Today is called Black Friday, as you might have heard. The name has an ominous ring to it, like the title of one of those movies where the hero runs around machine-gunning terrorists while lots of things blow up, but apparently it merely refers to all the Christmas shopping which regularly occurs on the day after Thanksgiving. We’re told it derives from all the black ink that retailers use to tally their profits on this day, and we suppose that’s a good thing.
Still, there is something unsettling about the annual stories of shoppers camped out in mall parking lots for days in order to be the first in line for the marked-down goods, the shoving matches and fistfights over the last of the of the bargains, and the general mayhem and rudeness that always seem to result. This year has also brought a slew of stories about all the underpaid and over-worked shop employees being deprived of Thanksgiving by the ever-earlier opening times demanded by their taskmasters, all very reminiscent of poor Bob Cratchit back in the dark Dickensian days, as well as reports of threatened labor actions to take revenge on the evil corporations.
None of which does much to bolster the holiday spirit, which is hard enough to maintain these days. We’ve known people who look forward to Black Friday shopping, and despite their best efforts to explain the appeal we just don’t get it. They seem to find much pleasure in purchasing something at a lower-than-usual price, and go about it with the competitive zeal of a big-game hunter on safari, but it hardly seems worth the hassles of jostling with the maddening crowds.
Those fortunate enough to find themselves with free time today might find that it is better spent by relaxing, reading a good book, tending to some long-neglected chore, enjoying the quiet company of family or friends, or otherwise preparing for the onslaught of the holiday season. There will be time enough for shopping, with plenty of bargains, and maybe there ought to be less shopping. Although we advocate a red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalism, and pride ourselves on a high level of tolerance for whatever lifestyle choices that people make with their money as well as their private parts, it does seem to us that in this heavily indebted country most people already have quite enough stuff. Civility, serenity, and the very non-materialist philosophy of the teacher whose birth is being celebrated this season are what’s lacking, and would make a much better gift than anything on sale on the mall.
— Bud Norman