For a few weeks now I’ve been wanting to write something about this latest Black Friday death at Wal-Mart, but it’s so disgusting and outrageous that it’s taken me a while to wrap my brain around it. You know the story: a mob of shopping-crazed human cattle literally busted down the doors at a Long Island Wal-Mart and trampled an employee to death, all so they could get their mangy, overconsuming claws on a bunch of cheap, shitty products for Christmas. They killed a man so they could get minor discounts on TVs, DVDs, and toys for their spawn.
For starters, the obvious question: what kind of human being actually steps over a trampled, bleeding victim of mob violence and continues to shop? And not only that, some of them actually cracked jokes about him as paramedics tried to save him!
The paramedic stops pumping. The man’s shirt has been pulled to his neck, revealing his belly. A woman in the crowd mutters, “Pregnant.” Another cracks a joke. The women laugh.
“Ha-ha, look at that fat fatty laying there! Stupid fatty, not my fault he got in the way! At least I got my $49 DVD player and that Charwoman Barbie that little Kaitlyn wanted!” These fuckers are animals, simple as that. Former humans turned into savage, feral creatures with only one goal in mind: to consume, to own more merchandise. Because consuming and acquiring more shit is the only thing these invertebrates have to live for in their pathetic, meaningless lives, and they are very good at it.
“When they were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling, ‘I’ve been on line since yesterday morning,’ ” Ms. Cribbs told The Associated Press. “They kept shopping.”
These “people” are professional consumers…and they are prepared to take lives to get what they want, so stay the fuck out of their way.
How the hell did this happen to us? When did snagging a bargain become a higher priority than common civility and compassion? When did our lives become so empty that shopping became the only way to ease the pain? Some are quick to say, “See? This is what happens when you take God out of Christmas!” But I don’t buy that. It’s not a lack of God that causes this sort of thing, it’s a lack of humanity. You don’t need God to be a decent human being. That part’s still up to you.
It’s also easy to blame our consumer-driven culture in general, but one column in the New York Times brings up a very good point: the media and retailers built the Black Friday madness together. And you know what? It makes perfect, obvious sense.
Media and retail outfits are economic peas in a pod. Part of the reason that the Thanksgiving newspaper and local morning television show are stuffed with soft features about shopping frenzies is that they are stuffed in return with ads from retailers. Yes, Black Friday is a big day for retailers … but it is also a huge day for newspapers and television.
In partnership with retail advertising clients, the news media have worked steadily and systematically to turn Black Friday into a broad cultural event. A decade ago, it was barely in the top 10 shopping days of the year. But once retailers hit on the formula of offering one or two very-low-priced items as loss leaders, media groups began to cover the post-Thanksgiving outing as a kind of consumer sporting event.
This is absolutely true. You can see it in every “news” broadcast and newspaper leading up to Black Friday, it’s an all-out media assault on the public. They even give you shopping tips like what time certain stores open, how to strategically plan your day in order to maximize your shopping time, where to run once entering a store to get the exact item you want, how to utilize baby strollers for carrying loot…the media and retailers are working together to make Black Friday the frenzied, ritualistic shopping day it has become. (This time it really was a ritual, because they brutally sacrificed a man’s life.) You can’t escape this shit on the internet, either, because now the mega-retailers like Amazon are getting into the Black Friday game.
But none of this lets the mindless, TV-worshiping cattle off the hook for their reprehensible behavior–they buy into the hype and willingly give up all sense of self-control. They’ve let themselves become savages and they are just as guilty as the admen and retailers for this disaster. From the above article:
Buying stuff in the teeth of recession represents a vulgar but far too common impulse. Consumption is a core American value, so much so that President Bush suggested people head to the mall after the attacks of Sept. 11 as an expression of solidarity.
But what about the Christmas spirit of giving? Bitch, please. That has long been replaced by obligation. The pressure to buy begins as early as August, and they intertwine it with Halloween and Thanksgiving so there’s no escaping it. Not only that, but people are trained to expect stuff for Christmas, and if you don’t buy them something you may be thought of as a Scrooge or uncaring or cheap. Shit, I would take the religious aspect of Christmas over this shopping nonsense any day! It’s time to stop running up the credit cards every year to fulfill false obligations, folks.
Personally, Critter and I still enjoy giving gifts, but we think small and we try not to go crazy with it. Even so, next year we might opt out of the gift thing completely, especially if money is tight like it has been. We’d rather spend some time with friends and family than buy them crap they don’t need and make them feel like they need to do the same for us…
One last point.. On the flight home from Florida recently, I listened to an interview with George Carlin which aired on Art Bell’s radio show in 1999. I remember hearing it back when it aired, and somehow I managed to find a copy of it online. (I want to write something about his death eventually, once I figure out what to say…) He said a lot of interesting things, but one thing in particular was relevant to this topic:
The next HBO show I do is called “The Great American Cattle Drive.” But the American cattle are not being prepared for market in order to be sold, they’re there to do the buying. Get them to the mall, get these suckers to the mall, put ‘em on the Internet, get ‘em buying from e-commerce, get ‘em to the mall… It’s just repulsive and disgusting and it’s one of the reasons I quit this species. It’s one of the reasons I backed off and said, “Wait a minute, that’s you over there folks. This is me over here, I’ll go my way. And if it costs me something, fine, I’ll pay whatever price it is.”
He said much more scathing things on this topic later in his career, but that remark about quitting the species really struck a chord. Sometimes I wish I could do the same–just get the fuck out of this shallow, consumption-driven culture that disgusts me so, and be something completely separate. I fully admit to having a fetish for gadgets and things like that, but I do still have some dignity and self-control. I’m not willing to kill for these things like those savages did in Long Island, or even just beat people up like they do elsewhere in the country. Couple that with the way people are treating each other in general, and it makes me want to back away slowly and go somewhere more sane.