Black Friday: Festering Sore on the Face of Society

What is Black Friday supposed to promote, ideally? If it’s the ethic of purchasing gifts for another, why so much emphasis on this, as opposed to any to the other 364 days a year we can be materially generous to someone? If it’s for Christmas giving, why this day instead of any of the others between now and that holiday? And why does generosity need to involve material stuff anyway?

The answers to those questions just begin to reveal the inanity of this occasion. Black Friday is stupid, needless, and dangerous to mind, body and soul. I want no part of it, and take no part in it.

Get out of my F&$#%^g way [bang] [bang]

This news article has a reasonably good listing of some of the lawless chaos and violence perpetrated by selfish, thoughtless jackasses and mob-mentality thugs over recent years, in the name of Black Friday. [As an aside, I ask why so many of these incidents happen in California, but will leave that up to the reader instead of speculating at this time.]

For every reported incidence of violence, consider those that go unreported, and all the decidedly uncivilized but marginally to non-criminalized behaviors such as cutting in line, rudeness, intimidation without force or contact, and pushing and shoving within crowds. This is definitely a problem, but even more, a symptom of a greater and more insidious one, a societal sickness.

You need it? No…you want it.

One of the biggest turn-offs of this day is not just the crowds and overt misbehavior, but the underlying demons of materialism and entitlement.

I actually have been what we in America call “poor”–a state of economic existence, by the way, that would be a blissful and enormous step up for those Eritrean or South Sudanese refugees sleeping outside on dirt, starving, diseased and besieged by flies. Just keeping some perspective here…

Having been “poor”, I know first-hand what it’s like to go for the sales on essential items. I-Pods, I-Pads, TVs, etc. are not essential items. They’re just not…period. In fact, I don’t know what is essential at a store like Best Buy. We all purchase such goods because we want them, not because we need them. That’s fine, in and of itself; luxury as well as necessary purchases drive the economic engine and employment. No, this is about the motivation, on an individual level, then collectively if it manifests as unruly behavior.

When someone says they “need” a leisure or luxury item, it’s as if a giant neon sign lights up on his/her forehead that alternates between “SPOILED” and “ENTITLED”. What we need are staple groceries (food, toilet paper, soap, toothpaste, cleaning supplies, etc.), medicine, and basic functional clothing; and these aren’t the overwhelming bulk of targets for Black Friday sales. Partial, tangential, token, happenstance parts of such sales, yes…I’ll grant that…but read and watch the bulk of the ads and see for yourself. The culture portrayed in the ads for the stuff sold on Black Friday clearly emphasizes having the latest and greatest, genuflecting to the idolatry of a materialistic world.

Or, to put it another way: What is the proportion of Black Friday ads that you have seen for aspirin, bananas, orange juice…or Bibles?

Thought so.

If the shoppers are camped outside Payless Shoes or any given grocery store, I could cut some slack to the ethos of Black Friday. But I don’t. It instead represents a phrase I have seen in several places: “the powers of worldly dominion and domination “. Black Friday is of the materialistic world. And therein lies the problem. We’re all guilty to some extent. And when we try to endorse and excuse it based on an unrepresentative paucity of anecdotal exceptions (a tiny percentage of purchases-of-need that happen on the day), we instead contribute to the problem.

“They made me work on Thanksgiving….waaaahhh!”

My stance here regarding the dark side of Black Friday is based at the level of each person’s soul, individually then collectively as a society, our warped and materialistic worldviews that clamor for better and more stuff. It definitely doesn’t arise from some sort of Marxist, bourgeoisie vs. proletariat, enslaved worker vs. evil corporation bullcrap. Empathy for the fellow shift worker and for those dealing with managerial stupidity, yes, I have that. Tolerance for whining? No! I’m a longstanding, ardent supporter of the capitalist system and free enterprise, the stores’ rights to open and sell as they will, and workers’ freedom of choice in whether to organize or not. But if you choose a job, you choose the current and potential shift hours that go with that.

As a rotating-shift worker myself, I work multiple nights, weekends and holidays, many times per year, without complaint about my duty hours. [Hey, day shifts can be pretty rough for this night owl; but my struggle is with lack of sleep and not the job itself!] Today, my profession is servicing the American taxpayer by forecasting killer storms. As a much younger adult, one of my jobs involved rotating shifts with dirty, sweaty manual labor in a bus station…and I didn’t complain then either. Devotion to excellence, combined with realization that merely having work is a blessing, drives this ethic.

As such, you won’t see me offering pity points to those who gripe about working on Thanksgiving, or any other holiday, night, or weekend. Like it or not, that’s exactly how it comes across to this shift worker–whining. Suck it up, do your job and be excellent at it. I have to, and I’m not being hypocritical by holding anybody to higher standards than I hold myself.

Epilogue

In short, the problem with Black Friday isn’t The Man, nor supply and demand, nor free enterprise. It’s us–the consumers and workers. If we didn’t demand this pathetic event, the advertisers wouldn’t advertise it, and the suppliers wouldn’t offer it. When it’s gotten to the point of people getting hurt, committing crimes, or even sleeping on pavement for hours to get something we can buy at another time of year for the same price or less, it has gone too far. We’ve got some soul-searching to do regarding priorities in life.



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