TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Lisa Napoli: Of course, there are those who are refusing to go anywhere near a store today. Not just to avoid the mobs, but to make a point that the holiday season doesn’t have to be about spending money.
The icon of this Buy Nothing Day is a self-styled preacher named Reverend Billy. There’s a new movie about his Church of Stop Shopping in theaters now. He recently came to our studios with his wife, Savitri.
Savitri: Well, I think that the Christmas advertising, you know, it sort of escalates up to that point. There’s all these families, there they are on Friday, nothing to do. They’re all in a different town, people are a little dislocated, a whole day off, getting ready for Christmas. They know this might be the last day off they have before Christmas, so they think, “Oh, get all my Christmas shopping done now, or I’ll start the process.” Of course, the advertisers and the corporations saw that, they started to take advantage of that, and they started pushing it as the day to shop. So, Black Friday — it’s called Black Friday, I would say, because the retailers go into the black that day, classically.
Rev. Billy: And we call it “Buy Nothing Day.”
Savitri: We call it Buy Nothing Day, that’s our holy day.
Rev. Billy: Buy Nothing-allujah.
Napoli: What can be done about it? Or what are you hoping to do about it?
Rev. Billy: We joke about the intensity of the addiction that Americans feel towards shopping, that it’s actually becoming a psychological necessity. That happiness is organized around shopping, that caring for your children is something that you do in partnership with these multinational corporations who advise you on what happiness is for your kids and so forth. And that is very upsetting, we feel that must change. On the other hand, we feel it is changing. We feel there’s a wave across this culture right now. Many people are pulling back from the advertising advice that they’re getting around Christmastime.
Savitri: There’s a very basic impulse right now to reclaim private space, family space, community space. To be in communication with people who are closer to you within a slightly smaller sphere.
Napoli: But it is an interesting point to make on a show like this, Marketplace. I’m sure the argument you hear a lot is, “Well, if people didn’t shop, what would happen? People need to shop, because it’s the backbone of the economy.”
Rev. Billy: If we support local economies, Ma and Pa stores, Craigslist — things we can do in the neighborhood where I might be able to see the person I’m dealing with. You know, not to be a Luddite, not to reject technology entirely, but getting back to the human scale of giving and taking, that’s an economy, too.
Napoli: Reverend Billy and his wife, Savitri, are profiled in the new documentary, “What Would Jesus Buy?” In Los Angeles, I’m Lisa Napoli. Have a great weekend.
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