Black Friday is the New Thanksgiving
I have cable TV here in my RV park. Sometimes, something interesting or entertaining is on, and sometimes, it’s too painful to watch, and I have to call up a familiar, favorite movie to try to purge it out of my mind. Last night, on the night of Black Friday, I was watching TV and waiting for the weather forecast. The news segment showed a passel of shoppers loading up at Best Buy on the previous day, Thanksgiving Day. They highlighted one guy in the mix, who strode around, smiling confidently and loading his cart with electronics. He claimed that he was buying items for other people, and putting the charges for them onto his credit card, which he waved about. The camera returned to him at the close of the segment, and he added, “I’m thankful for all the things I already have, so I’m throwing them out and replacing them with all new things!” Having been properly amused as intended by the prior footage, this last claim put me into an apoplectic fit, all conscious thought imploding and coasting to a stop. I searched his face desperately for little signs of humor or sarcasm, but in vain. He was trippin’, dude.
I had been wondering about the employees no longer having a day to gather with family, since this was shot on Thanksgiving Day. But minimum wage employees always get screwed without a thought, their managers sacrificing their own families as well, in order to appease their overlords. This interviewee, however, had proudly put his mindset out there for all to see and admire on multiple levels.
When I was younger and earned a living, I did my share of sniper shopping on the day after thanksgiving. One target, one shot. This was something I wanted for myself, and now it was on sale. Or maybe it wasn’t, but it was something to do after stuffing my gut the day before, and I disliked just hanging around, being bored while surrounded by semi-comatose relatives. I would never venture out before getting that fabulous sliced turkey sandwich, however. Nothing but turkey sliced a quarter-inch thick, mayo, and white bread. Oh my. I do have principles, after all.
That was the day after, and was considered to be the opening bell for Christmas shopping, which consisted of scattershot sales by various stores over the next few weeks. Working for a living, I often went right down to the wire on Christmas gifts, which today is a ritual imposed upon every man or woman over the age of 22. No spare time for anyone. These days, the lust is on to get it jump-started and over with as soon as possible.
But the Day After Thanksgiving Sale has morphed into Black Friday, and Black Friday is beginning to look more like a tumor than an event. Plenty of brick-and-mortar stores opened on Thanksgiving Day: Target, Walmart, Best Buy, Toys ‘R’ Us, Macy’s, Kohl’s, RadioShack and Kmart, among others. Every holiday, religious or civil, now seems to have its own dedicated sales event, and the drive to monetize Thankgiving Day itself is apparently on. That will be quite an achievement, since that day was originally intended to be a day of reflection of all we have – beyond the material goods. My only uncertainty is whether what’s next will be called a Pre-Thanksgiving Day Sale or a Pre-Black Friday Sale.
From NBC Today: “Black Friday’s consumerism is steeped in evolutionary primes, says Gad Saad, professor of marketing at Concordia University in Montreal. Saad, author of The Consuming Instinct: What Juicy Burgers, Ferraris, Pornography and Gift Giving Reveal About Human Nature, cites studies that examine how environmental cues can motivate people to choose immediate gratification over the delayed kind. Simply put, Black Friday creates a mindset of “must act now.”
“It’s triggering this rush — there is scarcity, there is time pressure. The herd is going out,” says Saad. “So it’s like, ‘OK, let me join the herd. Let me go hoarding.'”
Offended? Don’t be. This is considerably loftier than how marketers themselves view you.
That relates to what makes Black Friday such a remarkable achievement in the U.S. Considering that the economy was once mainly based on research, engineering and manufacturing, and has since been eviscerated to revolve around Wall Street’s health and minimum wage part-time jobs as the gauge of status, the so-called middle class that powered the expansion now dropping like flies, Black Friday’s success is not it’s dollar count. It’s brilliance is in flooding the country with an excess of goods, training people (led by the media) that they exist to “consume” as “consumers” and need to keep up with current trends, teaching people (led by the President of the United States and his expert advisers) to believe that the solution to every economic problem is to buy your way out of it, and by finally invoking the perception that what is abundant is scarce. Of course, everyone knows that big 4K TVs are filling warehouses, but “not at this low, low price! Now through Monday only! Only while they last! No rain checks!”
Pay people half of what they were making in real dollars back in the “so Twentieth Century”, urge them to enjoy the Good Life (and be sure to emphasize the beer brand and not the friendships as what it revolves around), and send all the opportunities (and taxes revenues) out of the country. Steer ’em with fear, and push, push, push. Make capitalism indistinguishable from democracy, freedom and patriotism. Create fake “grassroots” and “people’s” movements that promote and protect corporate interests. Pay hirelings to spread disinformation on forums, and to defend corporate interests by any means necessary. Develop and deploy software equivalents to do the same more economically, able to create fake personas and maintain them. I suspect that the time is not far off when schoolchildren will be astonished to discover that the American struggle for independence from Britain and from being treated like cattle by them, economically bilked at whim, was not actually a struggle on behalf of Patriotic Capitalism instead. I have nothing against capitalism per se, but resent the absurd links forged in this country that are intended to protect predatory or immoral behavior from simple justice. Not social justice, politically correct justice or Democratic Party-style justice. Just old-school stealing, lying, and excusing bad behavior as “a responsibility to the stockholders”. They depend upon our participation in the hamster wheel, and place a carrot ahead and the threat of calamity behind. Black Friday is the bling in front, an artificial essential. Among other spear tips in back are the fear of not fitting in, and the presumption that the technologically latest and greatest will satisfy us and put our souls at rest – for at least a moment.
I’ve found that there are some “hardships” in life that are stout enough to make you step back for awhile and then take a fresh view, and you will tend to find that the view you have afterward is quite a bit different than the one you used to have. There can come a sort of clarity that may not reveal The Ultimate Truth, but does reveal the real you. That can be a good thing, and can temper the hard part of the hardship into a blessing in disguise. That’s another reason for being thankful on Thanksgiving Day
No one is immune from being shaped by circumstance or manipulation, especially careful and adept manipulation centered on the transfer of income – and future income – from you to someone else. It’s not about being rebellious or anti-establishment. It’s about discovering your own values, priorities, and purpose in a culture that pushes what cannot offer contentment. That culture praises individuality, but only a form of individuality that conforms to a sub-group, so that it can be checklisted by its own members and monetized by businesses.
My mindset: Do whatcha gotta do, but try not to run through life on full-automatic, or you’ll find yourself not in charge of your own life. Theories abound about what comes after this life, but one thing’s for sure: You and I are here, and however long or short it lasts, this time here in this world is the only certain thing that we can see and touch. We don’t have to be world-changers, and most times, we can’t even change ourselves, but we can take moments to block off the noise, step back, and try to see if our lives sync with who we are and where we want to be. Others may have us paddling so hard to keep our bow above water and on course that we don’t really know where we are. I know what pressure and fear are, but sometimes it’s good to stop paddling for a moment, or even to have our paddle snap. Not always, but sometimes. Sometimes, it becomes evident that we could really use a course correction. Do-overs are not possible for us, but fresh starts often are. It’s your life. What is of value to you, and what is worth your time, energy, and resources?