Black Friday in a Troubled World

Stunning above the fold news in Saturday's NYT. On the right, "Violent Protests in Egypt as Leader Expands Power" and just under that "Tension and Confusion Linger in Gaza Strip After Cease-Fire." And then on the left? A three column photo of cheering shoppers at Macy's 'on that annual spending ritual known as Black Friday.' Just under the photo is another picture of an unidentified shopper asleep on a couch in the middle of a furniture display. She is surrounded by bags filled with items she couldn't live without. I assume she did not purchase the couch on which she sleeps.
ES tells me that buying is good for the economy and he is right. Remember after 9/11 when George W. Bush encouraged Americans to get out and shop as a way back to normalcy? We are the biggest, buyingest consumer nation in the world. Black Friday is the apogee of consumerism. My take on this day? There is something almost wicked about Black Friday and the behavior it induces.
In "Capitalism's Grossest Win: The Triumph of Black Friday," Andrew Leonard writes the following:
"But the weirdest thing about Black Friday, the part that (Max) Weber might have had the hardest time explaining, is how fine the line is between thrift and greed. Consider the case of  19-year-old Ashley Wagner,  who started camping outside a Best Buy in Saginaw Township on Monday morning...who took a week off from her job at Taco Bell to make sure she didn’t repeat last year’s disaster, when she was second in line. With a generator, a can of Pringles and some Little Debbie snack cakes, Wagner said she’s ready for the week ahead. On Thanksgiving Day, Wagner’s mom will deliver a hot meal from the Turkey Roost restaurant in Kawkawlin.
"Her door-busting dream: a camera for her mother, a laptop for her brother, and a flat-screen TV and some Dr. Dre headphones for herself.
"I'm sure I wouldn't mind a pair of Dr. Dre headphones under my own Christmas tree, but I don't think taking a week off from your job to stand in line to nab a deal on some stylin' audio equipment is an example of either thrift or frugality.
"It's convenient to criticize the retailers for their encroachment on turkey time and their shameless stoking of greed and bad mob behavior.  But the Best Buys of the world wouldn't be swinging their gates wide open if customers didn't keep clamoring to get in. We're lock in  mutual embrace and neither side is willing to let go."
Anne D'Innocenzio, writer for the Associated Press quotes a shopper , "We've learned over the years that you have to stand in line early and pray."
So, turn back to last Saturday's NYT, November 24, 2012 front page, above the fold. The Middle East is experiencing a social and political tsunami with hurricane force winds of change, despair, hope and tragedy. For good measure, throw in the economic plight of Greece. Consider global warming. Remember America's dysfunctional government that must struggle and somehow compromise on lowering the deficit, tax reform, immigration issues and soaring health costs.
Was any of this on the minds of Americans who stood in very long lines, for days, it appears, in order to buy a newer, better version of that flat screen TV they probably already have at home?
There's that fine line between thrift and greed again. And what about the chasm, the disconnect,  between the state of our world and our induced need to consume pretty much all the goods, services and resources that our world has to offer.
There is truly something 'black' about this Friday.

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