Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Black Friday is the New Thanksgiving

Placed.com: 'As the biggest shopping day of the year, Black Friday is the pinnacle event for deal-hungry consumers who brave the crowds in search of steep discounts and door buster deals. For retailers, understanding who these shoppers are and how they behave is critical to driving more shoppers into their stores and capturing a greater share of holiday dollars."

Placed.com: “As the biggest shopping day of the year, Black Friday is the pinnacle event for deal-hungry consumers who brave the crowds in search of steep discounts and door buster deals. For retailers, understanding who these shoppers are and how they behave is critical to driving more shoppers into their stores and capturing a greater share of holiday dollars.” And isn’t that what “The Holidays” are all about? Well, it is now.

I have cable TV here in my RV park. Sometimes, something interesting or entertaining is on, and sometimes, it’s too painful to watch, and I have to call up a familiar, favorite movie to try to purge it out of my mind. Last night, on the night of Black Friday, I was watching TV and waiting for the weather forecast. The news segment showed a passel of shoppers loading up at Best Buy on the previous day, Thanksgiving Day. They highlighted one guy in the mix, who strode around, smiling confidently and loading his cart with electronics. He claimed that he was buying items for other people, and putting the charges for them onto his credit card, which he waved about. The camera returned to him at the close of the segment, and he added, “I’m thankful for all the things I already have, so I’m throwing them out and replacing them with all new things!” Having been properly amused as intended by the prior footage, this last claim put me into an apoplectic fit, all conscious thought imploding and coasting to a stop. I searched his face desperately for little signs of humor or sarcasm, but in vain. He was trippin’, dude.

The galley slaves, chained to their benches, go down with the ship if the battle is lost.

The galley slaves, chained to their benches, go down with the ship if the battle is lost.

I had been wondering about the employees no longer having a day to gather with family, since this was shot on Thanksgiving Day. But minimum wage employees always get screwed without a thought, their managers sacrificing their own families as well, in order to appease their overlords. This interviewee, however, had proudly put his mindset out there for all to see and admire on multiple levels.

Long my favorite saying, "Too much is almost enough."

Long my favorite saying, “Too much is almost enough.”

When I was younger and earned a living, I did my share of sniper shopping on the day after thanksgiving. One target, one shot. This was something I wanted for myself, and now it was on sale. Or maybe it wasn’t, but it was something to do after stuffing my gut the day before, and I disliked just hanging around, being bored while surrounded by semi-comatose relatives. I would never venture out before getting that fabulous sliced turkey sandwich, however. Nothing but turkey sliced a quarter-inch thick, mayo, and white bread. Oh my. I do have principles, after all.

Life as Art.

Life as Art.

That was the day after, and was considered to be the opening bell for Christmas shopping, which consisted of scattershot sales by various stores over the next few weeks. Working for a living, I often went right down to the wire on Christmas gifts, which today is a ritual imposed upon every man or woman over the age of 22. No spare time for anyone. These days, the lust is on to get it jump-started and over with as soon as possible.

I've seen this expression, this pathos, in plenty of documentaries and news footage in foreign crisis areas. Nice to see the home-grown version, though I don't find it quite as heart-rending.

I’ve seen this desperate, agitated expression in plenty of documentaries and news footage in foreign crisis areas. “My son unconscious! He need vaccine now!” Nice to see the home-grown version, though I don’t find it quite as heart-rending.

But the Day After Thanksgiving Sale has morphed into Black Friday, and Black Friday is beginning to look more like a tumor than an event. Plenty of brick-and-mortar stores opened on Thanksgiving Day: Target, Walmart, Best Buy, Toys ‘R’ Us, Macy’s, Kohl’s, RadioShack and Kmart, among others. Every holiday, religious or civil, now seems to have its own dedicated sales event, and the drive to monetize Thankgiving Day itself is apparently on. That will be quite an achievement, since that day was originally intended to be a day of reflection of all we have – beyond the material goods. My only uncertainty is whether what’s next will be called a Pre-Thanksgiving Day Sale or a Pre-Black Friday Sale.

Thanksgiving is about family, about values, and about building new family traditions as well as observing the old ones. Why, here's one now!

Thanksgiving is about family, about values, and about building new family traditions as well as observing the old ones. Why, here’s one now!

From NBC Today: “Black Friday’s consumerism is steeped in evolutionary primes, says Gad Saad, professor of marketing at Concordia University in Montreal. Saad, author of The Consuming Instinct: What Juicy Burgers, Ferraris, Pornography and Gift Giving Reveal About Human Nature, cites studies that examine how environmental cues can motivate people to choose immediate gratification over the delayed kind. Simply put, Black Friday creates a mindset of “must act now.”

“It’s triggering this rush — there is scarcity, there is time pressure. The herd is going out,” says Saad. “So it’s like, ‘OK, let me join the herd. Let me go hoarding.'”

Offended? Don’t be. This is considerably loftier than how marketers themselves view you.

This L.A. Times photo captures what makes the Holidays bright: the privilege of being one of the first to act upon perceived scarcity. Happy dance!

This L.A. Times photo captures what makes the Holidays bright: the privilege of being one of the first to act upon perceived scarcity. Happy dance!

That relates to what makes Black Friday such a remarkable achievement in the U.S. Considering that the economy was once mainly based on research, engineering and manufacturing, and has since been eviscerated to revolve around Wall Street’s health and minimum wage part-time jobs as the gauge of status, the so-called middle class that powered the expansion now dropping like flies, Black Friday’s success is not it’s dollar count. It’s brilliance is in flooding the country with an excess of goods, training people (led by the media) that they exist to “consume” as “consumers” and need to keep up with current trends, teaching people (led by the President of the United States and his expert advisers) to believe that the solution to every economic problem is to buy your way out of it, and by finally invoking the perception that what is abundant is scarce. Of course, everyone knows that big 4K TVs are filling warehouses, but “not at this low, low price! Now through Monday only! Only while they last! No rain checks!

Genetically evolving to a higher level of enlightenment might take awhile.

Genetically evolving to a higher level of enlightenment might take awhile.

Pay people half of what they were making in real dollars back in the “so Twentieth Century”, urge them to enjoy the Good Life (and be sure to emphasize the beer brand and not the friendships as what it revolves around), and send all the opportunities (and taxes revenues) out of the country. Steer ’em with fear, and push, push, push. Make capitalism indistinguishable from democracy, freedom and patriotism. Create fake “grassroots” and “people’s” movements that promote and protect corporate interests. Pay hirelings to spread disinformation on forums, and to defend corporate interests by any means necessary. Develop and deploy software equivalents to do the same more economically, able to create fake personas and maintain them. I suspect that the time is not far off when schoolchildren will be astonished to discover that the American struggle for independence from Britain and from being treated like cattle by them, economically bilked at whim, was not actually a struggle on behalf of Patriotic Capitalism instead. I have nothing against capitalism per se, but resent the absurd links forged in this country that are intended to protect predatory or immoral behavior from simple justice. Not social justice, politically correct justice or Democratic Party-style justice. Just old-school stealing, lying, and excusing bad behavior as “a responsibility to the stockholders”. They depend upon our participation in the hamster wheel, and place a carrot ahead and the threat of calamity behind. Black Friday is the bling in front, an artificial essential. Among other spear tips in back are the fear of not fitting in, and the presumption that the technologically latest and greatest will satisfy us and put our souls at rest – for at least a moment.

Here's the carrot view, gazing upward thankfully to the gods of shopping. She has arrived, surely!

Among fashionistas, here’s the carrot view, gazing upward thankfully to the gods of shopping. She has arrived, surely!

These two are still in the process of arriving, I guess. If people will fight like this over a designer purse or a laptop, what will they do when farming aquifer depletion makes potable water scarce?

These two are still in the process of arriving, I guess. Staged shot? Sure, maybe, but it’s a lot less staged than the others I’ve seen, and lacks the appalling features of true Walmart combat. And, it makes a point. If people will fight like this over a designer purse or a laptop, what will they do when farming aquifer depletion makes potable water scarce?

Zip ties and a knee in the back can sometimes serve as a calming agent when adult children start going rogue.

At the other end of the scale, zip ties and a knee in the back can sometimes serve as a calming agent when adult children start going rogue in a Walmart.

I’ve found that there are some “hardships” in life that are stout enough to make you step back for awhile and then take a fresh view, and you will tend to find that the view you have afterward is quite a bit different than the one you used to have. There can come a sort of clarity that may not reveal The Ultimate Truth, but does reveal the real you. That can be a good thing, and can temper the hard part of the hardship into a blessing in disguise. That’s another reason for being thankful on Thanksgiving Day

Time doesn't feel finite, but it is. And free time is much less available than it once was. Is anyone going to reflect back on their life and lament, "I wish I'd spent more time standing in line for bargains!" What are the, say, three things in our lives that represent a real priority? We must all take care of the mundane, but what is really worth our time?

Time doesn’t feel finite, but it is. And free time is much less available than it once was. Is anyone going to reflect back on their life and lament, “I wish I’d spent more time standing in line for bargains”? What are the, say, three things in our lives that represent a real priority? We must all take care of the mundane, but what is really worth our time?

No one is immune from being shaped by circumstance or manipulation, especially careful and adept manipulation centered on the transfer of income – and future income – from you to someone else. It’s not about being rebellious or anti-establishment. It’s about discovering your own values, priorities, and purpose in a culture that pushes what cannot offer contentment. That culture praises individuality, but only a form of individuality that conforms to a sub-group, so that it can be checklisted by its own members and monetized by businesses.

Based on this photo, what makes you think that the Zombie Apocalypse hasn't already started? ;-)

Based on this photo, what makes you think that the Zombie Apocalypse hasn’t already started? 😉

My mindset: Do whatcha gotta do, but try not to run through life on full-automatic, or you’ll find yourself not in charge of your own life. Theories abound about what comes after this life, but one thing’s for sure: You and I are here, and however long or short it lasts, this time here in this world is the only certain thing that we can see and touch. We don’t have to be world-changers, and most times, we can’t even change ourselves, but we can take moments to block off the noise, step back, and try to see if our lives sync with who we are and where we want to be. Others may have us paddling so hard to keep our bow above water and on course that we don’t really know where we are. I know what pressure and fear are, but sometimes it’s good to stop paddling for a moment, or even to have our paddle snap. Not always, but sometimes. Sometimes, it becomes evident that we could really use a course correction. Do-overs are not possible for us, but fresh starts often are. It’s your life. What is of value to you, and what is worth your time, energy, and resources?

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23 thoughts on “Black Friday is the New Thanksgiving

  1. Good words, Doug. Strong message to follow? What you say about taking charge of one’s own life is the most important thing you wrote. We can’t let ourselves be brainwashed by politicians, religious zealots and corporations. If more folks would practice free thinking, this country might have a chance of surviving well into the future.

    Chris

    • Thank you, Chris. The taking charge thing is something I learned the hard way. If life is a gift, then we may as well live it hands-on. My take is that I can screw it up nearly as well as letting someone else screw it up for me, so why not take the wheel myself? Strong message? That’ll be debatable, I suppose. Whether in a direct or roundabout way, all of my posts come down to me, me, me: how I live, what I see, how I react or reflect on it, and how I perceive the world, even if I’m just posting about a road sign or a bike ride. I’m not much of a philosopher, just a recent part-time observer and reactor in new territory.

      One thing I’ve discovered just in the last couple of years (I’m a late bloomer) is that we also can’t afford to let ourselves be brainwashed by whatever “opposition forces” are at play, either. The propaganda can be just as thick and deliberately misleading, and the more radical the stance in either direction, the more mis-characterization and dehumanization you’re going to find. In extreme cases, it gets down to fear and paranoia – and control, the very same thing people struggle to escape from. Bring this up with the leader, and you’re likely to hear, “But if I’d told them, they wouldn’t be doing what I want them to” – (worded as “what they should/need to do”).

      Although I agree that each person should form his or her own opinions about important subjects instead of just passively accepting what others say, I’m afraid I fall far short of qualifying as a freethinker on two counts, if you’re referring to the Freethought Movement. Freethinkers demand a rigid conformity to a rather narrow set of beliefs, which is technically normal for any group, but which I find to be a naming contradiction of itself. I get the history of the group, but still, time for an update. The group’s beliefs are based upon the power of man’s reasoning and the method of scientific inquiry that descends from it. I consider the first to be so polluted with the very human traits of emotion and bias that the resulting science sways more by fashion, faith and personal influence than by each dollop of new evidence. I do not agree that nothing can exist in the cosmos without mankind’s ability to approve and explain it. I lack that faith. So I don’t make the cut, and I’m not willing to give up my basic political, social, or religious beliefs and attitudes for conformance to a group.

      A common shared set of beliefs is necessary for any functional group of course, but I believe that an association with one needs to be carefully done by any individual. If not, it’s the “same game, different players” and of little benefit, if any. “Free thinking” itself, as you word it, is badly needed indeed! It tends not to be a group activity – except of course by people who are open to hearing anything, kicking it around, and personally accepting or rejecting it without grandstanding or trying to coerce or belittle others in the group. That forbearance is obviously a rarity at the point of extinction in the our nation today, as absent in the nonconformists as it is in the conformists. It is that lack which threatens our nation, I believe. The human need for social ties and popularity has tended to create more sensationalists than free thinkers, and more name-calling than thought.

      Nice comment there, Chris!

      • I didn’t expect such a detailed response, Doug, but thanks for it. Regarding free thinking, I was talking more in general terms of unbiased, open minded thinking rather that the more rigid thinking that a Freethought Society member might espouse. That said, I do like the idea of sorting through information keeping in mind a “…philosophical viewpoint which holds that positions regarding truth should be formed on the basis of logic, reason, and empiricism, rather than authority, tradition, revelation, or other dogma”. (Merriam-Webster def.) OTH I imagine being truly open minded would mean sourcing all those bases . I wonder if that’s possible?

        • Oh, sometimes a comment gets me to thinking, and I just go with it. In general, it’s hard to beat that dictionary explanation, otherwise we’ll have shaky night vision cameras trained on green-faced teens holding flashlights under their faces, pretending that they’re terrified by nearby ghosts.

          From what I’ve seen, the basis for the two positions to find truth are never quite as cleanly segregated as one might hope. There’s usually at least a little leakage either way, the “superstitious primitives” side needing some bits of reasonable logic to make things appear halfway plausible, and the “Sherlock Holmes” side trying hard to avoid glancing at the Medusa that human reason might not equate to pure, untainted logic. To me, it’s as wobbly to claim that the world is the equivalent of a Harry Potter adventure story, as it is to insist that the limit of man’s ability to perceive or understand defines all that can exist.

          I believe that the universe exists entirely on its own terms, beyond our ability to comprehend it all. I consider that “science” and “religion” are each merely filters that we choose to employ in order to remove what we’re least comfortable with, and so simplify the job of understanding it – a piece of it, anyway. To argue that only one filter or the other will illuminate the whole is simply to argue which set of blinders should be worn by everyone. The comprehension that results will be incomplete. The late Carl Sagan insisted, “It is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.” Unlike Mr. Sagan, I agree, but I believe that sword cuts both ways.

          • “…the “Sherlock Holmes” side trying hard to avoid glancing at the Medusa that human reason might not equate to pure, untainted logic.” Oh, hahahahaaaaa, heheheeee, so true, lol, belly laughing here.

            • One of my design professors once challenged the class with the thought that any given set of design criteria (requirements) should result in just a single “best” final solution, and therefore each person in class should be winding up with perfectly identical approaches to solve the list. He fully realized that this was theoretical, representing Truth, but he also knew that the best he could really hope for would be somewhat similar designs, with one or two breakthrough solutions that were innovative, whether brilliant or useless. On a student level, even that would loosen up quite a bit. But the basis of good design is pure logic, drawing upon known facts.

              I see similarities to the scientific community, who reverence evidence and cold logic. They publish and share their data and interpretations, but then other interpretations form from the same evidence, and there are multiple schools of thought in many areas. Human reason is not all it’s cracked up to be, as even Science is dominated by finding a voice for one’s theory, gathering enough evidence to support it, getting heard, gaining influence, activism, and politics – opening up to this and shutting out that. The purity of its Truth is innately flawed by the same thing it so lauds: human reason. I consider that it takes every bit as much faith to swallow its core dogmas whole as does any religion. Its evidence does not justify its air of confidence. Yet it disdains any dissent, pointing to the unassailable purity of…ever-changing physical evidence and human reason.

              The recent discovery that the universe that we can observe, detect, measure and analyze is a great minority of the whole was quite a shakeup. The concept that there is a coexisting part of the universe beyond what can be scientifically observed and analyzed, and that the universe is grossly violating its own physical laws would have been met with a shrug by the earliest men of Science as non-news. For the most part, it fit right in with their worldviews. The same revelation would have been dismissed in the Age of Reason as religious claptrap on the order of ouija boards, clearly based upon falsified evidence, and dismissed outright. Today, the main excitement it causes within the community is to keep mathematicians employed in order to at least be able to put mathematical handles on all that is completely hidden from us – find the extent of the trashing of known physical laws, and come up with a plausible explanation that sounds halfway scientific. I find it odd that such revelations are not making the usual interviews with the media that lead to new and improved beliefs in the public, at least as far as I can detect. I have a suspicion that the simple topic of unseen and undetectable forces at work in the universe invokes some discomfort at a dogma level. Scientists would very much like to know what’s really there instead of naming it and having to dance around it. But whatever it is must conform to scientific inquiry and core beliefs before it will be acknowledged and catalogued in. That’s faith.

              • “The recent discovery that the universe that we can observe, detect, measure and analyze is a great minority of the whole was quite a shakeup.” Yes, wasn’t it? Although, like you, I didn’t notice much media coverage. Lately I’ve been reading Chris Impey and and others who, like Sagan, have a gift for conveying complex and technical scientific concepts in a way the non-scientist can understand. A scientist from Livermore Labs recently suggested I read Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything, which I had doubts about but turns out to be very good. Reminds me of astronomy class in college, more mind-expanding than psychedelic drugs ever were.

                I hear you about the schools of thought and the gaining of influence (politics) and all that human stuff that affect the scientific community. For me, I just wanna hear about the new observations and get all excited about them. Wasn’t it cool to find out that dark matter makes up 27% of the universe and we don’t know what it is? And that dark energy accounts for 68% of the universe, and we only know one thing about that: it’s responsible for gravity. But we don’t know what it is, either. So we only know what 5% of the universe is, and 95% is a mystery. I love it!

    • Your last paragraph describes why I’ve made the choices I have in life. Downwardly mobile, always, because my time, to do with as I choose, is essential to me. As a result, I’ve had a lot great experiences, and countless smaller daily soul-satisfying moments . I knew I’d pay for it one day, and that day is here. I have no retirement, tiny savings, and a very small Social Security income (starts in 2 years). So, I regret my insolvency, and the lack of choice and freedom that imposes.

      But. (There’s always a “but” with me, it seems.) I don’t regret how I’ve lived. To me, the daily enjoyment of life, be it reading in my hammock, making stuff, or taking a 45 minute hike in the forest on my way to work, has been not only intrinsically rewarding, but sanity-saving to boot. In other words, apart from the minor inconvenience of being a pauper, it’s all good.

      Your commentary re: capitalism today in the USA is right on. “Just old-school stealing, lying, and excusing bad behavior …” It’s all about keeping the rich and powerful wealthy, at any cost, any cost at all. So, you’ve sucked all the water from your desert? Come to Arizona and consume their aquifers, too. Social services for the mentally ill? Screw that, toss the crazies in jail…and then throw them into the streets later on, with no treatment or support. Global warming? Well, according to Exxon, there isn’t any…or, well, wait a minute, oh yeah, well, we (Exxon) knew it was real (they knew it in the SEVENTIES) but we paid experts to convince the public it wasn’t real so we could make more…money!

      It’s a horrible world, if you dwell on it. I don’t. It’s too cold in my house, so I’m going skiing 🙂

      • Thank you for sharing that, Dawn. One response: Even boondocking has its very real expenses, so I hope you’ll continue to mull over how you might supplement your SS on the road. Since qualifying for Medicaid is a given, you may want to get all treatment (as possible) in your home state. From what I’ve read, most health facilities won’t even try to jump over the paperwork pile required to invoice another state’s Medicaid system, and the result is that the bill goes to you. Just another tidbit to cheer you up. 😉 I hope your heat is back on by now!

  2. You forgot the pepper on your turkey sandwich.

    • Oh, thou speakest blasphemy! Pepper is for eggs and ‘taters at breakfast, and should never soil a turkey sandwich…except of course if you just made one and happened to offer it to me as I passed by, in which case I would praise it mightily and horse it down. At times, it’s good to be flexible.

  3. I laughed so hard I cried….. It would have been even funnier if it wasn’t so true. O made a traditional Thanksgiving meal and it was not lost on me that the stores were opening as I finally sat down and No, there was no shopping for me. PS you forgot the mustard!

    • Et Tu? Glad you enjoyed this post. After all that work, like you’re going to cut and run instead of sit and enjoy it… I fervently hope you’re talking about grey mustard there though, KLB. I’d try a sissy taste myself, and take it from there. My guess is that it could be pretty darn good. My bud Matt bought me a turkey, cranberry and dressing SUB sandwich early this year at a shop, and it was unmatched awesomeness. That’s notable, because I always pass on cranberries at the traditional meal. Too tart to eat. Go figure.

  4. Linda Sand on said:

    REI closed all their stores for Black Friday. Told their employees to go outside somewhere. Another reason I love that place.

  5. Rod Duell on said:

    Freaking brilliant Doug, great work!

  6. I loved the zombie apocalypse target photo. That’s what I’ve been saying for ages!

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