. I've been a (virtually) non-shopper for a few months now, and even though I feel the urge and the desire to shop and get the 'high' from it, I know that the high won't last (and won't even feel real while I have the high), and that stops me from doing it.

In a way, I'm jealous too. I'm jealous of the person I was a few years ago, who 'shopped till she dropped', didn't think about the consequences, and just loved being a part of the craziness of consumerism. But once you've gone from there, you can't go back.

Rachel, you just need to find a new 'high'. One that is real, and delivers what it promises (unlike shopping). Try writing, composing, creating, doing charity work, or meditating. Try spending more time in the wilderness of the planet that you love.

I don't know you but I know that if you search hard enough, you'll find a genuine high, because I believe that everyone finds what the truly seek if they look long and hard enough.

Good luck in your quest, and be strong.

r said...
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rachel said...

r- I appreciate what you said, and I do provide a positive example for folks to follow if they choose. But I don't think anger and frustration are invalid emotions, nor do I think that criticism of American consumers is unfair. It's not what I base my principles around and I try to process it a bit, like I did here, rather than act on it. Perhaps you'd rather not see these thoughts made public. I can see that. But I thought it was better done here than on the street.

Supriyo said...

Rachel, the consumerism is also taking it's toll here in India for last couple of years. The scenario you depicted is same here.

Can you suggest me about some successful steps uniting and promoting local business firms and about some ad campaign promoting them?

Canuckfurby said...

I feel frustrated for you. I had a big shopping urge yesterday so went to my favorite thrift shop (spent all of $2.50 expanding my record collection at 25 cents a pop).
There are times I've cried wishing to be able to go buy nice things new, to have choices. Try to imagine living 10, 15, 20 years in the compact. Try imagining what your consuming compatriots will be like in 20 years. Your circle of friends changes, your social life changes, the jobs available to you change when you are not packaged in a certain way.
It is a lonely way.

r said...
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Chris Rich said...

Ikean Pathos in Bloat World. Is my contribution to your deliberations over a purchase of some sort, a tonic perhaps.

Anonymous said...


I am new to The Compact "thinking".
Are there rules? Just no new stuff? What about food? It would be hard to go buy food and see other things I would like to have.
Is there a place were I canget all my information about The Compact.

Thank you for a wonderful blog!!!

rachel said...

do you have merchant's associations in your community? for example we have the bernal heights merchant's association and businesses support each other and the community. i'm more likely to support these local businesses because i know that they're doing their part to maintain our neighborhood.

i'm not sure what sort of political structure you're working under or at what scale you're hoping to prevent multinational corporations from entering india. there have been some very successful campaigns there around issues of water resources, particularly with reference to coca-cola. these were community based efforts.

you might also look into the efforts in ladakh, tibet.

if at all possible, be proactive. don't fight individual projects unless you have to. instead, rezone your town and protect your resources with legislation before they're attacked for profit.

rachel said...

anonymous: check out the yahoo group for some loose guidelines. food is fine, so are toiletries, health and safety items. go w/ your gut.
the first post of this blog also has the guidelines. jan 2006 archive.

Anonymous said...



Thank you! I will check it out. I first heard about this in Money Magazine. I think it is a great idea!!!!

Supriyo said...

Rachel, thanks a lot for your suggestions.I shall inform you if any positive actions are taken in future.

Noelle said...

I love the idea of what you're doing, and I wish you the best, I think of Compact every time I second guess myself about buying an item I don't need. I agree with you that it's better to vent your frustrations here than on the street. You never know if the person with the Macy's bag is a thoughful person who is in the process of cutting down their puchases and might be inclined to agree with you but would be terribly turned off to you and perhaps the whole movement if you accost them out of the blue.

I've been an avid walker/subway rider and I once had to drive an SUV across town to pick up some equipment for a theatrical production. While I was stopped at a light, I got yelled at by a guy on a bike about my compliance in destroying the environment. Because there was no time to engage him in conversation and because he put me on the defensive, I actually started defending the SUV, which is a position I would have never taken up to a minute before.

Keep the peace on the street, blog like mad!