by Delphine Burns
From their tents pitched strategically across the cement parking lots of hundreds of stores across the US, batches of consumers stare up expectantly at the giant fluorescent signs reading “Target” or “Best Buy.” Patiently, they wait for the moment that the doors to these superstores will finally burst open, no longer separating them from the millions of random merchandise they wish to inherit. Maybe the consumers pass the time eating snacks, or playing games or singing songs. Maybe they’re taking a nap. I don’t know. Sounds like hell to me.
Black Friday is obviously an infamous “holiday” heavily observed in America, dedicated to binge shopping and chaos. Although it’s no secret that those against capitalism and consumerism do not support this annual occurrence, I have multiple reasons for protesting it.
The first is the constant decline of values. This obsession with material possessions seems to epitomize the modern lifestyle of the average American. Surrounded by fast food chains and mega malls, it’s no secret that the American dream has shifted to that of the consumer. Bigger is always better as far as Americans are concerned. Proving to your peers that you’re capable of consuming the most seems to have become an American family value. We’re taught from a young age to be competitive and that achieving in a materialistic way is respectable. If we can go to college and obtain a career that pays us more than our neighbors, great. This teaches children that consumerism is healthy and desirable, and that there is nothing wrong with the societal shift toward valuing the tangible over the intangible. Exposing future generations to this ideology is detrimental to any sort of societal progress. If this notion of competition and consumerism is perpetuated, the future we will only hold more disgusting traditions such as Black Friday.
Secondly, Black Friday is not sustainable. Lots of the random crap marketed to us annually at bargain prices is outsourced from other countries so it may be produced inexpensively and abundantly. When we partake in this “holiday,” we are not being socially or environmentally cognizant. This is harmful to the environment because these items are being flown into the US on massive, fuel-guzzling jets. Socially, it’s corrupt because a lot of these articles are made in circumstances such as sweatshops where workers are treated unjustly. Being aware of the source of these objects is our responsibility. If more people took stands against items manufactured in unsafe and unethical working environments, more companies would be forced to stop going about business this way. Additionally, if more people boycotted items that were manufactured in an extremely damaging process to the environment, companies would gain incentive to operate in a more eco-friendly manner. Our society also has this obsession with buying “new” possessions. Very rarely are people interested in second-hand possessions that are often just as functional. If our society could shift toward a recycling-oriented model, it is no secret that we could conserve many resources. Programs such as Re-Room at Pitzer that sell used items for reduced prices are optimal. If on Black Friday, people turned to business models similar to this one, we could shift toward sustainability more effectively.
Additionally, Black Friday festivities seem to begin earlier every year. This means that instead of celebrating Thanksgiving with families into the evening, many consumers leave mid-day to get in line at superstores. This conveys that obtaining material possessions is more important than spending quality time with loved ones. This is obviously a disturbing message to convey as a society. This twisted hierarchy of priorities is not one to be perpetuated. While Thanksgiving is already a problematic holiday historically, the idea of giving thanks to those you value in life is beautiful Families should be able to sit around and have conversations after Thanksgiving dinner without rushing out to purchase a big screen TV or a microwave. Black Friday has started to impose on this time of being grateful for what we have, leaving less time to be spent appreciating those in your life whom you value, and should value far beyond whatever Best Buy is trying to market this year. Isn’t it ironic that the day after we give thanks for our possessions, we fight each other to acquire more?
As Pitzer students, it’s more normative for us to be disgusted by consumerism and Black Friday. Unfortunately, this is not the case for most of the country and society. So, educate your family and friends. Remind them how much you love sitting around the fireplace with them and telling stories rather than camping in a tent outside a superstore waiting for the sale to begin. Remind them how you’d much rather your children live in a healthy environmental condition than have a new laptop. Restore the original intention of holidays. Remember that they’re about people, not things. Give more than you take, and the world will be a better place.