The Common Good
September-October 2000

Resistance Is Not Futile

by Rose Marie Berger | September-October 2000

Some thoughts on sowing the mustard seed.

Anti-globalization folk hero and sheep farmer Jose Bove has inspired a T-shirt that’s all the rage in Europe. It shows the globe open in the form of a huge jaw; from it emerges the handcuffed wrists of Bove, keeping the teeth from snapping shut. The slogan reads: "The world is not merchandise, and neither am I."

Bove is one of the "Millau Ten," members of the Peasant Confederation recently charged with "a festive dismantling with collateral damage" of an unfinished McDonald’s outlet in the small French town of Auch. They singled out the Golden Arches to protest the U.S. government’s recent tariffs on French specialty products, such as mustard and Roquefort cheese. The tariffs were in retaliation for Europe banning hormone-treated U.S. beef. Bove’s sheep milk is used to make Roquefort. His demonstration was nonviolent, local, personal, and specific.

How can you keep the maw of McWorld from snapping shut on you? We came up with a few ideas. Tell us yours by dropping us an e-mail at sojourners@sojo.net. (Come back to this page to see what other readers suggest.)

  • Decentralize economics. Buy from local stores, especially those that reinvest in the community. Avoid chain businesses. Eat locally grown food. Eat in locally owned restaurants. Barter services—trade child-care for car repair. Give stuff away. Tithe. Invest in locally owned businesses. Have a clothing, book, or music exchange.
  • Localize media, information, and entertainment. Use the public library. Buy books and music second-hand. Donate books back to the local library. Support alternative news sources—such as your local micro-radio station. Patronize independent bookstores instead of the huge chains. Celebrate silence. Use street theater to poke fun at globalized culture. Start your own record label. Support local music over national acts. Go to craft festivals. Start a neighborhood newsletter.
  • Make culture at home. Play your guitar, harmonica, or kazoo. Join local clubs and associations. Learn about the region or neighborhood where you live—both the natural history and the people. Learn old songs by heart and sing whenever possible. Write poetry. Dance—in the club, in the park, in the kitchen. Give homemade gifts. Toss the TV. Or keep it in a closet and let it out by invitation only. Don’t be an idle image consumer—talk back to your TV.
  • Protect values. Live locally, but carry a global passport. Learn a language. Put your children in a language immersion school. Get books on other cultures from those other cultures. Think of people first, then science, machines, and corporations. Make your church a "safe space" for those in need. Disable the automatic "cookie" acceptance on your Web browser. Ask local retailers for their factory’s "code of conduct" ensuring just labor practices. Don’t have a "designer" (gene) child.
  • Battle branding. Drink water—it makes you less susceptible to advertising. Buy clothes second hand. Look for the union label. Unless the brand is paying you to advertise for them, take the labels off. Study Naomi Klein’s No Logo. Practice advertising alteration. Teach your kids to be media critics. Have your kids review their favorite TV shows, movies, or music. Discuss with them the difference between what’s good and what’s popular. Teach "deconstructing advertising" in your church or youth group.
  • Follow the money. Credit cards? Cut them up. Trace your paycheck—are you paid at the expense of others? Invest your retirement in socially responsible funds. Can your church start a local credit union? Don’t pay the federal excise tax on your phone bill—it supports war preparation. Contribute to the Peace Tax Fund, both individually and as a church. Be a conscious shareholder. Hold your local banks accountable to the Community Reinvestment Act.
  • Practice supper table fellowship. Take in strays—both people and animals. Cook—it’s creative, a great way to teach math, and (usually) tastes good. Invite friends for meals. Practice the fine art of conversation. Play cards. Don’t live alone. Adopt an elderly neighbor or someone who could use a friend. Have fun. Celebrate a Posada Christmas—instead of gifts, plan a family trip. Get to know your neighbors—from the drug dealers to the vendors to the old timers.
  • Renew the earth. Waste not. Line dry clothes. Save and reuse plastics. Walk. Ride your bike. Take the bus or subway. Think "fuel thoughts" before you drive or fly. Keep a garden. Recycle. Buy from the local farmer’s market or a CSA. Do something "off the grid." Tear up your lawn (or at least avoid chemical fertilizers or pesticides). Compost. Invest in appropriate technology that serves the poor—like low-income housing made from straw bales. Feed the birds. Support agriculture, not agribusiness.
  • Pray. It helps de-colonize your mind. Prayer is the most effective way to block the harmful rays of global powers and principalities. Chant the psalms. Forgive. Create a home altar. Be extravagantly gracious. Bless your house. Hold worship services at home to celebrate births, anniversaries, and lives well lived. Listen. When it’s time to act, follow God. Collect solutions. Practice resurrection.

ROSE MARIE BERGER is an assistant editor at Sojourners. Many friends and co-workers contributed to this list.

New suggestions from Sojourners readers:

  • Cook with solar ovens. It's saves resources and the food tastes great.
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