Cultural Criminology: The Yomango Movement to Consolidate Against Consumerism

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The recent tragic collapse of a Bangladesh factory making cheap garments for Western wearers has re-invigorated the debate about workers’ rights versus consumer interest to buy cheaply, immediately and frequently. (Seems like a no-brainer, right?)

Many of us are doing what we can to fight against fast fashion: buying local, buying vintage, not buying at all except when necessary (—because you can only deal with so many holes in your socks). We have buy nothing days, but manic mobs on Black Friday; rises in the popularity of artisan markets and online marketplaces, but flourishing sales, still, for big box conglomerates.

Hey, it’s a process.

Never ones to move subtly like us coy Canadians, over in Europe the organization Yomango has been brazenly fighting against unconscientious consumerism since 2002, through an ongoing community campaign called “ideological shoplifting.”

Yomango.net photo

Created in Barcelona in 2002 and based in Catalonia in the northeastern part of Spain, according to Vice this collective originated with disgruntled retail workers retaliating against their employers; a decade later the Yomango organization, defined somewhere between ‘social experiment and sixth-form political statement’, has expanded to Germany, Italy, Mexico, Argentina, and Chile.

Yomango members employ the 5-finger discount technique to rage against the capitalist machine, defending their unabashed shoplifting by the idea that it is ‘liberating products from multi-national companies or big chain stores’ as both ‘a form of civil disobedience and a survival technique.’

Yomango is Spanish slang for “I steal,” as well as a pun on local clothing company, MANGO. –Vice

Yomango.net photo
Yomango.net photo
Yomango.net photo

Vice interviewed the head of Yomango’s “mangueting department.” Paul Bannister told the Montreal magazine that the organization’s methods of countering consumerism and branding are different from straight up stealing because it is “framed as a form of civil disobedience, as a political act. We gave it some prestige, turning it from something invisible that you’re supposed to be ashamed of into something that you’re proud of.” In the 10 years it has been running against the consumerist culture, Yomango has become its own cultivated community. Paul tells Vice about the sharing and gift-giving between its members, equating the stolen goods exchanges to “countercultural Christmas dinners.”

Yomango.net photo

“It changes your idea of value because the price isn’t the value; the value of the product is its value to you and its value to other people.” –Paul Bannister, Yomango Spain.

Though their actions are illegal Yomango operates within surprisingly clear view, complete with instructional YouTube videos and a forum for idea-sharing on creating ‘DIY thieving accessories’.

Yomango.net photo

The German Yomango franchise is one of the most active. Its “Alles für Alle” translates to “Everything for everyone”.

 

An extract from Jeff Ferrell, Keith Hayward, and Jock Young’s Cultural Criminology: An Invitation (Sept. 2008):

Illegal everyday practices like Yomango, squatting, and fare-dodging train travel are practiced as part of a new ‘precarity’ youth movement, a movement that embraces and confronts the precarious conditions of late modernity. Practitioners argue that the fluid, globalized dynamics of late capitalism—‘flex scheduling’, part-time service employment, outsourced work, temporary jobs sans benefits or long-term assurances—leave more and more people, especially young people, with nothing but emotional and economic uncertainty.

Yet this very uncertainty—this very precariousness—creates a new sort of commonality, maybe an amorphous social class, where ‘immigrants, mall workers, freelancers, waiters, squatters…an immigrant worker and a downwardly-mobile twenty-something’ together drift through the anomie of late modernity.

And so precarity is seen to replace the work place as a place to organize the disorganized, to find some common ground, as slippery as it may be, to realize that under such conditions ‘we are all migrants looking for a better life’.

 

Note: This writer and Greener Ideal do not condone theft or criminal activity of any kind.

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