On Thursday, November 24, people across the United States occupied their favorite chain store. Tents were erected as consumers waited for the store to open. There was no leader for this group and each person had his or her own agenda. The only defining factor of this group was that everyone was waiting for a bargain. No one attempted to get rid of the camps or raised a fuss about the mess that the people camped there were making.
When the doors opened at the assigned time, some as early as 9:00 p.m. some at 10:00 p.m. and some at midnight, the chaos of consumption took over and people went from being somewhat reasonable individuals to the rabid consumers that store executives had dreamed about.
Aside from the normal bruises and abrasions that come when people crush into a small area at a quick pace, 20 people were pepper sprayed in Los Angeles – not by the police but by another shopper who just had to have an Xbox.
Shootings occurred in San Leandro, California and Fayetteville, North Carolina, and there was a stabbing in Sacramento, California.
At a Walmart in Sandy, two men got into a fight, leaving one of them bloodied. At the Layton Walmart, customers tore apart a display case of video games.
This spectacle of rampant consumerism and capitalism gone wild invokes the ideas of pagan celebrations that Christmas has usurped and, in reality, become.
The economy thrives on people making purchases. In order for the United States to return to economic prosperity, people must buy things. Lots and lots of things. If purchases are not made, stores close, factory orders decline and workers lose their jobs.
The problem is that we no longer have the ability to say when enough is enough. We are so separated from any sort of defining reality that we have forgotten what really counts in life. There may be people starving in Utah, but by God, shoppers are going to get the newest electronics available if it kills them, and it just might.
In a country that has over-consumed everything from fossil fuels to calories and that respects excessive wealth and excessive possessions, where, as 2NU said, the “prevailing philosophy is why make small problems when you can create a holocaust?,” people have lost the ability to discern the difference between right and wrong.
We have seen it in the stores on Black Friday, which has bled into Thanksgiving Thursday, totally missing the point of a holiday theoretically based on an expression of gratitude. We have seen it in the corporations that pollute our air and the politicians who lie about it. We have seen it in the amassing of record amounts of wealth by one percent of the population.
In a society where money and accumulation matter more than people, the citizens of that society begin to forget the real reason anyone exists. We exist for each other. That empty feeling that we feel cannot be filled with things or money or security. It can only be filled when we spend time with those that we love. At least the Occupy Movement got that right.