Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Bath, Maine, United States

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A DAY IN CONSUMER CULTURE

The line outside the closed textile mill of folks waiting in 2009 for the "Give and Go" sale

Today I volunteered for three-hours on behalf of our local peace group Peaceworks in Brunswick to help set up for the annual "Give and Go" sale. (I do another three-hour shift again next week as well.)

Each year students at nearby Bowdoin College bag up things they don't want as they prepare to leave for the summer vacation. These items (clothes, food, sports equipment, school supplies, furniture, etc) are then sorted by volunteers from local community groups and then in June a big public sale is held. Last year $42,000 was made from the sale and profits from the sale are distributed to participating non-profits based on the number of hours they have volunteered to work at the event.

It is truly a fascinating experience to see some of the stuff these students get rid of. Bowdoin is generally known as a rich kids school and many of the bags of clothes that I emptied today indicated that to be true. Brand new shoes, new clothes with price tags still on them, bed linens still in their original plastic wrappings, and other assorted items all indicating an excess of possessions - likely gifts from parents back home that were never wanted or needed.

It is indeed a good thing that all this stuff does not just end up in the garbage. I imagine some years ago that is just what happened. Many working class and poor people in the community get in line before dawn on the day the public sale is held in order to get first crack at all the riches. Some good shopping deals will be made on that day next month.

I learned today that they used to call it "Dump & Run" at Bowdoin College but likely changed the name to "Give & Go" because the former was just a bit too elitist sounding. You know like "dump your shit on the poor folks".......

But in another way it is a sad commentary on our "modern" lives that we consume so much stuff that we don't need or even really want. People give us gifts of junk because they think they must or we buy things we know we don't really need because we have been taught to be shoppers and consumers.

So today I was in the middle of this sociological swirl and had mixed feelings about the whole experience.

And for me that is about the way it goes these days - few things are black and white for me anymore.

2 Comments:

Blogger Tom said...

Good post Bruce. I too am experiencing more of the "gray" in-between...is it an outcome of grief?

5/20/10, 5:52 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Not grief, but an outcome of realizing the falseness of so many false dichotomies.

5/29/10, 4:22 AM  

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