Again, Black Friday

I have posted this piece before, but in light of the fact that we now have a mega-holiday that a character in one of the comics I enjoy calls “Hallothanksmas,” and given also that advertisers are now calling November “Black Friday Month,” it seems especially appropriate as we are about to see the ugly face of commodified Christmas once again.

The headline read “Woman pepper sprays other Black Friday shoppers.” In an effort to have a better chance to get at the cheap electronics Walmart was using as a lure to get shoppers jump-started this holiday season, a woman pepper sprayed about 20 customers who were in her way. Except for the talking heads on Fox News who think this is perfectly acceptable behavior, everyone is in a dither — but for many of the wrong reasons. Out-of-control shoppers are a worry, but the whole marketing ploy that increasingly encroaches on Thanksgiving is the larger problem.

We do live in a commodified culture, as Robert Heilbroner told us many years ago, but our values are clearly out of kilter when money and the things that money can buy become the main focus of an entire nation. If we take a commodified culture preoccupied with possession of things, combine it with an immense advertising machine that works buyers into a frenzy prior to Thanksgiving, it is no wonder that things like this happen. We shouldn’t be surprised; clearly things are out of focus when money becomes the center of one’s life. Citizens who bother to go to the voting booth any more are there to turn around a weak economy. That has been the rule for some time now: vote out the bastards who are taking money out of my pocket. The real issues, like spread of nuclear weapons and the damage we are doing to the environment in our tizzy to raise our already obscenely high standard of living, are largely ignored.

Christmas should, of course, be a time for reflection and thought about others. In this country, and other “developed” countries around the world, it has become a time to get that 30% of the yearly profits that keep the engines of commerce running. It is understandable, since business has become the cornerstone of our culture. But is it necessary to point out that the ideals of business are antithetical to the ideals of the one whose birth we celebrate next month? The fact that a woman in California would pepper-spray her way to the cheap electronics in Walmart is simply a sign of the times and a clear indication that we need to rethink our priorities.


11 thoughts on “Again, Black Friday

  1. Ah, Hugh, your angst is as nothing to mine, here in Britain, where we have become so intoxicated with American commercial values that we have adopted your wretched Black Friday. Last year was the first really serious outbeak of the plague and many of us fought it verbally on Twitter but there is no stopping it. I think it started with Amazon, who, like many other global corps based in the USA, seems to believe that we are all culturally inseparable. Never mind that it has no sense or meaning here. I am unsubscribing from everyone who offers Black Friday deals in their emails to me – except for my hairdresser whose services I actually need! Money, the root of all evil.

  2. Great commentary Hugh!

    As I recall, Black Friday was invented in 1990’s. At least that’s when I became aware of it.

    You’re right, in general, we in the U.S. and U.K. have an obscenely high standard of living and it makes me wonder what people in the U.S. who can afford to spend spend their days posting Trumpian odes to greed and racism mean when they say the economy drove them to vote for him, but that’s for a different comment. I hope you have a good weekend.

    • As Heilbroner has said, we are indeed a commodified culture. It’s all about money. If we don’t have any we want some. If we have a lot we want more. It drives the engine and it is the major cause of our attack on the planet. We measure success and happiness in dollars and cents. Anyway, we give thanks tomorrow and despite it all there is much to be thankful for! Take care.

  3. Hugh, Black Friday has even morphed into shopping for oneself, rather than others. I saw the comment that others are copying our Black Friday commercialism, which may be our worst export – greed and self-centered behavior. I will, again, choose not to participate. Have a great Thansgiving, my friend. Keith

  4. Sigh. What are we becoming, and where have we left our humanity? I have never shopped on Black Friday … well, I am not much of a shopper any other day for that matter … but it seems the entire spirit of this season … peace on earth, goodwill toward men … has gone by the wayside. I, like you, will be staying home recovering from a day of cooking and a bout of bronchitis! I shall write and read and enjoy the peace of the day. Happy Thanksgiving to you, Hugh!

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