21.11.09

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.

5 comments:

Nikki said...

That picture is creepy. Needles in eyes freak me out. Many things do, but it's on the short list of things that super freak me out, as opposed to the very long list of things that just sort of freak me out. No comment on BF. I deal with people after they've done the major deal shopping. Unfortunately, they're parents that have been up since 2am so by the time I get them, they're fucking cranky and impatient as all hell. Hmmmm, maybe there is something to this hatred of black Friday.

Brandi said...

long time reader and first time comment giver!

i've been reading all the stuff you write about black friday and i have to say right on! it is crazy that people just don't get it. crazy is as crazy does.

i read that z article when it came out and was so glad to see you quote it. i was tempted to send you an e-mail about it, but i am one of those shy people.

i also read your blog because you are keeping an eye on the budget too. i work for the state of california, so you can imagine how i watch it. a lot of my co-workers and friends don't pay any attention to it because it depresses them. all they do then is complain. it is pitiful.

i'm down near los angeles, but have been to humboldt before and will be coming again in january. we should meet and hang out and talk politics at a coffee shop or something. i don't agree with everything you write because i'm a democrat through and through, but i think it would be a fun discussion.

i am sending you an e-mail about that in case you don't read this.

George Anthony said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
George Anthony said...

You're sssoooo cute!. I used to be just like you. I'm no longer cute.

In addition to this post of yours, one of these days you will have to explain advertising to me, I just don't get it. Google making money off ad space they sold to companies looking to sell products. Companies making money off ad space Google sold to them. I personally don't know anyone that clicks on ads when browsing the interweb.

I've also rarely come across many people that have bought something because of an ad they saw on television. I know those folks are out there, though. In addition, more and more people I come across have abandoned traditional tv/cable for the interweb.

Personally, when I shop online or in an actual brick-and-mortar location, I know exactly what I'm shopping for. A flashing ad in some corner of the site I'm on doesn't suck me in. It generally annoys me and I block it out. Seeing a really cheap item in the Sunday sales ads, doesn't make me want to run out and buy it. And so on... [ Yes, I'm one of those idiots that still reads physical newspapers. I like my ink stained fingers after I've finished reading them. ]

As for the consumer culture we live in? It's been that way since the dawn of time. We're all a part of it. You're a consumer, I'm a consumer, she's a consumer, and on and on. I'm typing this comment via a computer device I bought from some corporation. You're most likely going to read this comment via a computer device of some sort that you also purchased from another corporation.

I have my book collection, my music collection, my new nifty Google Android Jesus mobile device, clothes, etc. I imagine you have your book collection, television, dvd collection, music collection, gaming system(s), a mobile device or two, a computer, etc.

We all consume. Some of us just choose to consume on different days, whether it be on Black Friday or the Sabbath, and with our common sense and sanity functioning at nearly 100%.

Yeah, yeah, I know, you're going to tell me that I missed the point of your Black Friday posts, but I get it.

I used to think the "Buy Nothing Day" was a cool campaign, but it really does nothing. Those same "Buy Nothing" fanatics are just shopping for deals the days and weeks after Black Friday, when the real deals happen anyway.

Yes, I want a new computer. No, it's not because of some company's clever ad campaign. I want a new computer because that's what I want. Something faster, something with more storage space, something that tells me I'm brown and beautiful every time I boot it up, etc.

Personally, I think Black Friday is one of the best days of the year to rob people.

As for that $10 MP3 player? The one I desire is actually $400. I'm hoping to save $400 by robbing random people in various shopping center parking lots, and praying to Jesus that someone bought the MP3 player I want.

I'll keep you posted.

PS
I say meet with Brandi in January. Find out if she was actually someone that voted for Obama. It's cute how the fervent Obama supporters leading up to the election have grown sheepishly quiet now that they realize "Change We Can Believe In" was really just another hollow campaign slogan.

Brandi, if you're reading this, I'll gladly pay for your coffee meet & greet with Mr. Brunell. Old Town Coffee & Chocolates serves the best drinks, and have some super delicious cookies! Yummy for my tummy!

Oh, and I was a lifelong Democrat until this last election, at which time I registered Independent.

-Doug Brunell "America's Favorite Son" said...

Sick for a few days and look what happens.

I will not argue that we are all consumers, myself included. The important thing is: What kind of consumers are we? I collect/buy many things. I would never trample someone to death to get them. I would never stampede a store for savings. It's sick.

Chew. Devour. Chew. Devour.

I agree with you on Buy Nothing Day. It's a wonderful idea, but thoroughly flawed. The only thing I like about it is that it has the potential to cause discussion. Unfortunately, the only people who discuss it now are those who are inclined to think it makes a difference.

The Obama worshippers are kind of the same thing. Great idea, but their candidate has not really made a difference.

In that same issue of "Z" is a great piece by Chomsky on Obama, which I may write about soon.