Today is the day when we shall show our appreciation for all we have by eating most of it with gravy and stuffing, then waking up early and, wearing pajama pants and hiding melee weapons under our overcoats, drag ourselves to the retail beast's lair at the ass-crack of dawn to fight our way to savings at risk of our very lives.
Nothing new about saying this, as just about everyone and their dog laments our greed these days.
Black Friday is so named because stores that have been running debts all year get "into the black" by selling tons of shit the day after Thanksgiving. They can't take advantage of us without our help, and there's no sense to blaming them for wanting to run something other than deficits. Our government could learn from their example. When it comes to the greed, you will eventually blame whoever you despise the most: either you despise the shopper for being vacuous, or you will despise the capitalists for enabling the vacuousness.
So, should a society's power classes encourage this rampant consumerism, or should they enforce some agreed-upon - but nevertheless coercive - code of virtuous behavior?
I'm usually quite sympathetic to the cynicism surrounding capitalism these days, as I loathe consumerism as a lifestyle, but look on the bright side: at least people are getting off the couch. So, yeah, businesses figured out how to manipulate people into the stores under the least flattering circumstances. If you hate it, then don't do it. The most disgusting element of all this is that when given agency, this is how people choose to use it. the situation could be worse, although killing people in a mob for a Sesame Street toy might be a bit much.
I find it repugnant enough that giving thanks for what we have is such a rare activity. Christian practice holds that prayer - which is for giving thanks and not for asking the Lord to help you win the fucking lottery, you shitheel - should happen daily, preferably more than once a day. The fuck happened?
Well, being thankful is out of fashion. You're supposed to want more out of life, aren't you? You're supposed to push harder and scream louder, to demand justice, to complain loudly until you get everything you deserve. And what you deserve depends on what you can convince yourself you deserve, which depends on your self-esteem and imagination, both of which get hyper-charged around these parts. Expectations got ridiculous a long time ago. Satisfaction and thanks will not be forthcoming in this culture.
Besides, being satisfied is bad for a number of reasons, all of them going back to some low-frequency form of populism. There's nothing more useful in the acquisition of political power in a democratic nation than the idea that people deserve more than they have and the only reason they aren't getting it is because of the evil present order oppressing them. Particularly, they can portray the giving of thanks - particularly in a religious context - as the most deceptive way the powerful prevent the "natural order" of egalitarian humanism from coming into existence. They can say, "They're being evil by having so much, but they make you feel evil for wanting more! They're bullshitting you!" One side is trying to make money by selling things to other people - the horror! - while the other side tries to acquire more power by claiming moral delinquency on the part of the other side which has more.
So who's being greedy here?
You know the answer: everyone. But once again, you'll despise the side you want to despise.
Since I look at hierarchy as inevitable and still put a generally positive value on a society experiencing internal order and peace, I think thanks should be given more often. But I'm also going to do some Black Friday shopping. My family is doing it, and I'm going to help a certain someone pick out a new TV.
If you get too irritated by something like shopping frenzy - and particularly if you get irritated even as you complain that consumers don't have enough money to spend - you really need a sense of humor. I'm thinking there will be less than five casualties tomorrow. No big deal!
Update, December 2013:
As it turns out, I was only off by two!