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Ma Kettle’s Revolutionary Proposal

By Ma Kettle (Carol van Strum)

For five years, I have signed every petition that comes into my e-mail, have written and called legislators on every occasion demanded, have joined marches and sent donations I couldn’t afford — sadly, with effectively zero results. For five years, despite massive marches, on-line campaigns, call and write-in campaigns, despite revelations of treasonous lies, corruption and crime in the highest places, NOTHING HAS CHANGED.

We are still murdering wholesale in Iraq, we are still holding prisoners without due process, our civil rights have been unilaterally nullified, we still have the most ineffective and expensive health care system in the world, poverty continues to increase, nothing is being done to stop the juggernaut of global warming — the list could go on and on. As if that were not bad enough, any hope of change through the ballot box is nullified by rampant, unchecked fraud in both electronic voting systems and the election process itself.

The reason we have no impact, no matter how large and growing a majority we are, is that the federal government in its entirety is controlled not by the electoral process but by and for corporate money. Furthering this usurpation is corporate control of the media, thereby literally manufacturing both our consent to be governed and the electoral process itself.

The prospects of removing a pathological tyrant and his corporate masters from government through any political process are woefully dim. The corporations that control the throne are stronger than ever, and the damage continues to metastasize. It is past time to take more drastic action than marches and campaigns.

The most drastic action we can take is non-violent and effective, and requires no one to stick their neck out, sign anything, or donate money. All it requires is personal self-restraint. What I’m suggesting is nothing short of a revolution, the equivalent of the Boston Tea Party on a personal scale. It is simply this: stop spending money. I do not mean go hungry or homeless. I mean stop spending money on anything you don’t actually need.

For each person, this will mean something different. For some it may be fast food or junk food or unnecessary restaurant meals. For others it might mean unnecessary clothing, or jewelry, or vacation travel, or new electronic toys or a second car. If two million people examined their spending habits and eliminated all but absolute essentials, and were committed to continuing their frugality for, say, at least six months, the effects would be extremely interesting.

One of the notable elements of this proposal is that the most unnecessary items we buy are those advertised on television. If sales should drop for those items, advertising revenue also drops (after the first mad frenzy to boost sales by increased advertising), and corporate control of the media is thereby weakened. At the same time, we, as individuals, discover not only that we didn’t need those things, we are actually better off without them and stronger for it.

If, practically overnight, say two million people stopped drinking Coke or going to McDonald’s or buying unnecessary software, TV screens, cell phones, etc. or driving except for necessity, some very large companies would feel the effects in their pocketbooks, and even more impact would occur on banks and credit card companies that profit by encouraging people to buy more than they need or can afford. As the movement persists and grows, these corporations would have less money to buy politicians and legislation, and government might have to resort to the unthinkable recourse of representing the people.

There is ample precedent for this in our own history. In a single year between 1768 and 1769, for example, imports from Britain to the American colonies fell nearly 50% when colonists simply refused to buy them, putting a number of English companies in bankruptcy. The colonists not only survived this self-imposed hardship but prevailed in a war of independence that created this country and its constitutional form of government.

As with the colonists, this proposal puts action for political reform on a down and dirty individual level — literally putting your money where your mouth is. How much unnecessary stuff are you willing to go without in order to regain both democratic government and a free media?

By not buying non-necessities, individuals can avoid or pay off debt, and use continued savings to exercise more choice in purchase of necessities, thereby having even more impact on the market. For example, they might choose to pay a little more to buy from independents rather than from Walmart or other exploitive superstores, or to buy organic food, a hybrid vehicle, solar panels, or items made only in U.S. union shops, or whatever cause means most to them.

The astonishing thing about this is that by refusing to buy what we truly don’t need, we not only starve out corporate control of government, but corporate control of our personal lives. Through advertising and control of the media, corporations tell us what to want, what to buy, what to think, what to wear, what to look like, what we should be, what to love, what to hate, how to live, how to define ourselves, how to relate to each other — not for our own good, but solely and exclusively to turn a profit at our expense. And we pay them to do this by buying their products!

President Bush, the corporate puppet, spoke no truer words than his exhortation to go shopping as a show of patriotism after 9/11 — shamelessly redefining patriotism to mean support of corporations that own our government and our lives.

Is it unpatriotic to stop buying what we don’t need? Are we putting fellow Americans out of work? Think about it, please. Our purchasing power is the last power remaining to us. By not buying unnecessary products, we can force industry to start producing what we do need — uncontaminated foods; super-efficient transportation; clean, fossil-free energy (other countries are creating jobs producing solar panels, wind generators, energy-efficient trains, etc.).

Can this happen? Too right it can. It’s happened before. Within months of Pearl Harbor, the entire U.S. industrial complex, from auto factories to toy makers to corset manufacturers, was retooled and restructured to produce war machinery. For more than three years, people did without butter, new cars, gasoline, etc., to support a desperate cause.

Our cause today is no less desperate and urgent than World War II was: to restore the democratic government and way of life that war was fought to preserve. No government policies, no legislators beholden to corporate money, are going to do this for us, it is up to us to do it ourselves. Surely we can do without the Victoria’s Secret bra or new flat screen TV or hot SUV to regain control of what was once our own government.

This revolution, like the one that created our democracy, must begin at home, literally. It takes only this: turn off the TV, look around you, talk to your kids and partners, and ask each other what you really need today. Just today. And commit to purchasing today only those things you need. Then do it again tomorrow. Try it. You might find it exhilarating to have such power!


Ma Kettle lives in the hills of Oregon and is a longtime anti-pesticide activist and corporate fraud expert. To get another copy of this proposal, write to Please send this proposal to your friends — please send neatly, by copy and paste. If your copy is too mangled, write to this address and you’ll get a new one instantly.

One Response to “Ma Kettle’s Revolutionary Proposal”

  1. Tar Rat says:

    Excellent idea! Thanks very much for contributing a positive goal for change.

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