We who work to change the
way things are, we who strive for social, environmental,
or political modification, recognize the danger in losing
our sense of humor. On a daily basis, as a means by
which to do our duty well, we imbue ourselves in
depressing data. This is what drives us; if the data
weren't depressing, we wouldn't try to alter it.
So, as saddening as most of
this data is, and with the insight of years working
toward change, a local group was formed with a simple
goal in mind. Under a church and over potluck food, the
Guerrilla Action Group (GAG) meets to laugh, to teach
others to care, and to help us all smile while we show
our concern for the world.
As the name implies, GAG is a
group of action, and its first was the observance and
celebration of National Buy Nothing Day which falls on
the day after Thanksgiving. It began eight years ago on
the west coast by a group called Adbusters and is a "24
hour moratorium on consumer spending."
The day after Thanksgiving was
chosen because of its notorious nature as traditionally
being the busiest shopping day in the U.S. The sheer
amount of money spent on just this one day is reflective
of the consumerist culture that is so prevalent in the
U.S., a culture which enables the evils done to people in
other countries and the environment.
Before starting anything in the
way of local action, we researched Buy Nothing Day
(mostly through the Adbusters website). During this time
we found many fueling facts and statistics which we then
organized into a brochure for the public. Some members of
the GAG group wrote letters to the Record Eagle and to
the Northern Express, as a means to reach a broad number
people through the local media.
We wanted to educate with
humor; we wanted consumers to be able to laugh at
themselves (as we've learned to do with our own
consumerism) while learning that what they do affects us
all, without sounding like we were accusing them of
With those points in mind, the
group decided on a short, funny skit in which a patient
is infected with a "classic case of ...OVER CONSUMPTION!"
as diagnosed by our stethoscope sporting doctor. A back
up chorus of sign toting "GAGgers" yelled at appointed
times during the production to punctuate some of the main
would someone catch this "over consumption" infection?
The mall of course! Hence, after one last meeting at the
church where we gathered our energy and cleared our
minds, we found ourselves at the door to the Grand
Traverse Mall. There were fifteen of us all together, so
it took some doing to look inconspicuous as we stepped
through into the realm of the frenzied pseudo-reality
inside. It was the busiest shopping day in America, and
we wanted to let everyone know it was Buy Nothing
We knew there were security
guards somewhere in that cloud of people, but as we
walked to our predetermined stage, we were spurred on by
the surreal atmosphere of glittering lights, thousands of
voices talking at once about thousands of different
things, and the volume of "stuff" in the windows of
stores and "stuff" in the arms of mostly tired and
anxious looking people. We knew what we were doing was
important, and that the people there (and elsewhere on
the Earth) needed it.
We performed, and the audience
loved us. They applauded, they wanted an encore, they
wanted more information, and most important, they
laughed. For some I'm sure it was the first time they'd
laughed all day, and that opened them up to what we had
to say. So we marched on to the next stage in the mall,
to act once again. We were laughing and smiling, getting
ready to raise the curtain for another audience when all
at once, we were reminded of the illegal nature of our
action when we saw a few non-fans (security personnel)
frowning their ways toward us.
we were escorted out, we moved on to Wal-Mart for a one
time only special performance near the check out lines.
We literally stopped traffic, as people were lined up
near the entrance, unable to move any further into the
store. After we had completed our skit for this new
audience, we were once again "escorted" out, laughing and
chatting. People were looking out the window after us.
Maybe they were thinking something like, "Those
weirdos!!" but I like to think that some looked around
themselves and thought , "Those people were right!!" and
left Wal-Mart without a backward glance.
GAG, following in the footsteps
of other groups like Adbusters and The Ruckus Society,
will continue to break the paradigm of protest by
exploring new forms of action. We're beginning to look
into campaign finance reform, sweatshop labor, and of
course there's always the genetically modified foods
issue. There is talk of performing on tctv2, and there's
the Earth Day 2000 festivities to be held this year at
Shielding Tree Nature Center.
No matter what is in store
next, we'll never run out of things to work on (though it
could be said to be our ultimate goal). Through it all,
this group will be forever jubilant and energized to do
what we do because we'll have smiles on our faces and
laughter in our hearts.
There is always room for more
motivated people in the GAG group, and all are welcome to
attend meetings. If you're not local, start your own
group. You would be surprised how many people care about
the same things you care about. People just need to find
a venue to express those cares, and we've found more
people can express themselves through laughter than any