It’s bad enough that Christmas has been largely stripped of its spiritual dimension. Now Americans are in the process of reducing Thanksgiving to a similarly empty materialistic exercise. Thanksgiving, as the word implies, involves pausing to express our gratitude for the people, gifts, and blessings that give meaning and depth to our lives.
Over the past few years this aspect of the Holiday has taken a back seat to a new phenomenon – Black Friday. In fact, television commercials and Internet ads seem to breeze past Thursday entirely, pointing us to the day after and creating a National Shoppers’ Day. This artificial commercial construct and the hyping it receives contain a pernicious message for all: you are defined by what you own. So be thankful that there is no problem in your life that can’t be solved by the purchase of this year’s “must have” items; be thankful that you live in a society where your most materialistic impulses can enjoy immediate gratification.
Of course, biologically and sociologically speaking, instant gratification is the domain of the infant. And this eternal infant in all of us, whether we are 3 years old or 53 years old, is the target of the Black Friday assault.
It’s an interesting holiday recipe: start with a cup of envy, add a half stick of greed, flavor it all with a sense of personal insufficiency. Baste frequently with false promises of easy fulfillment through material acquisition. Sprinkle with easy credit every 15 minutes. Simmer over constant low heat until it all comes to a boil of artificially created shoppers’ hysteria. Then open the doors around midnight and get out of the way.
Look, if people want to fall for this I guess they will. I just think it’s a shame. And a sham.
Here’s what is REALLY going on: In our lousy economy, retailers are concerned that people will be sufficiently hesitant about going even deeper into debt that they will pull back in their holiday spending to more responsible levels. But – if they can be sufficiently seduced at the start of the shopping “season” – they will part with their money early on, and you still have four more weeks to convince them they still haven’t spent enough in their inexorable march toward insolvency.
An overstatement? I hardly think so. Americans are merely employing on the family level the behaviors our government is practicing on the national level.