Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday: In the Vale of Retail

The term “Black Friday” is only endearing to big business. This is the day that launches the annual ritualized cultural insanity of consumerism that lasts until the New Year, and keeps most companies afloat, if not overflowing.

Historically, the term “Black Friday” started out as a description for the stock market meltdown of 1864, but was, in 1966, used by law enforcement in Philadelphia, PA to describe the traffic management problem that was on their hands—holiday shopping mob control.

Later on, accountants were able to see the silver—or gold—lining in the ugly term. Ka-ching, ka-ching!

We all know what it means, but do we really understand what it does to us?

Crowds will jam the malls between now and Christmas, like ants on a hill. When I worked in retail, we called these people mall maulers. They were pushy, nasty and rude. Driving anywhere becomes a drudgery, most especially if you are not headed to shop. Drivers are pushy, nasty, rude and full of rage.

People will be rushing to buy the very latest gizmos, not to mention clothes and brick-a-brack, for themselves, as much as for others.

Psychologically, many of us talk ourselves into it because it is supposed to be all about an event; our obligatory gift giving is supposed to commemorate the alleged gifts that wise men apocryphally gave to a baby, after whom a religion was named, thousands of years ago. We imagine ourselves kings and queens (perhaps not wise persons) when we flex our buying power, don’t we? But is this spiritual? I think that if it is spiritual, it is most clearly defined as spiritually material.

Another aspect to this is that we must have it NOW (or “off with their heads!)”

Some people talk themselves into this madness by pretending that they can purchase everything they want for prices that are lower than they would be at any other time of the year.

However the incantation goes that allows people to join the grasping throngs, this is all really nothing more than rampant consumerism, and it is inexcusable. Everything purchased is overpriced, over-packaged and overblown—which is to say that it will all blow over, and the gizmos du jour will be yesterday’s news very shortly, and stacked in your garage or the nearest landfill not too long after that.

What is this collective insanity worth? Of what value is it? How can this be an expression of gratitude or faith—or love—when it lines the pockets of some and renders others destitute, as well as damages the earth?

I want you to think on these things, as you follow in the footsteps of millions of other drones on this Black Friday death march through the vale of retail.

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