29 November 2008

Consumerism Runs Amok on Black Friday

Who Ever Though the Walmart Greeter Would Be the Angel of Death?

An innocent man was stampeded by a mob of unruly shoppers at Walmart, while attempts to revive him were met with laughter by onlookers. Two were shot dead at a Toys R' Us in California. Black Friday has certainly lived up to its macabre name, as America has become out of control in an orgy of spending. Despite polling a drop with shopping this holiday due to a lousy economy, it is clear that Americans urge to splurge continues unabated. It is short-sighted to use a few isolated incidents to make an indictment on American society, but our obsession with buying crap we don't need rarely gets discussed, and today seems appropriate. Certainly cheap megastores like Walmart help average citizens get materials they need for daily living, but our acceptance to go into massive amounts of credit debt is a disturbing sign of the times.

The advertising industry spends billions of dollars every year to dupe the public mind into buying products that are unnecessary for survival, needlessly driving up costs so that the consumer gains a false sense of social status. The big flat screen, the nice car, and the latest electronic gizmo of the moment are mere illusions of the Joneses while they fall deeper into their own self-defeating debt. Owing a significant amount of money to a financial institution that charges usurious rates that would make Shylock blush greatly hampers an individual's sense of freedom. Indeed, a society perpetually in debt and perpetually paying taxes for "necessary" government benefits like Social Security and Medicare can assure that regular Americans "won't make trouble". What's frightening are the large media corporations cheering us along on all this. Hosting wave after wave of afternoon economists encouraging people to buy more to do your patriotic duty.

Ownership is an important part of society, and the last hundred years has seen a rise in normal people living a life of modest luxury. But, it has become the gold standard for how successful you are and how happy you are while our planet goes down the tubes. A Fight Club quote seems appropriate "Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need." An apt quote when one of the best selling holiday gifts this year is most likely going to be Barry Manilow's 80s CD.