By Lee Williams, Communication Activist
Imagine this: An economically disturbed country participates in a yearly event, uniting all in a flurry of materialism, permissive violence, and buying therapy, temporarily appeasing them as they spend hard earned wages on (what they believe) to be great prospects, as the elites laugh and twirl their handlebar mustaches at the control they have over the masses.
Though this may sound like the plot summary of the next Hunger Games: Catching Fire film, opening this month, it is indeed the Great American holiday that is Black Friday.
“Get your filthy hands off my PS4.”
While the two concepts (a Hollywood film/book adaptation vs. a national “holiday”) differ, they share some eerily strange themes.
With recent news that Wal-Mart is opening up Black Friday shopping at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, and the launch of an aggressive shopping campaign by competing stores and retailers, it can be argued that Black Friday has officially replaced Thanksgiving Day as the holiday of choice. This seems to be the new normal and blurring the lines between ethical behavior.
But is it fair to blame corporations or the people, who willingly choose to be exploited?
The running theory of Social Darwinism is that the strong control, exploit, and ultimately destroy the weak. On a human level, this is seen in violence, disfranchisement, or economics. In the Hunger Games films, the competitors or “tributes” from each district participate in kill-or-be-killed tournaments in a show of loyalty to the empire. These games distract the public from the true evil, and that of the government itself. No, we won’t see Black Friday shoppers shooting each other down with bow-and-arrow, or Obama doing death battle purges for healthcare, but it does relate to the theme of economic manipulation and random outbreaks of violence.
Truth be told, the majority of discounts for Black Friday are not 100% honest. Many companies hype up marketing and hardly ever change prices. With the introduction of earlier shopping hours, the inherent belief is that this is a good thing when in fact, for shoppers, it is only subtle manipulation of prices and marketing and an extension of profits.
The chaos of Black Friday is rooted in our consumerist culture, which is so instilled in our society that record turnout and over-spending is normal. Last year total spending on Black Friday weekend 2012 was $59.1 billion, compared to $52.4 billion on Black Friday 2011 according to the National Retail Federation. This year the NRF expects sales in the months of November and December to marginally increase 3.9 percent to $602.1 billion, over 2012’s actual 3.5 percent holiday season sales growth. Proof of this is evident in buyer’s remorse. In 2011 and 2012, holiday shopping RETURNS were between an estimated $46-50 billion.
What we have is a conditioned, emotional response to buying many “cheap” things and spending more, when we think we are actually “saving”. Retailers cash out, buyers over-pay, retailers win big… or in natural selection, proper for the strong beating out the weak. Casual violence is only an offshoot of this stressful shopping experience, as though buyers forget that these same items are available the other 364 days of the year.
It is in my opinion that Black Friday is a result of a large segment of our country devolving into irrational consumers that willingly choose to be exploited. As seen in the Hunger Games series, the government uses the games as a distraction in order to control morality and the economy. The same concept works with Black Friday and corporations hunting customers. If they throw “sales” to attract the people when they are available, off work, and free to spend when they should save, then the people will spend more on what they believe is less. There would be no huge fascination in Black Friday if the American population did not make the corporations’ efforts worthwhile.
If you plan to go shopping, may the odds be in your favor!
Click the video to view 2012 Black Friday shopping highlights aka chaos.
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