Black Friday: Suffering from Affluenza

The concept of Black Friday is offensive to me. I was really hoping somehow the Canada Border Agency would turn it back at the gate, but no such luck — Black Friday signs and sales are popping up everywhere here now. And we celebrated Thanksgiving already six weeks ago. We tolerate an awful lot of cultural imperialism from our southern neighbours, but this is one American export I’d really rather not allow into the country.

Sure, I get it that people need to stretch their dollar and a good sale is a great opportunity to do that. But images of people practically clawing each other’s eyes out just to grab the last hunk of plastic shit made by people in developing countries for slave wages do make me feel nauseous. It’s ironic that the day after Americans take a moment to give thanks and feel grateful for what they have, they’re being told by every advertisement and media outlet to go ring up more credit card debt for stuff they don’t actually need.

The latest development is that Black Friday is no longer even restricted to actually being on Friday. I heard news a few days ago that some major retailers (K-Mart, Walmart, Best Buy, and Target, for example) will be open on the Thanksgiving holiday itself. That means that low-wage earners are forced to come to work and miss out on having a well-earned holiday with their own families. Perhaps we’re meant to believe they’re happy to get the extra wages, given that those same companies are known to pay wages that don’t allow a full-time worker to actually earn enough to live above the poverty line. Did you hear the recent news that a Walmart store set up a food donation bin FOR THEIR OWN EMPLOYEES? (See Walmart’s Employee Food Drive Reveals What’s Wrong with America.) A company that made over $15 billion in profits in 2011 (according to CNN Money) is basically acknowledging that their own employees are so poor they need food handouts. I’m thinking paying them a living wage might be a better strategy than setting up a bin.

All of this reminds us that the gap between the very rich and the very poor is widening before our eyes, largely due to our insatiable consumerism and demand for ever-dropping prices. Are we not to be satisfied until the middle class is actually wiped out? How much stuff do we need? We are victims of our own folly.

If you’re celebrating Thanksgiving right now, here’s wishing you a holiday filled with things that actually matter, free of mindless consumerism.

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