Photo by Mico Mazza

Occupy movement turns its focus to holiday consumption

WITH THE OCCUPY movement staggered by camp break-ups across the continent, a Canadian non-profit magazine that sent out the first Occupy call has issued a new twist. Adbusters, the Vancouver-based monthly magazine, has long advocated in favour of Buy Nothing Day in the place of Black Friday, when individuals consider their consumption habits and go a full 24 hours without making any purchases.

This year, Adbusters is attempting to tie their day of anti-consumerism and the Occupy movement together by encouraging shoppers to Occupy Christmas.

“In the Occupy movement, one of the main underlying forces behind it is imagining a new kind of future for everyone,” said Lauren Bercovitch, the production manager at Adbusters Media Foundation and an Occupy Christmas participant.

“The Occupy movement talks about a systemic change and a huge cultural paradigm shift, and for the holidays, it’s the same kind of thing we need to be thinking about.”

Bercovitch explained Occupy Christmas doesn’t necessarily mean not buying presents, but rather reassessing the consumption habits related to the holiday season.

“I think there are many different things that people can do on many different levels—it’s a personal thing,” stated Bercovitch. “[It could be] something as simple as buying locally—going out and putting money into your local economy—or making your Christmas presents.”

Despite Bercovitch’s encouragement to continue to spend money, some Occupy Christmas participants are planning to take the movement further by disrupting holiday gift buying with sit-ins, chants, and credit card cut-ups in corporate shopping malls.

Michael Mulvey, University of Ottawa marketing professor, thinks disruptive actions have the potential to upset people and compromise the effectiveness of the campaign.

“Christmas is still a sacred holiday to many people, and yes, there’s a commercial reality—you buy stuff—but it’s a season of giving,” said Mulvey.

“The dark side of this movement is almost like the Grinch that stole Christmas. You can almost imagine them swooping into the malls, taking all the decorations away, and all the Whos are left crying because Santa’s not there.”

Mulvey also noted, like in the larger Occupy movement, Occupy Christmas seems to lack a clear set of goals.

“First of all, they don’t have singularity in terms of their vision,” he said. “They also have a problem in that I think they have diversity within their movement. Different people are there for different reasons.”

Bercovitch believes the trend of re-evaluating holiday habits will continue.

“Being ecologically aware, socially aware, culturally aware, environmentally aware … I think that’s going to continue whether or not it’s called ‘Occupy Christmas’ or ‘Buy Nothing Christmas’,” she said. “I think there’s been a huge movement toward rethinking the holidays for many years to come.”

—Keeton Wilcock