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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Welcome To The Jungle

Did you survive Black Friday?

Did you find everything you wanted?

Are their people on your Christmas list who will be disappointed, no matter what you give them...and will subtly let you know?

Did you vow, last year, to avoid the lunacy of Black Friday and the whole "let's overspend this Christmas!" mentality...and then break the vow?

Welcome to the rest of the human race.

Society runs on two pillars - laws and traditions. We need the laws to make sure things run smoothly. We need traditions to make sure that we understand the meaning for our world...to let us know why things are worth running at all.

The tradition of Black Friday grew out of the reality that we have a prosperous society. Gift exchange is an ancient way to express love, affection, and good wishes; in a society in which most members have disposable income, spending a significant amount says to the recipient, "Hey, you're important to me!" This is generally understood, at least subconsciously, by both giver and recipient.

(When was the last time you god an "it's the thought that counts" gift from someone you knew could afford more. Were you just a bit disappointed? Honestly, now.)

Black Friday itself just recognizes the fact that most people have one 'extra day' to shop between Thanksgiving and Christmas. If retailers can get people into the stores and spending money for Black Friday, they assume - correctly - that shoppers will be likely to come back more often, and they'll make more money.

The "Black Friday" label, and the whole " great sales and early door openings" thing comes from a need to somehow distinguish special days. We do this with the Superbowl, and college basketball's March Madness.

Taken in context, and viewed with a sympathetic eye, Black Friday and the whole "commercial consumerist" tradition is just a to-be-expected manifestation of the things that we kind of like in our society...the ability to live without worrying about where our next meal's coming from.

And if you think that overspending and finding oneself in debt come January is unusual, just look at the feasts, the "potlatch" that Native American tribes in the Pacific Northwest used to throw. They'd put out huge spreads of food, and give livestock and slaves, and after it was over the coffers of an individual - or tribe - would be exhausted. That made a true potlatch a pretty rare event.

You can swim against the tide allou want, and refuse to take part in this dirty greedy grubby custom, but the fact is, you're being a Don Quixote, in the worst sense. The real evils in our society are not found here. These are only windmills - they are not giants.

Now have fun, and go feel good about it!

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