Consumer Nation

Genuflecting to Our True Leaders

Violence! Massive crowds! Police brutality! Terror! Injuries!

It's not an Occupy protest or another nation demanding freedom from oppression. It's Thanksgiving night at Walmart.

Naturally, Americans can't be dignified and civilized about our obvious consumerism. Every year, we embarrass ourselves by suiting up in sweatpants, sleeping bags and sports-logo ballcaps, and we congregate into unwashed, freezing herds for an opportunity to buy lots of useless crap just because it's on sale.

We're not just buying cheap stuff, we're selling our collective dignity. Yes, I get it, we're a consumer society now. I'm just as guilty as most. But I wish we could exercise our need for things in a way that didn't telegraph to the world that Americans are mouth-breathing zombies who are only willing to unify behind a Cause whenever Best Buy summons us to its blue and yellow cathedral.

I know, I'm being a Debbie Downer all over Black Friday. In this case, however, we need more Debbie Downers. Too few people are shocked by the midnight (or earlier) insanity -- specifically, the participants. Anyone who can review the morning-after photos of crazed, bug-eyed crowds and stampeding violence without being repulsed and overwhelmed with a sense of loathing have totally sold their souls to the consumer gods who thrive on thoughtless gluttony. But if we're still able to muster some shame and embarrassment for our fellow Americans who just had to "do Black Friday," then we might be okay.

What I'm saying here is, yes, we all buy things. We buy things we need and we buy things we don't need. We own lots of stuff, and, in the Tyler Durden sense, too much of our stuff owns us. All I'm asking is that we try to worship with some civility and self-respect.

(Updated for clarity.)

  • I worked in retail for years, and I can tell you, there’s nothing I need badly enough to go shopping on Black Friday, and I’ve never in my life waited overnight in line to buy ANYTHING.

    I thought it was bad when the stores opened at 6 a.m. Midnight, or nine the night before? That’s just ridiculous.

  • mrbrink

    We prop up the big box corporations with tax breaks, land breaks, wage cuts, job cuts, service cuts, and all we seem to get in return is a diminishing quality of life exemplified in the personal debt-stampede to the Cabbage Patch Kid finish line.

    This is the time of year when we give aid and comfort to the robber barons and remind them how easy it is to get us to subsidize our own misery gratefully buying back from them a little economic dignity and pride.

    When you’re lining up at midnight every year to get a $5 dvd, something has gone terribly wrong with our perception of economic liberty. When you see me in line you can ask me all about it.

  • NMFrench
  • Just so y’all in Murrika know, the disease has spread to other countries (but, at least here in Costa Rica, not the violence). ¡Viva Viernes Negra!

    Merry Consumeristmas, everyone!

  • D_C_Wilson

    I hate Black Friday. The crowds, the lines, the screaming idiots. Now I’ve grown to hate the media coverage, which always starts with camera crews interviewing the morons camping out in front of Best Buy* and then goes “tsk, tsk” over the people getting tramples.

    Fuck it. I slept in this morning and I’m going to do all my holiday shopping online.

    *You can bet Bloomberg didn’t do anything to evict those tents. After all, most of them didn’t have books.

  • I have never participated in a Black Friday (even before the crazy store hours), nor do I ever intend to. Why would anyone with the convenience of online shopping now? Chances are the sales and discounts you’ll find online will be just as good as anything you’ll find while being crushed.

    Take the Apple Store as a bad example. The online sale prices are the same as going to the store, plus free shipping. Why deal with the crowds when you can get the same product (without the possibility of it being sold out at the store) online and avoid pepper spray in the process?

  • Madam1

    I find the midnight openings to be yet another example of big businees not giving a shit about their workforce, american families, or respect for the only holiday that doesn’t require one to spend spend spend. I refuse to shop today because I hate what the retail world has become.

  • I gave up on Black Friday long ago. Too exhausting/maddening. It seems to bring out the worst in people, and nothing I could purchase for less is that important.
    Also… alot of online sites do deep discounts on BF, including Etsy, which is a great place to buy since it helps out small, independent businesses.

    My two cents.

    Edited for clarity.

  • JMAshby

    To be fair, I’m sure there are at least some people who shop on Black Friday because they won’t be able to afford to buy Christmas gifts for their family on any other day.

    The violence and associated asshattary is of course embarrassing, and as you say, we should try to worship consumerism in a more dignified manner.

    • There are definitely exceptions, sure. Then again, there will be bigtime bargains online, too, without being crushed a throng.

  • morningsky

    Remember when stuff went on sale after Christmas.

  • I agree. Required reading. And now I’m going to be singing The Pretender all day. And that makes me happy.

  • dildenusa

    Well said. And Jackson Browne said it very well in The Pretender.

    I’m going to be a happy idiot
    And struggle for the legal tender
    Where the ads take aim and lay their claim
    To the heart and the soul of the spender
    And believe in whatever may lie
    In those things that money can buy
    Thought true love could have been a contender

  • Robert Scalzi

    That Rant should be required reading for all Americans… Well said !!