As the new Amazon advert goes, can you feel it?
Amid the encroaching dark and increasingly foul weather, December is synonymous with stampedes to the supermarket, endless online clicks and the massed roar of delivery lorries – or, to be reductive about it, capitalism at its most joyful and triumphant.
Clearly, though, such things are only part of who we are, even at this time of year. As the American activist Rebecca Solnit puts it in her short but brilliant book Hope in the Dark: “Vast amounts of how we live our everyday lives – our interactions with and commitments to family lives, friendships, avocations, membership in social, spiritual and political organisations – are in essence non-capitalist or even anti-capitalist, full of things we do for free, out of love and on principle.”
The internet has made these deeply political activities even more visible.
From growing your own food, through refusing to buy a car, on to freecycling and volunteering, there are no end of ways that people quietly reject the imperatives of pounds and profit, and thousands of initiatives and organisations that allow them to do so.
When I asked Guardian readers recently for examples of “everyday things that represent non-capitalist living”. I received a deluge of replies, full of very useful advice and an appealing spirit of qualified hope. “I am frequently filled with despair at the way things are going in the world at the moment, and doing this small thing at least makes me feel as though I’m doing something positive,” said one participant, which gets to the heart of the idea, and the responses collected here.
Freecycle as much as possible.
Millions of us know the basics of freecycling: when you’re lumbered with something you either don’t want or don’t need, you can connect via the internet with someone for whom it might have a use. Until 2009, the big player in this field was the Freecycle network, founded in Arizona in 2003 – but a disagreement about allegedly heavy-handed management and the stifling of local initiatives saw the birth of the UK group Freegle, which has about 2.5 million members. Both were recommended by scores of readers, who are evidently luxuriating in less cluttered lives, and – to cite a few local odds and ends I found offered online – free beds, pianos, bikes, solitary wing mirrors and propane gas canisters, not to mention a “bag of makeup and toiletries, opened but still usable”.