On January 21st I went to the demonstration in Boston with 175,000 of my closest friends. I found it comforting and energizing. Elli and I are working to make our town a sanctuary city and taking other actions to resist the Trumpist onslaught. These actions are necessary and fine, but like you, I am trying to figure out what more we can do. I’ve been thinking about the idea of a general strike and am happy to see that it’s being organized, although possibility prematurely, for February 17th (f17strike.com). One aspect of this proposal is particularly interesting to me, especially for baby boomers.
Years ago, Mario Savio galvanized many us with these words, “There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can't take part. You can't even passively take part. And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.”
This is, I believe, what we need to do, but how? I am so impressed with the masses of energized younger people (for me that means those under 50) who are willing to put their bodies on the gears to disrupt whatever evil policies the Trumpists seek to shove down our throats, but what about the millions of baby boomers whose bodies may no longer be quite up to the task? What can we do beyond generous donations, attending demonstrations, putting up signs and bumper stickers? Those actions alone won’t stop the machine.
How can boomers be effectively disruptive? Where is our untapped power? While many boomers live paycheck to paycheck or worse, millions of us have led professional lives, with good salaries. We may have pensions, retirement savings, Social Security, or inheritances that have left us more comfortable than we ever dreamed of being. This disposable income gives us untapped power beyond our ability to make bigger donations. That ability involves consumption. If we want to disrupt “business as usual” during the Trump administration, are we willing to stop our “buying as usual?”
The millions of us can be disruptive of the Trump agenda simply by participating in a organized effort to sharply curtail our purchases. Sounds like a contradiction in terms, but let’s put our collective money where our collective mouthes are by not spending. Canceling big ticket items is most important. Put off buying a new car. Don’t take that pleasure trip - stay home, better for the environment anyway. Delay major home improvements. Forget about that new 99inch smart TV. It will hurt the economy, but it will help to get rid of Trump.
Do that and participate in “no commerce” as part of the February 17th Strike. Buy nothing that day, and “Join with other like-minded folks and occupy public space with positive messages of resistance and solidarity.” If millions of us participated in organized “non-consumption” days, days during which we stayed home, hung out with family and friends, took hikes, played board games, and built community, we could send corporate America a message they’d feel in their pocket book. And if we can pull off one day like that, then we’ll go for another and a third.
We used to say that if we are not part of the solution, we are part of the problem. Think of it this way - every unnecessary dollar we spend helps Trump. Stop spending to hit this fucked-up administration where it hurts.