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Dimed Out

Today is “Not One More Damn Dime Day,” when conscientious objectors to four more years of our fratboy-in-chief’s Excellent Adventure are supposed to rage, rage against the machine by participating in “a 24-hour national boycott of all forms of consumer spending.”

(As opposed to, like, non-consumer spending. You know, consuming without spending, like those supermarket shoppers who discreetly graze their body weight in grapes or those income-challenged art students who subsist entirely on gallery-opening canapés and Concha y Toro.)

By refusing to underwrite the permanent war economy, even for a day, NOMDD refuseniks hope to monkeywrench the machinery of consumer capitalism and give Dubya the malocchio, into the bargain.

“For 24 hours, please do what you can to shut the retail economy down,” the boycott’s website exhorts. Don’t spend money on “toll/cab/bus or train ride money exchanges.” (What, pray tell, is a “train ride money exchange”? Is this alt.-ese for subway fare?) Don’t go to any big-box retailers (“please boycott Walmart, KMart and Target”), nor to “the mall or the local convenience store,” and for chrissakes “please don’t buy any fast food (or any groceries at all for that matter).” Subsist, like the pious anorectics of medieval Christendom, on the manna of your moral superiority. Or, better yet, fast, in the time-honored tradition of self-flagellants everywhere. “The object is simple. Remind the people in power that the war in Iraq is immoral and illegal; that they are responsible for starting it and that it is their responsibility to stop it. […] ‘Not One Damn Dime Day’ is about supporting the troops. The politicians put the troops in harm’s way. […] The politicians owe our troops a plan—a way to come home. […] There’s no rally to attend. No marching to do. […] On ‘Not One Damn Dime Day’ you take action by doing nothing. You open your mouth by keeping your wallet closed. For 24 hours, nothing gets spent, not one damn dime, to remind our religious leaders and our politicians of their moral responsibility to end the war in Iraq and give America back to the people.”

Why, as a fellow traveler who heartily agrees that our ill-conceived adventure in nation-building has become a slaughterbench for army reservists and a recruitment tool for jihadis, do I find myself so wildly irritated by this thing?

It being eagerly granted that War is Bad, Peace is Good, and the morbidly obese millions would be the better for a day away from the Arby’s trough, what is there to argue with in this earnest attempt to Fight the Power by “doing nothing”?

Let me count the ways:

  • First, the whole business reeks of bobo sanctimony and cultural elitism. Any member of the Adbusters-reading, Supersize Me-watching leisure class who honestly believes she can Stick It to the Man by keeping her dimes firmly in her hand-knitted Guatemalan rucksack, right beside her manically underlined copy of Chomsky’s Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance, is unlikely to be seen rolling a 55-gallon drum of Miracle Whip out of Wal-Mart or rejoicing in fried offal at the local McDonald’s. The NOMDD demographic consists largely, if not entirely, of inconspicuous consumers. It is axiomatic, at this late date, that the higher a certain sort of overeducated, deeply principled American climbs on the socioeconomic ladder, the more likely he is to camouflage his status and laminate his common-man credentials with the appearance (at least) of a virtuous proletarianism. This, after all, is America, where none of the children are above average. Our deep-dyed populism demands that all poll respondents, whether homeless or richer than God or Gates, insist they are “middle class.” Historians of consumer culture, such as Stuart Ewen, have traced the evolution of what were once called “overalls,” mass-produced for the working class, into the designer jeans I saw recently in a boutique on New York’s dizzily wealthy Upper East Side. Artfully distressed and fastidiously shredded, they bore a price tag in the high three figures. All of which is my usual digressive way of saying that the well-educated, well-rewarded class whose Volvo-driving, Fair Trade coffee-buying legions are most likely to support the NOMDD boycott don’t shop at Wal-Mart or eat at McDonald’s anyway. They’re too busy fondling the heirloom tomatoes at the farmer’s market or gnawing their cuticles to the quick over the question that continues to vex the ecologically correct: Cloth diapers or disposable?
  • Second, Not One More Damn Dime won’t work, for the obvious reason that it has niche appeal, and niche appeal only. A dated, they’ve-got-the-guns-but-we’ve-got-the-numbers attempt to pour sugar in the gas tank of the road-hogging, gas-guzzling SUV of consumer capitalism by refusing to buy a new cruelty-free loofah or foregoing that appointment with the feng shui consultant, NOMDD needs mass support to get off the ground. But mass support implies mass appeal. If you’re going to sell a holy war, you need rousing, to-the-ramparts rhetoric, not some flabbyassed assurance that the faithful can “do something by doing nothing.” (Although I have to confess, right about now, that NOMDD’s Zen koan speaks to my Inner Slackivist). If your shock troops are going to suffer on behalf of your sacred cause, you need to make palatable, even desirable, the world of pain they’re about to enter. Appealing to their better angels is fine (“Ask not what your country can do for you…”). Subliminally seducing them by playing on their naked self-interest is even finer. As in: “Rise up, o ye faithful, against the Great Satan and his Zionist puppetmasters to prevent our sacred sands from being defiled by the boots of the infidels! (Did I mention that every martyr who straps on a suicide belt and blows himself to chum gets to spend eternity in the Garden of Unearthly Delights, boinking dark-eyed virgins?)” By contrast, the left (among whose endangered numbers I count myself, I should probably emphasize again) hasn’t managed, in recent history, to make either its public persona or its ideas sexy to the masses. Ensuring that you’re synonymous, in the public mind, with hair shirt-wearing self-denial and granitic humorlessness (think Kerry, Gore, Dukakis…) is not likely to win the hearts and minds of Middle Americans, most of whom shrink from things like the NOMDD Day because they sound like the political equivalent of the gray, gluten-free, sugar-free, fun-free snack foods drearily gummed by vegans and other humorectomy sufferers. A mass boycott that mandates total self-denial and, by default, sentences the participant to house arrest in order to avoid spending a plugged nickel, let alone a thin dime, is a mass boycott doomed to failure.
  • As well it should be. Because if it did work, it would injure the very nickel-and-dimed working class whose members have so disproportionately suffered in this misbegotten war. As the editors of the Urban Legends Reference Pages write in their brilliant retort to NOMDD,

    boycotts succeed by causing economic harm to their targets, thereby putting them out of business or at least requiring them to change their policies in order to remain in business. But the target of this boycott isn’t an entity that has the power to bring about the desired resolution (i.e., the government)—those who will be economically harmed by it are innocent business operators and their employees. These people have no power to set U.S. foreign policy or recall troops from Iraq, but they’re the ones who would have to pay the price for this form of protest, incurring all their usual overhead costs (e.g., lighting, heat, refrigeration) to keep their businesses open and paying employees’ salaries, all the while taking in little or no income. (And no, it doesn’t all even out in the end ? restaurants, for example, aren’t going to recoup their lost business through boycott participants’ eating twice as much the next day.)

    Somebody say Amen. There is exactly negative zero connection between sticking it to Apu down at the Kwik-E-Mart and inflicting a mortal wound on Dick Cheney and the Masters of War over at Halliburton. (For that matter, can somebody please explain to me how “our religious leaders” are supposed to end the war in Iraq?)

  • Finally, there’s one last reason NOMDD Day and the hole-in-the-forehead cultural logic it represents must die. Like Buy Nothing Day and Turn Off Your TV Day, it cedes too much cultural territory to the enemy. It’s about denial, refusal, withdrawal. It’s craven. It’s feckless. It gives off the sour stink of defeatism, and self-defeatism at that. This way lies Ted Kaczynski’s cabin, the Shaker community, the ascetic’s cell. Masochistic at heart, faux protests such as NOMDD Day are the political equivalent of a pillow-biting hissy fit: I’ll show them! I’ll never leave my bedroom! If they’re going to make me eat Brussels sprouts, I’ll never eat again, as long as I live! Do NOMDD participants truly believe that the chairman of Archer Daniels Midland or the CEO of Wal-Mart is losing any sleep over the fact that they’re not buying that Ani Difranco CD they’ve been jonesing for?

Too long have the censorious, humor-impaired wings of the left&#151the Dworkinite penis-is-a-weapon paleoconservative wing of feminism; the beige, Organization Man policy wonks; the excruciatingly earnest shoot-your-TV neo-Luddites—been the left’s public face. We need an Xtreme Makeover. More profoundly, we need to stop embracing the politics of denial and withdrawal. Show me a left-wing call for social justice and economic democracy that nonetheless embraces the vulgarian pleasures of junk culture, and I’ll show you a fanfare for the common man that is also a battleplan for handing the right’s self-appointed morals czars their heads. In contrast, NOMDD’s rearguard action is the thin bleat of a bugle blowing retreat: Forward, into the past!

63 Comments

  1. Barbara Gayle wrote:

    Right on! I’m so sick of these symbolic gestures meant to soothe the consciences of champagne liberals. I fully agree that the action called for does nothing to affect the fortunes of Wal-Mart, ADM or Halliburton, nor does it do anything to improve the lot of the average soldier posted in Iraq. I don’t see how some self-serving act of a few self-righteous individuals can effect change where it counts the most.

    Thursday, January 20, 2005 at 6:32 pm | Permalink
  2. Nicole wrote:

    Wow. Your piece really hit home. It also illicited a spontaneous burst of angry blogging on my part. This sort of sums it up for me:
    … NMODD pisses me off because it is a justification for not taking any real action. It’s a lazy man’s protest. Instead of taking the time to fly to DC or attending a local protest, or starting a letter writing campaign, or using this as your motivation for becoming more involved in politics, either as a politician or a volunteer you simply have to NOT BUY ANYTHING FOR ONE FUCKING DAY, and guess what, your a rebel, an activist, your opinion has been noted, you’re part of the solution. Well I call bullshit on that! Change will not be created through such weak efforts. If anything it is representative but ultimately empty gestures like NMODD that are preventing the mobilization of any real grassroots resistance and ultimately real change.

    Thursday, January 20, 2005 at 7:14 pm | Permalink
  3. Stefan Jones wrote:

    Put another way:
    NMODD is a lefty’s equivalent to the magnetic Support Our Troops ribbon.

    Thursday, January 20, 2005 at 7:54 pm | Permalink
  4. Dr. Bonzo wrote:

    And what, precisely, do you prescribe as a better alternative?
    I’m inclined to agree with your assesment of NMODD’s ineffectiveness, but how do we shape a more forward-looking, active, and effective response to yesterday’s farce and all that will follow from it?

    Friday, January 21, 2005 at 7:51 am | Permalink
  5. retrofuture wrote:

    check out a different option, a networked brand of shoplifters!
    http://www.yomango.net

    Friday, January 21, 2005 at 2:13 pm | Permalink
  6. Rhet O. Rick wrote:

    Without commenting on the idea of the protest (which is pointless and stupid) or your politics (which seem reasonable) I did want to compliment your style. Very enjoyable and deserving of my highest honor [click] – subscribed. Please provide more such at regular intervals.

    Friday, January 21, 2005 at 2:52 pm | Permalink
  7. Cepo wrote:

    everyone spelled the acronym wrong.

    Friday, January 21, 2005 at 2:55 pm | Permalink
  8. milovoo wrote:

    Have you considered the option that you might be maintaining as incorrect a stereotype as you claim that the “art students who subsist entirely on gallery-opening canapés and Concha y Toro” or the “well-educated, well-rewarded class whose Volvo-driving, Fair Trade coffee-buying legions” do. It’s ridiculous and it just makes you sound like a rube or at best a tired (old) Dennis Miller wannabe. If you disagree – make a point, be constructive, give reasons, then maybe we (your readers on the net) can somehow manage to get it on our own, without the silly hyperbole. If you really do want to communicate your vision, you should probably stick to speaking about what you know, not just spreading the far-right’s straw men any further.

    Friday, January 21, 2005 at 3:04 pm | Permalink
  9. Avi Solomon wrote:

    There IS a positive, grassroots movement FOR Voluntary Simplicty:
    http://www.simpleliving.net/
    But Wisdom only comes AFTER Suffering for most people:(

    Friday, January 21, 2005 at 3:17 pm | Permalink
  10. Response to Liberal’s Response to Bush’s Inaugural

    Okay, I’m not in love with President Bush. Let me get that off my chest. Too many bad decisions.
    I also didn’…

    Friday, January 21, 2005 at 3:38 pm | Permalink
  11. John Baboval wrote:

    There’s another reason these things never work. For all the talk, most of the people who participate in such a boycott really can’t concieve of living without the their daily pseudo-anti-mainstream consumerist lifestyle. Instead of generally consuming one day’s less of their trendy, cleverly relabeled and marked up politically correct overpriced items-du-jour, they’ll just buy extra of all this crap the day before and consume just the same.

    Friday, January 21, 2005 at 3:39 pm | Permalink
  12. Hamish Grant wrote:

    Hey, have you read “The Rebel Sell” – by Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter? It takes the same dim view of this kind of ultimately ineffectual activism, and it’s an awesome book all round. It made more sense to me than any Adbusters/Buy Nothing Day/Critical Mass demo ever could.
    THIS magazine has a good feature on it:
    http://www.thismagazine.ca/issues/2002/11/rebelsell.php
    Website here at Harper Collins (publisher)
    http://www.harpercanada.com/rs/

    Friday, January 21, 2005 at 3:43 pm | Permalink
  13. Our deep-dyed populism demands that all poll respondents, whether homeless or richer than God or Gates, insist they are “middle class.”
    Actually, about 40% of americans think they belong to the top 10% in the money making category… Almost another 20% think they’ll get there someday, that is why all the policies that favor this small, and already well-off, group are favored by a majority of americans, and, hence, Bush wins…

    Friday, January 21, 2005 at 3:46 pm | Permalink
  14. kat wrote:

    A big hell yes to all of the above. You just wrote out what I’ve been saying to people since I heard about NOMDD. But, all of this leads to the question, how are we going to make that powerful shift and really get the message across to our government? Protests don’t really work either. So what next?

    Friday, January 21, 2005 at 3:48 pm | Permalink
  15. tomwsmf wrote:

    WholeWheat Radio had a fantastic rant on the whole Not One Dame Dime Day thing which I think folks should give a listen to.
    http://www.wholewheatradio.org/audio/RANT_05-01-20.mp3
    My own take on it, Not One More Damn Stupid Act Of Empty Fell Goodism Day everyday
    -tomwsmf

    Friday, January 21, 2005 at 3:50 pm | Permalink
  16. Not one damn boycott.

    I always love to see someone take a flamethrower to dumbfuck ideas like Not One Damn Dime Day. Mark Dery does so.

    Friday, January 21, 2005 at 4:05 pm | Permalink
  17. Anne Onymous wrote:

    I could see NOMDD starting as a good idea – responsible consumption – and going south somewhere along the way.
    If you want to do something, support small (as in not evil yet) business. But not too much, or they’ll get big and then you’ll have to boycott them too…

    Friday, January 21, 2005 at 4:13 pm | Permalink
  18. dasffdfa wrote:

    congratulations, NOMDDD, for hurting small businesses and having no real effect on anything else

    Friday, January 21, 2005 at 4:14 pm | Permalink
  19. chico haas wrote:

    Instead of hurting the coffers of the private sector, why not cripple government services? For example, without jeopardizing even a hair of May’s trip to Tuscany, bobos could stage a national NRMPD: Not Renewing My Passport Day. That’s $55 a head right there. Add to that the loss of EZ Pass revenues from NOT driving to downtown Federal offices. This is big.

    Friday, January 21, 2005 at 4:42 pm | Permalink
  20. Darren wrote:

    I was going to reference the excellent “Rebel Sell” as well. Here’s a quote from them on Buy Nothing Day:
    Thus Adbusters magazine has managed to turn their annual “Buy Nothing Day” into a global phenomenon, currently celebrated in over 55 countries. The problem is that cutting back your spending, without cutting back your income does absolutely nothing to combat consumerism. Your total income gets spent, whether you like it or not. Either you spend it, or else you put it in the bank, who then loans it to someone else who will spend it. This is not an accident – total spending and total earnings in the economy always add up to the same amount, because your spending is someone else’s income, and your income is someone else’s spending. That’s because the economy is fundamentally a system of exchange. So the only way to make a dent in that is to withdraw from the economy completely, which means neither providing services nor consuming them. Yet somehow, an annual “Earn Nothing Day” doesn’t have the same ring to it.

    Friday, January 21, 2005 at 4:46 pm | Permalink
  21. Jim wrote:

    It seems to me that the point is not to actually bring down the economy, but to point out the connection between our own consumption and the policies of our government. Us lefties know that over-consumption is bad, but there are plenty of people out there who have no clue how their lifestyles are related to the continued survival of the planet. It may not be noticeably effective, but it’s better than nothing.
    A lot of people want to be activists, but don’t know where to start. This is a way to say, “start anywhere”.

    Friday, January 21, 2005 at 4:46 pm | Permalink
  22. Blake Richards wrote:

    Excellent piece, you made some good points while keeping it humorous enough to entertain. I think that the one thing you forgot to mention is that the NOMDDD approach seems to be more about assuaging the guilt that many leftists feel than actually achieving any concrete gains. I’ve got many friends who are very involved politically, who work tirelessly for social change, and they completely ignore things like Buy Nothing Day or NOMDDD. I think its probably because they don’t feel the guilt that less active people do.

    Friday, January 21, 2005 at 5:23 pm | Permalink
  23. jarred wrote:

    I am simply blown away by the eloquence with which your statement has been made. full marks to you sir.

    Friday, January 21, 2005 at 5:31 pm | Permalink
  24. d.j.pusson wrote:

    This “not a damn dime” protest is _most_ hurtful to our nation and will not produce “one shilling” of difference to the direction of our “U.S. Ship of State” — producing only further separation between the polical “drivers” of our captive society!
    DAMN the friggin’ politicians!! STATESMEN(and women) is what we need so desperately to lead our nation into the future.

    Friday, January 21, 2005 at 5:36 pm | Permalink
  25. Response to Liberals’ Response to Bush’s Inaugural

    Okay, I’m not in love with President Bush. Let me get that off my chest. Too many bad decisions.
    I also didn’…

    Friday, January 21, 2005 at 6:50 pm | Permalink
  26. asshat wrote:

    wow! some random american noticed that america sucks? fucking clap clap. whats your alternative? “everybody please remain calm. carry on as you are” day? morons leading morons. what else should i expect.

    Friday, January 21, 2005 at 6:52 pm | Permalink
  27. Great piece, but you make one mistake: It is possible to both run and participate in more than one protest at a time. This is particularly useful when creating distributed groups of smaller protesters. Peer-2-Peer activism :)

    Friday, January 21, 2005 at 7:04 pm | Permalink
  28. The Rest of the World wrote:

    So here’s the thing America: I hear the rants, the pleas, and the even the hand-wringing despair, but the fact is that in an election where even a hermit who lives halfway up a mountainside in Wyoming would know that every vote counts, and that there are more swing states than you can swing a cat at, about 40% of you stayed home. That’s right, sat on your asses and did nothing. And then you wonder why the best protest you can come up with involves, wait for it, doing nothing? Ah, irony. Everyone loves it; no one wants to pay for it

    Friday, January 21, 2005 at 7:18 pm | Permalink
  29. Not One Damn Dime Day

    Not One Damn Dime Day, a proposed boycott of all consumer spending,
    was perhaps one of the most poorly thought out and piss-weak ideas for
    an alleged political protest ever; and Mark Dery tears it a new one,
    in style:
    First, the whol…

    Friday, January 21, 2005 at 8:27 pm | Permalink
  30. Eric Hunting wrote:

    Perhaps instead of a NOMDD Day it would have been far wiser to propose a Learn To Make Something For Yourself Day. You can’t treat an addiction by telling the addict to swear off for a day and shake his fist in anger at the dealers. Treating an addiction is a systematic process, and in this case that would be a process of economic and industrial reformation based on the cultivation of a post-industrial culture -something which is already happening of its own accord -albeit slowly- as a consequence of the dominant trends in industrial technology. (job shop production of consumer goods already exceeds in volume the production of goods from centralized factories. At least one start-up automobile company is already planning manufacture-on-demand in the dealership. Industrialization is on a trend toward progressively greater decentralization and localization and taking economics with it)
    The problem with consumerism is not simply a compulsive consumption of luxuries but a lack of knowledge about how the things we actually do need for an acceptable standard of living are made and hence a dependency upon very distant others for them -and for the money to buy them. Industrial illiteracy and the lack of understanding of actual value it creates is what keeps the addiction going, not the desire for luxury goods and conveniences.
    If one wishes to overcome the perceived plutocracy it makes more sense to systematically take the source of their power away from them. Don’t rail against the economy they control and exploit. Learn to reroute the economy around them. (in my opinion, this is already happening and the plutocrats know they’re living on borrowed time, hence the great amount of engineered turmoil in the world today as a means of artificial life-support for a failing system)
    Laziness is a good thing, as long as you’re lazy like an engineer. Why fight the power when it’s so much easier and safer to simply obsolesce it?

    Friday, January 21, 2005 at 8:46 pm | Permalink
  31. MC wrote:

    Okay you cranky bastards. Any suggestions? What are you doing other than whining and sneering?

    Friday, January 21, 2005 at 9:03 pm | Permalink
  32. Hamish Grant wrote:

    “Burn Money Day” would be a real solution – take dollars out of circulation – THAT is the best way to fight consumerism. If everyone took $50 and lit it on fire, and let it burn away, then someone, somewhere will never be able to earn those dollars, nor will the burner be able to spend them on anything.

    Friday, January 21, 2005 at 9:28 pm | Permalink
  33. Fish-Beater wrote:

    Hmmm… some people are already getting defensive: “How about saying something constructive”, “What are you doing other than whining and sneering?”
    There is a time for constructive criticism (on the author’s part) and there is a time for destructive criticism. This situation, this puerile bit of stupidity deserves the latter. The NOMDDD folks are
    have come up with a cute idea, but one that is utterly useless, and Mark Dery is helping us by pointing out that it’s a _bad_ cute idea. With NOMDDD disposed of, now we can channel our energy and our outrage into something useful, rather than chasing our tails.

    Friday, January 21, 2005 at 9:37 pm | Permalink
  34. Heather Logan wrote:

    Many of the comments here ask for suggestions for constructive action. Of course, constructive action always takes more effort than “empty gestures”. People on the Left need to take the initiative, rather than just reacting to the actions of the Right. Here are two suggestions.
    First, we on the Left need strategic initiatives of our own, to make the world a better place and create our vision of the future. Learn about the New Apollo Project (see, e.g., http://www.commondreams.org/views02/1219-04.htm ), a decade-scale initiative to achieve energy independence through massive development of renewable (wind and solar) energy technologies. This initiative would address in one package many issues of concern to the Left — global warming, air pollution, oil drilling/spills, mountaintop-removal coal mining, dependence on Middle East oil and its associated wars, and the future decline of fossil fuel supplies. It could easily be funded by diverting the 30 billion dollar yearly gas and oil industry subsidies.
    Second, we on the Left need to learn how to frame the debate. The Right is very good at this, and not by accident — massive amounts of money have been spent on think-tanks whose purpose is to develop strategic policy initiatives that fit with the values of the Right, and to develop the language to sell them to the media and the electorate. We need to do the same thing! The first step is to understand and articulate our values. Once we know where we’re coming from, then we can argue on our own terms. For an introduction, see, e.g., “Don’t Think of an Elephant” by George Lakoff (Chelsea Green, 2004). Don’t fall into the Right’s trap of talking about “tax relief”, as if taxes were a bad thing — talk about taxes as a wise investment in infrastructure and society, or as the dues we pay to live in a civilized country.

    Friday, January 21, 2005 at 9:57 pm | Permalink
  35. freek wrote:

    Maybe I’m reading too much into your comment that we need to sell our ideas to the masses, but I say, “Fuck ‘Em.” Liberalism and Progressiveness is in the best interest of the majority of Americans. Most people vote against their own best interests and to them I repeat, “Fuck you. You get what you deserve. I’ll live with your totalitarian regime and petition my representatives for relief until you come to your senses.” This is my martyrdom.

    Friday, January 21, 2005 at 11:56 pm | Permalink
  36. Bill Peschel wrote:

    freek: When Michael Moore is strung up with Tim Robbins’ bowels, I’ll believe we’re living in a totalitarian regime. Until then, you and the rest of the Left are living examples of dinosaurs who heard something crash last November but don’t realize you’re doomed.

    Saturday, January 22, 2005 at 12:38 am | Permalink
  37. Some things you can do to help save the planet: stay in your home, don’t spend anything, don’t marry, don’t have kids, commit suicide.
    Not very nice, but the logical conclusion of a particular left-wing style of reasoning. Given current epidemics of suicide and depression, it seems quite a few people reach this conclusion.
    Something of a rethink needed.
    Let me suggest an idea that is mostly missing from the left: This whole homo sapiens business is worthwhile. We have merit as a species. We’ve got some problems, but we’ve got a lot going for us as well. Species suicide bad idea, continuation of species good idea. Go have children, make families.
    And our culture has a lot going for it too. It’s not perfect, but it is in fact better than a whole lot of other cultures. It does not need dismantling in its entirety. It’s something we should actually be a little proud of.

    Saturday, January 22, 2005 at 1:02 am | Permalink
  38. Andrew wrote:

    “Let me suggest an idea that is mostly missing from the left: This whole homo sapiens business is worthwhile. We have merit as a species. We’ve got some problems, but we’ve got a lot going for us as well.”
    Although you try to paint this notion as being foreign to liberalism, is, in fact, pretty much the basis of all modern liberal and social-democratic thought.
    “Go have children, make families.”
    Er, what about those of us who simply don’t want to have children? Who don’t feel we want to take on an unwanted financial and moral burden? Who aren’t able to take on the financial burden?
    “And our culture has a lot going for it too. It’s not perfect, but it is in fact better than a whole lot of other cultures. It does not need dismantling in its entirety. It’s something we should actually be a little proud of.”
    Bravely waging war against Straw.

    Saturday, January 22, 2005 at 2:01 am | Permalink
  39. Celia wrote:

    There seem to be unquestioned presuppositions, at least on the part of the commenters, that something and/or everything needs to be improved, and that such improvement can in fact be catalyzed if only “we” (or “they”) will stop ______ or start ______ [caring, voting, spending, building, destroying, protesting, supporting, overthrowing, reforming, framing, working, whatever].
    Why?

    Saturday, January 22, 2005 at 2:05 am | Permalink
  40. popeye wrote:

    Damn straight, love it all. I’m glad there’s a backlash to the backlash. But clean up the green borders so I can read this stuff easier!

    Saturday, January 22, 2005 at 2:13 am | Permalink
  41. Mahlen wrote:

    I largely agree with your sentiments about NOMDD. I always felt the same way about student boycotts at Berkeley. Protest by not going to class? Like students needed more reasons not to show up?
    However, I have to take issue with the assumptions behind the statement, “the well-educated, well-rewarded class whose Volvo-driving, Fair Trade coffee-buying legions are most likely to support the NOMDD boycott don’t shop at Wal-Mart or eat at McDonald’s anyway.”
    This comment hints at a few odd ideas:
    * That people who care about economic justice (Fair Trade coffee-buyers) are financially well off.
    * That mainly well-off liberals are against the war. Are we too believe that the poor are all for the war?
    * That well-off people don’t shop at cheap places.
    All of these seem like odd ideas, but odd ideas (the first two) that the right has been promulgating. They been portraying coffee-drinking and Swedish car owning as signs of membership in a powerful elite. Aren’t the elite simply the wealthy, and aren’t the wealthy majority Republican?
    mahlen

    Saturday, January 22, 2005 at 4:38 am | Permalink
  42. Danzig wrote:

    Many human beings who want Americans to spend less aren’t Americans, and many come from developing countries.
    Also, I hope that one day Americans will start asking Iraqi citizens what they think of the war.
    http://www.lead.org/leadnet/footprint/intro.htm

    Saturday, January 22, 2005 at 6:00 am | Permalink
  43. Danzig wrote:

    “What species eats up the earth’s resources ’22 times more’ than others and would probably need ‘six more planets’ to satiate its appetite?”
    http://news.inq7.net/nation/index.php?index=1&story_id=25066

    Saturday, January 22, 2005 at 6:09 am | Permalink
  44. “Er, what about those of us who simply don’t want to have children? Who don’t feel we want to take on an unwanted financial and moral burden?”
    Regarding financial burden, many poor people seem quite happy and able to raise children, i do not think this is a significant obstacle.
    Regarding moral burden, are you saying that it is immoral to have children? The implication would seem to be that the planet would be better off if this generation were the last generation of our species.
    Ok, so people in the USA consume rather a lot. Do you think people of almost any other country would not do likewise given the option, or indeed animals of a different species? The USA goes to war on false pretenses. This is certainly not an unusual event in the history of warfare, or a trait limited to just the USA. At least you manage to feel guilty about it.
    Some significant changes to society are clearly necessary, but not a wiping of the slate or total despair.

    Saturday, January 22, 2005 at 8:06 am | Permalink
  45. Smiley wrote:

    Not spend a damn dime day? C’mon, that’s gotta be the lamest protest idea, ever. These sort of limp wristed, ineffectual “gestures” aren’t going to change anyone’s mind about the war. The only people who are going to “get it” are already on the Left; you’re just preaching to the converted. Constructive ideas? I don’t have any, but you’re the English Lit Major with a degree in Decorative Ceramics, come up with something better. For starters, how about a more creative chant than “Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, George W. Bush has got to Go!” Five thousand people marching down the street and the best you can come up with is that? Don’t try to sway middle America with something so abstract and “symbolic”. Anything that dense with symbols and gestures just screams “I AM A SODOMITE AND I WISH TO BE SPANKED BY A LARGE BARDED DRG QUEEN FROM FIRE ISLAND” to the red states. Instead, try to appeal to those who voted for the Republicans last time and find some sort of common ground and tailor your actions to those who aren’t necessarily crazy about the West and East Coast people, what with their fancy Ipods and bell bottom dungarees. Bottom line: don’t call them a bunch of fuckin’ inbred NASCAR loving, tobacco chewing, Dale Ernhardt loving hicks and threaten to leave for Canada.
    As a non American watching the November election, I had this awful feeling the Left just helped piss away what would have been an easy win for the Democrats. Example? Same sex marriage. Do you have to pull a stunt like getting a bunch of ugly looking, overweight and overly emotional gay men frenching each other in front of City Hall just months before the election? The Right took what would have been a minor issue like gay marriage, built his campaign around it and called it “An Attack on Morality and Family Values”. I support gay marriage, but really, can’t you get some oiled up, hot looking young guys in Speedos? Instead we were treated to two guys that look like fertilizer salesmen playing tonsil hockey and bawling like Tammy Faye Baker. Couldn’t you have waited AFTER the election to bring this up?

    Saturday, January 22, 2005 at 10:27 am | Permalink
  46. Andrew wrote:

    “Regarding moral burden, are you saying that it is immoral to have children?”
    It is if one’s not willing to take on the responsibility of parenthood. Which is the only case that I was talking about.

    Saturday, January 22, 2005 at 11:55 am | Permalink
  47. Bobo Bumblings

    When first I heard of this Bourgeois Bohemian I recognized it instantly in the professors I had in college, and my bosses in the new dotcom universe in which I lived. While I’m much too young for it, I recognized my own tendencies toward bobo-hood; I…

    Saturday, January 22, 2005 at 12:03 pm | Permalink
  48. David Gaw wrote:

    Well, speaking as a Republican, I heartily applaud “Not One More Damn Dime Day,” and sny similar activity that diverts time and energy from alternative activites that in some way impede the president’s agenda.
    Good post, though!

    Saturday, January 22, 2005 at 12:44 pm | Permalink
  49. I agree that one day of activists depriving themselves is not enough. They need to stop eating altogether. THAT will show them.

    Saturday, January 22, 2005 at 2:34 pm | Permalink
  50. Teresa Carpenter wrote:

    I, for one, enjoyed Mark’s rant. It is always a pleasure to read a writer blessed with a sense of humor and irony. Unfortunately, his argument is facile. I observed No Damn Dime Day in the same spirit that a conscientious Christian or Jew or Muslim might approach a period of fasting. A fast of any kind – be it religious or secular – is useful only if it forces reflection. It did. Dime Day caused me, and many others I’m certain, to examine the practical consequence of our acts, and, in this case, chart exactly where money goes over the course of a day, a week or a year. Do my family and I really want to deny our business to the Korean Grocer next door? No. He probably does not give great sums to the Republican Party. Do we want to weaken the economy of a Blue State. No. Blue States remain host to many of the blessed pockets of sanity still left in this Republic. Do we want to tank the national economy? No. Only Neo-Cons get their kicks from Pyrrhic victories. What Dime Day did, however, was to remind me, and many others, of the formidable power of American consumers and their ability to express the popular will through boycotts. Reminder. The Dime Day contingent was not some small but vocal minority. Fully half of the country voted against this president and might, if led by dynamic, well-organized leaders consider enlisting in boycotts against corporations complicit in the government’s war policy. I remember, even if others of you are too young, the Birmingham Bus Boycott of 1955-56 when Dr. Martin Luther King led thousands of followers to deny their dimes – yes, DIMES – to the public transit system. They brought a city to its knees. White folks just couldn’t spend enough money, fast enough, or long enough to make up the short-fall. Are there enough Republicans to save Wal-mart? I don’t think so.

    Saturday, January 22, 2005 at 3:26 pm | Permalink
  51. “It is if one’s not willing to take on the responsibility of parenthood. Which is the only case that I was talking about.”
    You have some higher purpose in life then?
    Gay marriage is a case in point. Gay marriage implies marriage without children. Erodes link between marriage and children, which was the original purpose of the whole institution. Says society thinks children are not such a good idea. Ok, so what should we be doing? Saying people in gay marriages can adopt, and have access to IVF. Encouraging it even.
    Happy bouncing gay families. And those nasty republicans want to split up these families? Evil evil anti-family immoral bastards the lot of them!
    Look, we’re wide open here. The right is killing us with this stuff and we don’t even notice.

    Saturday, January 22, 2005 at 4:08 pm | Permalink
  52. Teresa Carpenter wrote:

    Clarification. Montgomery was brought to its knees by bus boycot. Birmingham by marching. Not a bad idea either.

    Saturday, January 22, 2005 at 5:12 pm | Permalink
  53. Winston Gereluk wrote:

    OK! Good clean humour – I actually chuckled out loud twice, while reading it. Woke the cat.
    However, like so many rants of its type, this one simply doesn’t stand up to any sort of analytical scrutiny. For example: Why does the ranter term the NOMDD proposal ‘left-wing’? I see nothing left wing in it.; in fact, the proposal not to spend any money for one day lacks anything that even smells of left-wing analysis. The ranter casts his net so widely that he scoops in anyone who decides to take a principled or ‘politically correct position’. In fact, he casts his lot with those who apparently think (or imply) that ‘politically incorrect’ is superior to the alternative.
    Why didn’t he just stick to exposing the stupidity of the proposal? Because he was having a tantrum- that’s why! He is very angry at a large bunch of Americans who oppose George Bush and the shameless, murderous, domineering, religiously-crazy, right-wing administration he heads, because they propose or support tactics that he doesn’t like. On the issue of the tactics, I agree with him – on his choice of enemy, I don’t.
    Winston Gereluk

    Saturday, January 22, 2005 at 5:29 pm | Permalink
  54. Jonathan wrote:

    Loved the rant even though I agree is collapses embittered liberalism with leftist activism and ignores actually existing left-wing movements that aren’t aescetic.
    By the way, Mark, I’m running the latest version of Safari on OSX and your type encroaches on the green background, making this blog a tough read. I trudged through for this one, though.
    –J, who hated Super Size Me

    Saturday, January 22, 2005 at 9:56 pm | Permalink
  55. mschris wrote:

    Slactivist movements (an oxymoron if I’ve ever typed one) may be useless in terms of getting actual results, but they can help keep the marginally political from losing interest and tuning out.
    Most people, given a choice between making meaningful time commitments or doing nothing, will choose to do nothing. But feel-good opps like “click here to sign this petition that Dubya’s handlers will never let him see” might keep these folks mentally engaged in the struggle, and a few might even evolve into more productive protesters…

    Sunday, January 23, 2005 at 12:48 pm | Permalink
  56. steff wrote:

    As has been mentioned repeatedly before, the problem for the would-be protester these days is that his or her actions never result in any concrete social or political change, other than persuading a few more slacktivists to join their ranks on the streets.
    So how do we enact such change? Obviously, we must somehow persuade a segment of the population to participate in some sort of meaningful action that will get the attention of the political establishment. What sort of action, you ask? The same thing Thoreau tried during the Mexican-American War: REFUSE TO PAY YOUR TAXES. This, of course, means people would have to risk federal imprisonment on behalf of a political movement. But if there are really so many people on the left who are truly appalled by the Bush administration, and a large number of them actaully followed through with this, then each participant incurs a relatively low risk of being imprisoned. Participants would just have to face the possibility that they themselves may have to play the role of token scapegoat.
    And yes, to pre-empt the accusation, I really am proposing a Gingrich-style government shutdown, only this time triggered by citizen (in)action. And yes, there would have to be a specific, clearly articulated point to this, but all I’m saying is that this is something that would work if people were willing to take the risk.

    Sunday, January 23, 2005 at 2:02 pm | Permalink
  57. Elissa wrote:

    It’s so easy to be negative that we shoot ourselves in the foot (feet?). Someone proposes an action that would be effective… or semi-effective… or would send a message… or at least MIGHT send a message (because really, who knows where something might lead), and lots of people who claim to know better jump on the “let’s discredit this because it won’t solve all our problems” bandwagon and the idea fails. It’s the old self-fulfilling prophecy, and another excuse for debating endlessly what the perfect solution would be and thus another justification for inaction.
    If the effectiveness of an idea depends on collective participation, then discouraging participation dooms it, not the merits (or lack thereof) of the idea.
    Just a thought.

    Sunday, January 23, 2005 at 2:43 pm | Permalink
  58. Stew wrote:

    I have to agree with Elissa here. What does this actually achieve? Isn’t it just easy laffs at certain types of people with whom we share the same values but maybe not the same taste in self-expression. Though principally about the perceived target of the protest, this article displays a thinly veiled antirighteousness righteousness which causes more division.
    The author asks us to look at history, but the history of the “Left” is one of nothing but petty division. The right historically always wins because the left cannot unite. Everytime Dubya or one of his cronies refers to Jesus, pro-life, or even “freedom”, there must be hundreds of thousands of self-professed Republicans out there cringing, or at least pretending not to listen till he pimps out something approximating to their agenda. It’s quite ironic, but ultimately it is the right who are more accepting of differences in policy and values. Despite its potentially embracing liberal and humanist agenda, all people with the left seem to do is fight with and pillory each other.
    Unfortunately, this kind of article only fuels the fires of infighting over the trivial matter of the means of self-expression. Far from being “clever”, it plays straight into the hands of the ruling elite. By dividing ourselves, we save them the bother of having to divide us to rule.

    Monday, January 24, 2005 at 12:31 am | Permalink
  59. Flash!topian wrote:

    How boycotts work — social activism for dummies:
    http://flashtopian.blogspot.com
    I am with you.
    -c

    Monday, January 24, 2005 at 5:53 pm | Permalink
  60. James wrote:

    Jim said:
    “A lot of people want to be activists, but don’t know where to start. This is a way to say, “start anywhere”.
    Couldn’t agree more. Even as a symbolic gesture, withholding cash from the consumer system that is responsible for so much misery is a worthy, if small, protest. Not everyone can put their bodies in the street.
    Mark, your post is so disgustingly smug and self-serving that’s it’s nauseating. Making fun of people because they buy fair-trade coffee or support their local grower of heritage tomatoes might get a laugh or two, but those acts are *constructive*, unlike posting sneering rants at people who are actually trying to accomplish something, all so you can demonstrate your ‘witty’ way with words.
    To the NODDD and BND people, every little bit counts, keep up the good work.

    Tuesday, January 25, 2005 at 12:09 pm | Permalink
  61. I cite wrote:

    Lebkowsky, Dery, and Not One Damn Dime

    On his blog today, Jon Lebkowsky endores Mark Dery’s recent salvo against Not One Damn Dime Day:

    Tuesday, January 25, 2005 at 4:53 pm | Permalink
  62. Tom wrote:

    It’s interesting to read the counterbacklash in the last few comments, since the writers are not only ignoring the specific criticisms in Mark’s original article, but supporting the overall conclusion that NOMDDD is pretty worthless as an instrument of social and political change by warning that we’re in danger of hurting the NOMDDD organizers’ feelings.
    Despite what Stew says about the danger of disunity(as if John McCain, for example, wasn’t vocal in his disapproval of W during the campaign), the real danger, I think, is that the left will be associated with this type of un-protest that, at best, will reinforce the stereotype that liberals are wimps, and at worst will be used in the next campaign to convince waitstaff nationwide that the left’s idea of a boycott involves trying to take a day’s worth of tip money out of their pockets. Won’t that go over well with the proletariat?
    I have not a jot of sympathy, none, for a “protest” that tries to attract mass participation but can’t stand up to the most cursory criticism or feedback. I didn’t sign up for the left so that I could imitate the blind obedience of the right, and anyone who envies the way that all those Bushies can manage to goosestep in perfect unison should re-read the last paragraph of Animal Farm, in case they’ve forgotten.

    Wednesday, January 26, 2005 at 12:57 pm | Permalink
  63. M. Dery wrote:

    We interrupt our featured carnage to bring you this message from our sponsor:
    So…did NOMDD Day have any measurable effect, however minute, on:
    A. Consumer spending
    B. The attitudes of the power elite, most notably the Masters of War in the Bush cabinet, or
    C. “religious leaders”?
    D. Most important, did it affect U.S. policy in Iraq, in any quantifiable way?
    If so, what were the effects?
    If none, what are we to conclude about NOMDD Day?
    We now return you to our regularly scheduled internecine bloodletting, which is already in progress…

    Thursday, January 27, 2005 at 2:44 pm | Permalink