Black Friday madness: Consumer culture gone astray

Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - 19:00

Driving past Walmart on Thanksgiving eve before the big 8 p.m. “Black Friday” sale, I took note of the long line of brake lights and hordes of eager shoppers. Every year I avoid these sales and the ensuing madness that they inevitably bring.

As I continued to watch the line of people snake behind the building, I thought to myself that the temperature outside was fairly cold. Seasoned Alaskans know how to dress for the weather I mused, and I continued on my way.

Those of us that had to work on Black Friday were discussing the deals, the crowds, and just how downright nasty these sales can be. Someone then asked me where’s the order, civility and dignity? Where’s the holiday spirit? After some thought I think I may have located it.

Our civility and dignity have been overtaken by our consumerist culture. We’re being bombarded daily with social memes that tell us that we need to consume X, or buy brand Y. This culture has twisted us, and seems to glorify the fetishizing of useless objects.

News stories are pouring in today of people being trampled; pepper spray being used and abandoned children in parking lots. Is this the society we want to be? At what “door-buster price” are we willing to sell our morality and civility? Apparently it’s a 40 inch TV for less than $300.

This type of culture touches upon everything, and bleeds down into the very way we treat each other. This “keeping up with the Jones” syndrome, combined with tight wallets is turning us into consumer-monsters.

Children today expect a huge pile of presents for Christmas, instead of maybe one or two high-quality items that will last for years. Personally, I’d rather get one quality sweater that I can wear for a decade than 10 Blu-Ray DVDs that I may watch only once.

While it’s impossible give a concise diagnosis, I believe we should all take a step back and look at what we’ve become. And while there isn’t going to be a single solution to this madness, I can offer one prescription: Don’t let a commercial define you. Define yourself by truly being yourself. Author thought-provoking books, paint a picture, write a song, create a new recipe, spend time with family and investigate the world.

Memories and experiences are the most valuable things we all collect. We can’t take that “door buster” special with us when we die. In the spirit of the Holidays, life is too short to stand outside in a line.


David Baker is the son of regular Mountain Echoes columnist Frank E. Baker. A lifelong Alaskan, he is a supervisor in the Department of Natural Resources Recorder’s Office.

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