Black Friday, a window into America’s soul

Yesterday was Black Friday, the now traditional day after Thanksgiving, when stores discount their wares, shoppers line up before dawn, and every few years, one of those shoppers is stampeded into the hospital.  Apparently the deals were so good at Best Buy in Oakland that college student Jan Paulo Patena lined up Thanksgiving eve, with a chair, blanket, and Thanksgiving dinner leftovers.  Of course, 200 fellow travellers joined him in spending the night in the Best Buy parking lot.  Was Patena buying a gift?  Nah… he was buying an external harddrive.  Analysts quoted by the times noted that the parking lots were full, people felt like spending money again, and many, like Patena, were buying goods for themselves.  Black Friday shows just how much the consumer we have all become.  Give us a Holiday weekend, and we find an excuse to go to the store and buy stuff.  I considered paying heed to the Buy Nothing Campaign, but I decided to head to Whole Foods and pick up supplies for dinner.  Now, one could make the argument that I am just the same as Patena, and any other person who braved the busy roads on Black Friday.  Consumption is not an evil in itself.  However, consumption in America jumped the shark long ago.  Landfills are full of the fruits of our shopping soul.  The stuff we buy is designed to be replaced, designed to be thrown out.  The problem is that the stuff we buy uses too many resources.  The act of firing up the Chevy Suburban, heading 15 miles to the mall, buying the stuff, eating the hamburger, it is all an investment of resources that are being consumed in an unsustainable manner. By and large, people don’t realize it.  Instead, we celebrate a successful Black Friday, as if this can go on forever.  What about spending the rare Holiday with family and friends, instead of strangers in the parking lot of Best Buy?  I guess the family and friends just don’t offer the right Sale Extravaganza.  This Friday, spend the afternoon throwing a football around with your son, for 35% off!  Buy one family game of Scrabble, get one free! It just doesn’t have the same ring.

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