Non-consumption of boycotted goods takes the nonviolent action of boycotting to the next level. A boycott says, “I will not buy a particular good,” whereas non-consumption says, “I will not use a particular good.” The difference is subtle, yet distinct. Not all boycotts lead to non-consumption. These three things are necessary for a boycott to be successful as non-consumption.
The Cause Must be Worth the Sacrifice
Not only will supporters need to refrain from purchasing the forbidden product, but they will also need to completely abstain from using it as well. The greater the sacrifice, the greater the cause needs to be to justify it.
The Boycotted Item Must be Refused Publicly by Supporters
Non-consumption uses social, as well as economic pressure to evoke change. Supporters should have ample opportunities to explain to others the reason for their non-consumption.
Supporters of the Cause Must be Committed
This type of action is not easy: supporters of the cause must be willing to pay the price. Supporters will need to refuse to use the boycotted item at all times – despite potentially awkward social situations. Before the American Revolution, patriots refused to buy, sell, or drink the tea that they felt was unfairly taxed. Every time a patriot was served tea at another person’s home, the patriot would refuse to drink it. The patriots were willing to endure a few socially tense moments because they were committed to their cause.
Although it involves personal sacrifice, non-consumption can be an extremely effective non-violent strategy. These are some of its benefits.
Reveals True Supporters
Non-consumption requires a bit more than lip-service. During the American Revolution, if an individual claimed to support the independence of the colonies, but continued to use the boycotted items that were symbolic of British tyranny, that person would not have been considered to be a true patriot.
Attracts Public Attention
Authenticity is attractive. People hate hypocrites, but admire people who act on their beliefs. Non-consumption requires its followers to give up something in the name of their cause, and to take a public stand. Even people who disagree with their cause will admire the people who are acting on their beliefs.
Stirs Others to Action
Since authentic commitment to a cause is attractive, the actions of the supporters may inspire others to join the cause.
Continue reading the 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action.