Black Friday

There’s something truly grotesque about pairing Thanksgiving — the ideals of which, if not the political history, are worthwhile — with the annual nadir of American culture.

I’m serious. This is a day that makes me disgusted to call myself American. Sure, not all of us participate; most of the people I know hide indoors the day after Thanksgiving rather than face the savage, feral hordes desperate to buybuyBUY at the lowest price possible, and nevermind the cost paid in other ways. It isn’t just the people who die on Black Friday; it’s the circumstances that make those low prices possible, and the vomitous commercialism that convinces people the only way to show their love for their darlng offspring is to buy them whatever this year’s hot-ticket item is. That makes them willing to stand outside a Wal-Mart at 5 or 4 or 3 a.m. on Black Friday and join the mindless mob that will break the doors off their hinges in their rush to get inside. And then knock down a pregnant woman, trample a man to death, and ignore the emergency workers as they try to resuscitate him, because hey! Somebody else might beat you to the last XBox!

This is the ugly face of American capitalism. This is our consumer society at its absolute worst.

This happens, year after year, and we treat it like it’s normal.

0 Responses to “Black Friday”

  1. shartyrant

    This is why I hate shopping and avoid even the grocery stores on this day. I don’t understand why anyone would find Black Friday something to be proud of as not only is it dangerous, but the whole greed thing is just offensive. You summed it all up better than I could. Wishing you and yours the best on this offensive day.

  2. d_c_m

    My Hubby the economist has said that captitalism has no morals. And you just once again proved why.

    And yes, I’m staying indoors and trying to recover from overeating yesterday. 🙂 Until I have to go and belly dance tonight at a community performance. 🙂

    • mindstalk

      Shake that turkey! 😛

      I’m weird; I’d missed or overlooked the whole existence of Black Friday until a couple of years ago. I guess I may have had some awareness of post-Thanksgiving sales, but not this huge thing with ads and such.

      • d_c_m

        Hey, I’m right there with ya’. I knew that people shopped like crazy on the day after T-Day but I didn’t know it had a name until last year. 🙂

        • Marie Brennan

          I think it’s gotten worse over the years. The name started out as something of a joke, I think among the poor bastards who have to work retail in this season, but it’s become a little too appropriate.

          • kurayami_hime

            It comes from this being the turning point for stores to get “in the black” by the end of the year.

          • Marie Brennan

            I love having friends who Know Things. ^_^

          • kurayami_hime

            That’s the modern usage. It was originally coined by the Philadelphia police department in 1965 to describe the traffic associated with everyone going shopping at the same time (or so sayeth Wikipedia).

          • d_c_m

            OH yes!!! Retail workers know the full horrors of holiday shopping. In fact, at a store I know about, you aren’t allowed to take vacation during the holiday season. They need people that much.

  3. nonnycat

    Ugh. I’m horrified. Horrified.

    What the hell is wrong with people?

    I’ll admit the BF sales are tempting, but I did it the year before last — or attempted to, anyway. We were at Best Buy at midnight; they opened at 5am. There was already a line around the building. People had been there since 4 or 5pm the evening before for the sale.

    … I have better things to do with my time. And frankly, with my severe fibromyalgia, it’s not worth the wasted energy and recovery time. Or the panic attack that I get from dealing with huge crowds.

    • Marie Brennan

      Jesus. I wondered how early I should run that sentence about when people started lining up; turns out I grossly underestimated it.

  4. dawn_metcalf

    I’m in 100% agreement with you. It is disappointing and disheartening and, not least of all, disgusting. When so many have so little, this is the time I stay inside and talk with my family. I do not (and never have) gone out *shopping* on a day when loved ones are together for our all-too-rare family events.

  5. shveta_thakrar

    This just makes me sick to my stomach and glad I stayed home. I’d been thinking of looking for a few sweaters, but I’ll wait, thanks, and not trample people in the process.

  6. clodfobble

    May I be a smidgen of a Devil’s Advocate, and suggest that this tragedy had more to do with the general morals of the crowd and less with capitalism as a whole? Long Island is not known for its affluence. I guarantee you this is the same kind of neighborhood that would experience looting during a severe natural disaster. These were not middle-class people looking for a sweet deal on their third videogame system; these were very lower-class people looking for the only chance they’ll ever have to be able to afford a videogame system in the first place. I’m not excusing the greed, I’m just suggesting that the mindset of people changes when they aren’t sure if they’re going to be able to buy their kids Christmas gifts at all.

    As a counter-example, I did happen to go to the mall today, though it was for an entirely unrelated purpose (we weren’t even buying anything.) It was a little crowded, but typical for the Christmas season as a whole, and not nasty in the slightest. People were even being especially polite in the food court where tables and chairs were hard to come by.

    • Marie Brennan

      I don’t fucking CARE if you’re not sure whether you’ll be able to buy gifts for your kids this Christmas, there is a man DYING UNDER YOUR FEET, there are people being knocked down and injured all around you, there are paramedics trying to save a man’s life — there are things more important than the goddamn gifts.

      <deep breath>

      This incident is just the straw that broke the camel’s back for me, but that camel is carrying a pretty ugly load to begin with. Over the past, say, five or ten years, there have been incidents of people all over the economic scale getting into fistfights over Tickle Me Elmo or whatever the hell it is they think they absolutely must buy. This day, even more than December 24th, brings out the ugliest in the shopping public. I am glad that your mall had civilized people in it; certainly not everybody turns into a savage lunatic. And not every store is advertising and courting people to line up the night before to buybuyBUY. But Black Friday has gotten built up into this Event, a deliberate madhouse of consumerism run amok, and while I sympathize with the people for whom the sales are the only way they see of buying the things they think they need to buy, I respectfully submit that 1) we need, as a culture, to reconsider what we “need” to buy, and 2) we need to find a better way to handle the process. Because this day is beginning to smack more and more of frenzy, and it nauseates me.

    • Marie Brennan

      Also: you are right that it has more to do with the people than some abstract economic system. But capitalism as it is currently practiced in America is all about consumption — spend, spend, spend! Buy that TV! That new car! That whatever! Put it on a credit card if you have to! My fury today ties in with a much bigger swath of frustration and disgust about consumer debt and Wal-Mart’s business practices and overseas sweat shops and all the rest of the crap it takes to keep this house of cards up. Our system is rotten, and it needs fixing, fast.

    • janni

      I grew up on Long Island, and actually, it is known for its affluence. Not entirely accurately–neighborhoods there run the extremes of rich and poor from one town to the next–but at least when I lived there Valley Stream was somewhere in the middle, unless things have changed radically since then.

      Besides the point either way, but Long Island has been used in novels as an example of affluence; and I still associate it with much of what’s wrong about conspicious consumption–keeping up with your neighbors it’s very much part of the mindset, at least on parts of the island.

  7. janni

    Yeah, I have trouble with the whole day even when people don’t die–if our economy depends on this, our economy is messed up, and needs to be saved by moving it to new ground, not by encouraging this sort of thing.

    And, you know, if you can afford to get your kids even the on-sale toys for Christmas at Wal-Mart, you can probably afford one or two well-chosen, not quite so flashy gifts for them instead, and still have a lovely Christmas. Not buying that this is the only way for anyone to afford Christmas gifts–those who really can’t afford gifts in moderation probably can’t afford even the marked down stuff at the Black Friday stampedes, either, anyway.

    The whole idea that Christmas or any other holiday requires the right gifts and that nothing less will do is a whole other rant, though.

    • clodfobble

      Absolutely, I didn’t mean to suggest that is the only way for someone to afford Christmas gifts–but it is perhaps the only time for them to afford these specific gifts, and that makes it more tempting to succumb to the greed. Don’t get me wrong, these people were horrid, and if they could be identified I would fully support arresting every one of them for their crimes. (And for their part, the store should have had better procedures in place too.) I was just saying that I don’t think it was capitalism that led to this. To me it fits into the same category as road rage, fistfights about who was in line first, or looting–it’s an endemic indifference for one’s fellow human beings that led to this, not consumerism.

      • Marie Brennan

        it’s an endemic indifference for one’s fellow human beings that led to this, not consumerism.

        Bullshit. (Sorry, I’m being a bit more vehement than usual here.) The indifference is part of the problem, and without it we wouldn’t have these incidents, but you can’t tell me that a culture which preaches that happiness lies in buying stuff, and not just any stuff but that stuff which is shiny and neat and all the neighbors will have one and you don’t want to feel left out do you? has nothing to do with it. People don’t stampede and trample each other without a cause. When the cause is a fire or other panic, that’s a tragedy; when the cause is greed, that’s an atrocity. And this is greed — or covetousness, if you rather — on parade.

        • kurayami_hime

          I am so not going to articulate this the way I mean

          It absolutely has something to do with it, but I am loathe to blame consumerism above the indifference, above the entitlement, above the non-accountability that make up a large part of what is wrong with today. If we, the American people, are eating up the message that we can only be happy when we consume, then there is something worse at work, something robbing us of our free will.

          And I don’t think it’s just buying stuff equates to happiness. Keeping up with the Jones is a well established part of our society. They get shiny thing x? We get shiny thing x, or better yet, nicer shiny thing y. This shows that we are just as good, if not better, than the people around us. We don’t have castes, we have luxury vehicles.

          • Marie Brennan

            Re: I am so not going to articulate this the way I mean

            I can be plenty mad about this and still have black rage left over for the indifference and the entitlement and the non-accountability. 🙂 But today is probably the paramount day in all the year that champions the consumerism and puts it on horrific display, and consumerism is very much a characteristic feature of our society.

            And it’s not one I like being associated with.

  8. amysisson

    I’m with you. I’m absolutely embarrassed to be American at times like these. When I saw that headline on CNN Online just now, I actually thought it was a joke at first. I should have known better.

  9. mindstalk

    Flipside, crowds are crowds; I wonder how much control any individual member had, vs. getting pushed forward by the masses behind.

    OTOH, they talk about employees trying to help the fallen person… I have trouble visualizing what was going on.

    • Marie Brennan

      I don’t blame any single individual; once you’re in the middle of something like that, you can’t stop it on your own. But the situation itself disgusts me.

  10. kendokamel

    So unbelievably disgusting.

  11. janni

    Have you met The Story of Stuff? (Link found via .) Not much new there, perhaps, but a good overview of the problems of consumerism and where they come from, I thought. (There’s a shorter teaser here.)

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