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Riverhead Local (New York)

24/7 Consumerism is Killing Us

Denise Civiletti

County Executive Steve Levy wants to force stores to shut down between noon and 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day and has proposed a law forcing them to close or face penalties of up to $1,500. (See story.)

I think he's right.

There are no days off any more, and it's making us sick as a society. I don't mean physically ill (though there's likely a connection there, too); I'm talking about every other kind of wellness: spiritual, emotional and - yes - even moral health and well-being.

Americans have no sabbath. No rest. No forced down-time.

We are a hyper, wired-in, materialistic, people who collectively work 24/7 nearly 365 days a year - all in the pursuit of "things," which have become our gods.

Who benefits from this craziness? We don't. We suffer. We don't spend time with our families, of both the immediate and extended variety. We don't spend time reading, writing, reflecting, taking walks or just resting. All the things that a SABBATH is all about.

When we had a sabbath - enforced by law - we did all of those things. The stores shut down and so did we. And it was good.

The seven-day shopping week turned us into full-time consumers.

It was inevitable that we would eventually be shopping on "holidays" and the spiritual, emotional and moral barriers to stores being open for business on holidays came tumbling down.

Personally I think it stinks that store clerks are forced to work at their low-wage jobs on days - and I mean morning, noon and even night -like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's - and Easter, and Veterans Day, and... you know what? Every Sunday, too.

We need to reclaim our sabbath. Because the only people benefitting from our crazy consumerism culture are the huge corporations that exploit people around the globe to enrich their executives and shareholders - from the minimum-wage cashier at one of the big box stores on Route 58 to the pennies-an-hour worker at a sweat shop in Sri Lanka.

The no-holds-barred corporate culture of greed has Americans securely in its grip. We've fallen for the nonsense that we "can't live without" this, that or the other thing. So we'll work two or three jobs, seven days a week, to get the money to buy those things - or to pay the double-digit interest on our credit card debt after we charge things we don't have the money to buy. And we'll go shopping on whatever days we do get off from work, including Sundays and holidays formerly spent with loved ones. We'll even go shopping in the middle of the night, for crying out loud. All in pursuit of "things" and a "special, limited-offer unbelievable deal." Hurry in! Don't wait!

Steve Levy's proposal is bound to spark controversy. I'm sure the free-market folks are gonna hate it. But he's right to want to stop the insanity, even if only for an afternoon.

You know what? We all have the power to stop the insanity - if we can only resist the marketing blitz, the gotta-have-it philosophy of American life. In my opinion, resistance starts with turning off the TV, which numbs the mind and offers up programming mostly as a vehicle for advertisements that want to convince us we've just gotta-have-it. All the other crap is just that.

Levy's proposal, even though a baby step in the right direction, is a bold one. And, in my opinion, a good one.

Just say no to consumerism. Reclaim your sabbath. Now get away from this computer and go have some face time with someone you love.


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Denise Civiletti wrote this for the Riverhead Local newspaper in New York.

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