This essay was originally titled A Boomer Weapon. The voicing and focus shows that; I don’t want to rewrite the whole thing. To be a Boomer, now, is to be old. It’s easy to feel powerless when you’re old. I wrote this so my cohort would realize we are not entirely powerless.
Since then I have come to realize that it’s a weapon for all of us in The Resistance. We are all powerless, in a way: we’re one paycheck away from destitute, most of us. We’ve got to go to work; we’ve got to keep our jobs. So I renamed it Spending Strike: it’s a power we all have. So please read, and overlook the Boomer focus if you will. Read this as a tool for all of us. There is a very real possibility that if we do not act our republic will be gone for a decade or more. I don’t want to wait.
I’m a boomer. Most of my friends and most of my readers are boomers. We were there for Vietnam and we were there for Watergate. Now there’s work to do again and lots of us are just tired. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Age is real. Recently people were talking General Strike, and that got me thinking.
We boomers eat and spend. That gives us power. And, mortality notwithstanding, there are still a lot of us.
Historically general strikes have been mostly European, and mostly about labor. Workers. Halting production. At the times and places where general strikes have been needed, production was a linchpin of society.
We boomers can’t significantly affect production. In the first place, not that many of us are still employed. But more important, machines produce most of everything. The global economy can produce more of everything than everybody needs, and do it without even having to pay the workers enough to allow all of them to live indoors. Production pretty much runs on automatic. That’s why you can’t turn your head without having somebody badger you to buy something: we produce more than we need and the only way to keep all these balls in the air is if people buy lots of stuff, more than they need, and throw it away quickly. And rent buildings and structures to keep it in.
Boomers’ power is that we are comfortable consumers. Consumption is the weak point in the oligarchy. We can get their attention there. We need to schedule, announce, agree on, and carry out general consumption strikes.
Most of us are, at a minimum, warm and well fed, with a few bucks in our pockets. We have pretty good lives. Lots of us have hobbies and activities that we do. Most activities, we spend money on. Even if we just go to the park, we burn gasoline getting there. And like as not we stop on the way home and buy some little thing.
If, on agreed upon and pre-announced dates we just all stay home and don’t do anything, that will make a difference. They will notice. There are a lot of us. It will probably make a bigger dent than a general strike of labor would in today’s America.
For one thing, labor is weak today, nearly powerless. A handful of billionaires own almost all the jobs. People are afraid, and rightfully so, that if they don’t show up on general strike day they will find themselves unemployable in a labor market with plenty of spare people to take up the slack. And most work is service work anyway. There aren’t many factories to shut down. Nurses may know they’re getting a crummy deal, but they are nurses. Most of them are going to show up and do their jobs. Many other people feel the same.
Billionaires notice money. We boomers may each spend just a few bucks on any given day, but if we all get together on one particular day and keep our money in our pockets it will make a noticeable hole in somebody’s cash flow.
It won’t work if we just put the spending off until the next day. Wherever possible we have to eliminate one day’s spending from the year’s balance. Don’t go drive around, burning gas you bought yesterday and can replace tomorrow. Stay home. Leave the gas in the car. Don’t buy anything online. Don’t eat out. No Starbucks, no McDonald’s. No breakfast with the gang. Cook out of the freezer. To whatever extent possible, do not participate in the economy.
If you make things with wood, don’t cut a board. If you golf, don’t golf. Don’t make anything out of polymer clay. Don’t fire up the 3D printer. Don’t consume the consumables of your hobby. Don’t spend it, it’s money.
Not randomly, and not just once. From time to time, all together. Announce it. Hey Mr. Rich Guy, Look At Your Balance Sheet Tomorrow, We’re Taking The Day Off.
Plan them. Schedule them. General Strike, Consumer Model. We can get their attention, still today, without ever leaving the house.