What does Black Friday say about society?

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24 November
10:11
November
2016

Here we see society in its most massified state, its subjects most uprooted and adrift. Community in so many places has been all but erased. Mass society is the grave of community, as a Native elder once said. Consumer society is its replacement. Consumerism is a fake realm of freedom; it offers only the choice among brands A, B, or C. Shopping tries in vain to fill the void, when community and freedom really no longer exist.

The day after Thanksgiving is shopping’s Holy Day. In the US, Black Friday has been marked since the early 1960s by a huge buying binge. Since 2011, several big retail companies open their doors at midnight. Since 2007, there have been seven deaths and 98 injuries in various US locations, as frenzied shoppers trample each other to grab bargains.

"China now has its own Black Friday, called Singles Day, a sort of anti-Valentine’s Day."

It should not be overlooked that on this day, most prices are considerably reduced. Many people take advantage of the mark-downs, in an era of growing income disparity between those at the top and millions of others who struggle to get by. The strong lower-income protest vote so critical to Trump’s election reminds us of this fact.

China now has its own Black Friday, called Singles Day, a sort of anti-Valentine’s Day. Mass consumption, mass production, mass culture, mass society. Emerging seemingly everywhere in a globalizing, homogenizing world. Not only do we live with the loss of community, differences, and traditions; environmental disaster is another hallmark.

But there are those who resist, even protest the sad phenomenon of Black Friday. Here in Eugene, Oregon, the owner of a small bicycle shop displays a sign that renames the day: “For the 3rd Year in a Row We’ll Be Closed on Bike Friday.”

Black Friday is a monument to the wrong direction where society is heading. It’s one part of a sorry picture. In the absence of community, we see the era of mass shootings by isolated individuals, people glued to their screens, primed to buy the latest 'device'. Loss of faith in pretty much all institutions is supplanted by more and more buying. An unhealthy, unsatisfying cycle that cries out for change at a fundamental level.

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