Answers to the Black Friday Question
The question has been posted here and at work: Why am I so enthralled by Black Friday? What do I have against it? I think I've been fairly vocal about all that, but maybe people have missed it. Here it is, laid out, as simply as my sick mind (bordering on fever, y'all) can do it.
People who live for Black Friday are absolutely apeshit insane.
2008. New York. Wal-Mart. The hot item? A 50" plasma HDTV. The morning found 2,000 shoppers outside the store. They were chanting, "Push the doors in." Thirty-four-year-old Jdiniytai Damour, who was a temp maintenance worker, was stampeded by the herd of shoppers (knowing America and its collective weight problem, one can only imagine how painful this was) as they took the door off its hinges, according to co-worker Jimmy Overby. Shoppers ignored the man's gasps for air in a mad rush to get their sausage fingers on that television. (I picture thick ropes of drool dangling from perpetually open mouths.) After the police arrived, they instructed shoppers to leave the store. A good number refused, some giving the reasoning as "I've been in line since yesterday morning." (Are these the same people who yell at loiterers to "get a job"?)
2004. Saudi Arabia. Ikea. The hot item? A $150 credit voucher, limited in number, of course. Three people trampled to death this time.
Granted, not all shoppers who like Black Friday are murderous maladroits intent in stuffing their stockings on the blood of others. But an interesting article I accidentally stumbled across while eating lunch (and where I got those two examples from) makes the assertion that they may be mentally ill.
In the 2/09 issue of Z, Bruce E. Levine wrote a piece called "Fundamentalist Consumerism and an Insane Society." I know there are a few of you readers who read Z. For those who don't, let me put it in (again) easy to understand terms so that my stuffed head doesn't have to work too hard. Z is the opposite of People. It's not flashy fluff pieces designed to amuse you while you wait for your hair to get done. It is full of serious, heady political pieces (left in nature) that not only look at the problems the world faces, but also offers solutions. You won't find articles on celebrities and their pets, but you will find pieces on worker's revolts in South American countries and security measures in the Middle East. It is fascinating stuff if your main desire in life is a better world and not a credit voucher.
Levine writes about how the mainstream media's focus on Damour's death said zero about "a consumer culture and an insane society in which marketers, advertisers, and media promote the worship of cheap stuff." He points out it focused primarily on "the mob of crazed shoppers" and parrtially on Wal-Mart's blame in the incident. He asserts that the corporate media and his "fellow mental health professionals" have also covered up "societal insanity." He does find one exception ... way back in 1955 in the form of Erich Fromm. "Yet many psychiatrists and psychologist refuse to entertain the idea that society as a whole may be lacking in sanity," Fromm writes. "They hold that the problem of mental health in a society is only that of the number of 'unadjusted' individuals, and not of a possible unadjustment of the culture itself."
Again, that is from 1955. Things have not gotten better.
Levine then presents six things that he states are being used by consumer culture to "psychologically, socially and spiritually" assault individuals. The consumer culture "creates increasing material expectations," "devalues human connectedness," "socializes people to be self-absored" (that's a huge pet peeve of mine), "obliterates self-reliance," "alienates people from normal human emotional reactions" and "sells false hope that creates more pain." You might find it to be bullshit, but he cites studies to back up this thesis, including ones from the American Sociological Review, William Vega (a well-known public policy researcher). It is a fascinating piece regardless of what you believe.
Levine, a clinical psychologist and author, states, "Fundamentalists reject both reason and experience." I believe that is something that is even beyond the scope of debate. And when you look at a term like "fundamentalist consumerism," Black Friday starts to make a lot more sense.
Damour died so people who didn't have enough money for a regularly priced plasma television could get one anyway in order to watch what is most likely utter garbage in high definition. He wasn't killed with a bullet, but under the dirty shoes of people who had nothing more meaningful to do with their lives but stand in line outside a big box discount store for hours at a time. When ordered to leave the store so police could conduct an investigation, they refused, afraid of losing out on precious deals and justifying it with the fact that they did nothing but stand in line the past twenty-four hours (failing, most likely, to note the ironic fact that long periods of inactivity are rewarded with a television of all things). For Damour, crass "fundamentalist consumerism" was not only the reason he was up so early, it was the reason he would never be getting up again.
And no, I'm not done yet. If you are reading this far, you have some sort of interest in this insanity, whether you agree or not, so let's continue with Damour.
Early reports suggested, much to his family's anger, that Damour died of a heart attack. The autopsy shows that he actually died of asphyxiation. To get an idea of how bad that had to be, you have to look at what kind of man Damour was before he became "aisle kill."
Damour was not your average guy. He was 6'5" and weighed 270 pounds. Not a single one of those stampeding pigs thought they were accidentally running over a handbag or even a backpack. They could not help but feel this man's girth ... at least the first wave of people had to. It has been surmised that the man was even sent to the door because he was so big, which would indicate someone had an idea of what could happen. A New York Daily News piece indicates that it was unlikely any of the stampeding pigs would be charged in his death. I imagine there would be too many cheap shoe prints to collect and how would you ever determine which one gave the fatal blow to the man described as a "giant."
On May 27, 2009 it was reported that Wal-Mart got slapped with the heaviest fine allowed under law for this sort of incident. It was not reported whether or not Wal-Mar would survive as a corporation if it were made to actually pay, especially when one considers the downturn in the economy. Luckily, Wal-Mart is one of the few places doing well while everything crashes and burns thanks to people like the stampeding shoppers, and the corporation should be able to bounce back after paying the $7,000 (that's seven thousand dollars) fine.
Other shoppers did try to help Damour, and some were injured in the stampede, so let's not think all of humanity has gone cuckoo for rollback. The fact that it happened at all, and that this isn't the first time and nor the last. (Fifteen miles away that same day another shopper was trampled at another Wal-Mart. She waited until she was done shopping, however, to file a police report. What a trooper. Don't let those "minor injuries" stop you from getting that cheap-ass microwave you've always wanted in your life.)
So, while I thought my disdain was pretty self-explanatory, I figured it wouldn't hurt to spell it out. After all, the fateful day is less than a week away now, and shoppers are already gearing up to trample someone else to death. Hey, maybe this year it will be an old woman or a newborn. The gods of consumerism have tasted blood, and now they will demand a sacrifice every year. If you can find parking without getting shot, be sure to appease your deity. If you don't, you may not get that $10 MP3 player you just got to have.