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November 19, 2000

BND and countries of the South

BND-Campaigners in various countries have started a discussion about Buy Nothing Day and countries of the South.

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Mir from Panama on Thu, 16 Nov 2000

Why are we doing this? Some of you from richer countries might be wondering if there is also excessive consummerism in the 'third world'. Well, yes, there is. Large corporations have been looking for consumers in these markets for many years now, and it makes even less sense than in the North. Anybody interested in this discussion, please write.

Stuart Sontier from New Zealand on Sat, 18 Nov 2000:

Hi Mir,
I'm interested in the comments you give from the 'third world' :-).
BND has been criticised by some self professed socialists as being irrelevant since it is just us liberal white middle class (or with m/c aspirations), and it doesn't address the working class or the poor. My own view is that BND is relevant because it is the middle class wallowing in bought comforts who have the time and energy to help pull down the power structures that enclose us all. And it is the middle class who have the opportunity to reassess and change their lives and world views without too much financial pressure. Not to say that 'working classes' are not involved in such things too, but to my mind BND is more about addressing greed and overconsumption - things hard to be included in when you are poor to the point of not affording the essentials, let alone the electric toilet cleaner attachment for your $2500 vacuum cleaner.

I wonder if you have some other perspectives from your own place? Who is BND targetted at with your campaign?

Mir from Panama, on Fri, 17 Nov 2000

A good example is how it is with cell phones in Latin America and most everywhere in the South, including Africa. Here in Panama, in a matter of months after cell phones were introduced, people were giving a significant portion of their earnings to just two corporations -- Bellsouth and British corporation Cable & Wireless. Everybody (from all walks of life) has been persuaded through millions of dollars in advertising that cell phones are essential for life. And I won't even begin talking about car and tobacco companies or K-mart...

Yes, BND the way we (Defensa Ambiental) do it turns out to be mostly for the middle class... but the working class and the poor are also victims of advertising campaigns and excessive consummerism. Interesting, last year these street actors I told you about did their own independent BND thing, and it was all aimed to working class people, it was a play in part about how people are relieved of their meager paychecks by "offers" and "discounts" at stores... it was interesting to see the BND message relayed to a different audience that what you might expect.

Definitely, we have that argument in my group, some people thinking BND is irrelevant. There is lots to be discussed about it.

I think it is essential that radical activists, both in the North and in the South (mostly white and/or middle-class people) have to find ways to bridge the gaps with each other and with the working class and the inmigrants, the minorities (in some of our countries, the minorities are actualy the majorities) and so on. We have to find ways to have equal, non-paternalistic ralationships with these groups. Relationships batween North-South activists for example, tend to be this way, with the Northern people taking the sad role of benefactors who know what's good for us. There is so much untapped strength in all the potential alliances between common-minded people...

I would like to hear what you people think!

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