"Let us not be ashamed to speak what we shame not to think."
-Michel de Montaigne

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

OF: Black Friday

Alas, Thanksgiving has arrived. Which means that in approximately 24 hours America will be donning her fat pants and cuddling up to a hot plate of turkey lovin'.

Don't get me wrong: I love the turkey lovin'. I don't take offense to someone pile-driving through an entire plate or two of green bean casserole. ASIDE: am I the only one who actually likes green bean casserole? We could get into a whole discussion about moderation and gluttonous behavior and all that, but really, Thanksgiving alone isn't enough to qualify you as obscene if you "go ham" on turkey...or something.

But you know what I don't love? You know what IS obscene? This...


Every year after November 25th we hear the perennial horror stories of Americans fighting and getting trampled in the name of crock-pots, DVD players, and flat screen televisions--and all of this after willingly enduring several hours in the cold, herded like cattle. Every year the sales begin earlier and become more enticing. Every year corporations spend millions of dollars trying to figure out how to part the consumer from his. Why even wait in the cold when you can wait inside a Walmart store which is open all night? Why even fight the crowd at all when you can shop in your underwear on Cyber Monday or from your Ebay app for iPhone?

Ladies and gents, it's a brave new world when we can buy cheap Chinese products while sitting on the crapper. I'm sure that's a metaphor for how our country is going, but I'm not caffeinated enough to figure that one out just yet.

To be fair, I've taken part in the Black Friday madness--once--and I waited in line for 2.5 hours in a Kmart in Yonkers for an awful polyester (i.e. scratchy and uber-flammable) blanket, a T.V. stand, and some kitchen items that I was otherwise too poor to afford at the regular price as a malnourished undergrad living in New York City. And you know, I sort of get it: 

Oh the comradery of capitalism! 
Oh the build up until the doors swing open!   
Oh the neatly-stacked towers of microwave boxes! 
Oh the fuzzy Spongebob slippers! 

Oh the discount laptops that seem to promise that *this* year little Billy will love me, and besides it's for school, and he will make the most of it by not wasting endless hours playing Skyrim or watching cats doing ridiculous things on YouTube!

Call me old-fashioned, a whiny-pants Liberal, a Debbie downer, but--I'm not participating in Black Friday. Further I encourage my friends and family not to, and here's a few reasons why:

1) This may sound simple, but Black Friday means = employees will need to cut their holiday/family time short to serve you. Major corporations like Target, Macy's, Walmart, and BestBuy are now opening on Thanksgiving to allow shoppers to spend, spend, spend. Yeah, so what, you ask? This move is particularly offensive to me--and it should be to you too--because it is yet another example of the American labor force being undermined and undervalued for profit. I will not shop at any store that is open on Thanksgiving.

2) You may be getting a fabulous discount on your tchotchkes, but at what overall cost? The things we are buying ultimately support multi-national corporations who are increasingly exporting jobs, lowering wages and benefits, and ditching their relationship with the American people faster than Kim Kardashian ditched Kris Humphries. Unconvinced? While you're recovering from your tryptophan coma tomorrow, take a gander at Walmart: the High Price of Low Cost or Capitalism: a Love Story. Unmitigated consumerism does not benefit the economy, it places us in debt.

3) While we're discussing unmitigated consumerism, let's talk about the effects of raising generations of people who have become programmed to believe that their love of others/self-worth/parenting/sense of personal satisfaction/celebration of the birth of Christ is determined by the gusto of their gift-giving. Hence why we must buy more, and earlier, and cheaper. Hence why we must buy anything at all. This disturbs me more than anything. It can't be blamed entirely on Black Friday, but it is certainly aided and abetted by that phenomenon.

As a parent I am constantly worried about the ramifications of various things in my child's life. Responsible consumption ranks as highly for me as proper nutrition. I often think about purchases as ethical or moral choices, and how I can communicate that sense of urgency to my daughter. I think of my own poverty as a child and how I longed for meaningless junk to make me feel adequate, worthy, anesthetized to my environment. I think about the extreme poverty of children making trinkets in other countries; children who are working harder than I have ever worked in my life, and for far less.

I want a child who has been instilled with the confidence to know she is loved, precious, and blessed without copious things as evidence. It's not that I'm opposed to gift-giving--quite to the contrary, actually. I am, however, opposed to traditions that ask that one sector of the population to sacrifice rest and family time so that a slightly more advantaged sector of the population can act like buffoons while handing over their increasingly small incomes over to the most privileged sector of the population.

Stay tuned for a forthcoming post, "OF: Homemade & Economical Gifts." But in the meantime: gobble, gobble kids.

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