Make Something Day – My Thoughts
If you haven’t noticed recently it’s become really popular in emerging/missional/alternative church circles to to promote the whole Buy Nothing/Make Something Day. For the uninitiated, Buy Nothing Day is an alternative option to the shop on Black Friday hysteria that grips the nations every year. The idea is that one would opt out of this consumeristic ritual in hopes that this will encourage people to consume and waste less the entire season (and not just postpone their shopping). Others though move beyond the negative stance of Buy Nothing Day and propose Make Something Day. The idea is to still encourage gift giving, but to avoid buying new things and make handmade gifts instead.
On one hand, I like the idea. We are a culture obsessed with the new, constantly seeking more. Most people would rather buy say a whole new shirt than take the time to replace a missing button on an old one, much less make an entire gift. We as a culture have lost touch with the basics and instead support consumer practices that are destroying the environment and enslaving the poor. It is a broken system that needs healing. Make Something Day is a creative alternative to subvert the way things are in the world.
But I have a few problems with it (here’s where I get in trouble).
First – it doesn’t actually achieve its goals. Just because someone choose to make something doesn’t make them any less of a consumer. Most homemade gifts are not made from scratch. That yarn, or fabric, or beading, or rick-rack, or cookie dough, or whatever came from somewhere. Often the same sweatshop using corporate entities people are trying to sidestep in the first place. And as a crafter I have to come clean and say that crafting is just another way of consuming more – lots more. I have boxes and boxes of craft supplies in the attic. I have friends whose entire basements are filled with crafting stuff. I even had a friend in high school whose house’s second floor started to collapse because of the weight of the material from his mom’s quilting habit. Be it at JoAnn’s, Michaels, or Hobby Lobby crafting for handmade gifts is consumption plain and simple.
Second – if the idea is to produce less waste, why create useless crap that people feel obligated to keep because it is handmade? I’m pointing all fingers at myself on this one. I spent all morning making Christmas gifts with a super excited Emma who was extremely proud to tell me who was getting each particular gift (family members watch out!). I have a craft business, an Etsy storefront (shameless plug moment), and do the craft fair circuit. That being the case I would far rather give (and receive) something needed or desired than a handmade something just for the sake of something. I admit, I’m not a sentimental person. I’m not the type to keep a technicolor itchy afghan my grandmother knitted just because my grandmother knitted it. Call me heartless, but that’s the way it is. I described my gift giving rationale last year. Basically I try to shop for that which is wanted/needed – not making something, or buying something (even fair trade or organic somethings) just because. I’m a huge fan of wishlists in that regard. If someone wants a quilt, I’ll make it, but I’d rather give them a book (used is just fine) if that’s what they want. And if that book is insanely discounted on Black Friday, well, you get the picture.
Third – I am uncomfortable with the whole “make something to subvert the global economy” idea when avoiding the global economy is the driving force. I am all for economic justice and supporting local businesses, but that does not mean that I want to propmote a “me/America first” mentality that abandons the poor around the world. I am not anti-globalization – seeking justice that sacrifices the poor is not just. I’ll write more on this soon, but let’s just say that I am uneasy with underlying assumptions put forth connected to Make Something Day.
So these thoughts have been bugging me recently with every new reminder I get about Make Something Day. I like it and I don’t like it. If it works for you, really works for you, great. But I’m uncomfortable with it being the only “just” alternative out there. Once again this year I won’t be shopping on Black Friday, but I doubt I’ll be making anything either. I’ll be at the family ranch hiking, chatting with my Grandmother, drinking way too much wine, playing dominoes and scrabble, and smoking insane amounts of meat in the outdoor oven. It will be fun.