Black Hearted Friday

BlackFridayThumb2by Glenn Fairman   11/23/13
“I want an Oompa-Loompa!’ screamed Veruca.” — Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory  •  “He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.” — Socrates

While making my way home sleepily following a Tryptophan laced gorging of Herculean proportions, my wife and I passed by the local Wal-Mart at an ungodly hour and I remarked perceptively that that the parking lot was filled to capacity. “Black Friday,” she mumbled drowsily with just a hint of world-weary condescension. I then looked more closely and since I saw no fires blazing or police barricades set up, I let it go at that.[pullquote]This morning’s Drudge Report revealed the maelstrom that had been reported scant hours before: security guards maced, customer’s robbed, a Victoria’s Secret in shambles- presumably by the softer gender seeking the clothing of love…[/pullquote]

This morning’s Drudge Report revealed the maelstrom that had been reported scant hours before: security guards maced, customer’s robbed, a Victoria’s Secret in shambles- presumably by the softer gender seeking the clothing of love, and the assorted arrests and bad blood that comes from coveting that which resides in thy neighbor’s cart. I suppose anything short of seven people being shot to death in a Nebraska Mall is a measured victory for merchandisers and security staff that have grown wise to what inevitably occurs when material scarcity fails to achieve parity with demand for i-phones, Elmos, Cabbage Patch Dolls, or Furrbies. (I am dating myself, again.) Greed and anticipation being what they are, how can we hold up our heads and face those whom we love when we fail to produce under the tree that which is the fleeting desire of little predatory hearts- all ginned up by slick advertisement while promising eternal joy by way of a helluva deal?

Look, I am not going to rage self-righteously if you went to a store at midnight for a two hundred dollar Big Screen TV and managed to wrestle a bargain from out of the hands of that fat woman with a stun gun and hairy armpits. More power to you, friend. It’s just that what has been ironically termed Black Friday, in quasi-sacrilege, has incrementally creeped backwards into a day when America’s giving of thanks to our Creator for what we have is being upstaged by a meme that celebrates the pursuit of that which we covet. Indeed, before the liquor and pie have been digested, shoppers are bugging out from their family gatherings in contemplation of storming the local K-Mart like wild-eyed soldiers at Normandy. And let the Devil take the hindmost if you fail in taking the electronics section!

Black-Hearted Friday is coming earlier every year, and by next year it will probably commence about the time that Dallas kicks off. I suppose there is something terribly amiss when a day of supplication and gratitude is ground down into a spectacle of avarice and belligerent acquisition, but this is the negative side of commercial liberal republics that have fallen from their sacred first principles and have transposed the material and monetary in the near hollow vacuums of traditions that have lost power in our hearts. Holidays were once holy days where it was hard not too long ago to buy a dozen eggs or a pack of batteries for a metal ray-gun on Christmas morn. Back then, it was inconceivable that you would work (with very few exceptions), and it was expected that if you had a family or friends, you would be finding rest and succor within their warmth.[pullquote]Look, I am not going to rage self-righteously if you went to a store at midnight for a two hundred dollar Big Screen TV and managed to wrestle a bargain from out of the hands of that fat woman with a stun gun and hairy armpits.[/pullquote]

But not everything that changes does so for the better. The thralldom we have placed ourselves under is to a jealous deity that demands the novel; and the anxiety that accompanies his reverence apportions out brief respites of satisfaction but very little joy as he constantly whips us forward and upward to new heights of desire and cultural forgetfulness. Good Friday was a day of requisite horror whose tragedy became victory as pain was forgotten and mankind was ultimately redeemed. Black Friday curtails the celebration of Thanksgiving’s contemplative repose and exchanges it for an insatiable quest for Chinese gadgets, transistors and baubles that will be forgotten soon after the wrapping is shredded about the living room–Transitory junk scattered amidst the ads for “Day after Christmas Sales” and the insufferable “Year’s End Blow-Out.”
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Glenn Fairman writes from Highland, Ca. He can be reached at arete5000@dslextreme.com. • (4312 views)

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17 Responses to Black Hearted Friday

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Holy smokes, Glenn. You nailed it. A great essay and observation. Now, where’s my copy of “It’s a Wonderful Life” to sort of act as an antidote.

    • pst4usa says:

      Brad, I was at Toastmasters and we covered favorite Christmas movies in table topics and mine was “It’s A Wonderful Life” and the number of folks that did not know that movie was a bit depressing for me.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        NOT KNOW THE MOVIE? Yikes, what is this country coming to? Well, I will commit to doing a review or essay on that movie if the spirit moves me. It usually does. I keep finding new things in it. Even old Mr. Potter has been given a sympathetic thought or two. Indeed, compared to the EBT bums we are creating today, a “thrifty working class” is just what we need. 🙂

        • Kung Fu Zu says:

          I used to like “It’s a Wonderful Life”, but as I have grown older, I find it less entertaining.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Then we shall just have to introduce it to you again.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            I am a very odd bird, Mr. Kung. I do not believe all the stories in the Bible. But I can tell you with some assurance that we are in this world but not of this world (a paraphrase of John 17).

            The trait that leads people to black Friday madness is that they have no other measure of their life than their possessions. I don’t even think this is a case of “keeping up with the Joneses” gone wild, although there is probably some of that in it.

            In this culture, most are missing a noble philosophy. We are a lost tribe again. People are grasping for the only thing that has real meaning in their lives. Trinkets. And I love my electronic trinkets as much as the next guy. But they are just tools. Fancy tools, but just tools all the same.

            Man has been hollowed out by the doctrines of “Progressivism.” It’s reported that we all have a soul. But you wouldn’t know it by how most people act. What we see in this black-hearted Friday is nothing more than man, the animal, unleavened by any nobler or deeper purpose in life. He is of such a materialist mindset that his body itself becomes a blackboard to try to stretch who he is. And he cannot face a moment alone. iPhones were invented for this man.

            We all face this same thing. And mostly we all fail to some extent. But our culture isn’t even trying at the moment. We seem to be doing all we can to be shallow, meaningless, vulgar, and transient.

            “It’s a Wonderful Life” is not titled “It’s an Ideal Life.” What makes this movie so good is that parts of George Bailey’s life sucks. He yearns for something more, which is understandable. He sacrifices for others, almost out of habit rather than nobler impulses. It’s who he is.

            But he is worn down by life as most of us are from time to time. Few of us get an angel to show us what the world would be like without us. And perhaps most of us would fear to have a Clarence swoop down and show us, for maybe indeed we did not matter much.

            But what happened to George is he was shown how he did matter, using a measuring stick that George had forgotten, had taken for granted, or never knew existed.

            It’s a cold, cruel world much of the time. And it becomes colder and crueler when we let go of our higher aspirations and just give in to it. This is what happened to George when, filled with despair over a mere few thousand dollars (How many big screen TVs would that buy?), he considered jumping into that icy river.

            George Bailey represents an idea, and a good one. It’s such a plain and simple idea, we often miss it, as he did. He had to be reminded. This movie is a wonderful reminder.

            • Kung Fu Zu says:

              The movie is a little to cliche’ for me. Potter is too black and George too white. Both are caricatures, with the Potter character being the less believable one. He is Scrooge in the early twentieth century without the redeeming quality of divesting himself of his wealth as he has not been visited by the Ghosts of Christmas. Money and success are bad and old Potter must be a crook as “how else could he have accumulated his wealth?”. But the slipshod handling of business and other people’s wealth is good, because one’s heart is in the right place. Intentions are what matter, not the consequences. Sounds too much like the Left’s rational for everything.

              The only time it is shown that Potter is a crook is when George’s fool uncle leaves money sitting on a counter at the bank and walks away. Potter then sees the chance to get rid of the Savings and Loan and it seems to me it is more for personal egotistical than financial reasons.

              While I believe the movie is essentially about George and his salvation, the movie is certainly shot from a Leftist perspective and condemns capitalism in a not so subtle way. Remember, this was shot in 1946, i.e. the year after WWII ended and the cold war had not yet started and the Dems had ruled the country since 1933. Roosevelt was still viewed as a hero and Leftism was still in vogue. The country was basted in an anti-capitalist sauce, but the Leftist goal of destroying the culture had not yet taken hold.

              While I am sure George would be a better dinner companion and nicer guy, I would rather have Potter investing my money.

              And as for Christmas movies, give me “The Bishop’s Wife” any day.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                The Wall Street Journal once ran a piece on various bankers discussing Bailey’s business practices. They found some good, but also some screw-ups.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                As my friend, Pat, told me the other day about the way George Bailey ran the Building & Loan, and I paraphrase: “He can run it any way he wants as long as he doesn’t expect to be bailed out if he fails.”

                And he’s right.

                Sure, Potter is a bit of a caricature, but there are people like that. And there are many more people like Jimmy Stewart. Even our idiot Pope is apparently buying into the “Potter” view of capitalism. But that is a smear, not the reality. The overwhelming number of people in business serve at the pleasure of their customers and need to stay in their good graces. That is why capitalism will always be the truly “social” method and state socialism will always be tyranny.

                George Bailey was a nice guy who valued his relationship with his customers. This is pretty common, although it’s a bit uncommon to have someone so damn nice that he would take his honeymoon money and use it to help his customers. But there are indeed philanthropists among us who would do that at a drop of a hat.

                But we’re losing that. The unwritten story (or, really, I’m sure Glenn has written it somewhere) is that welfare, socialism, and statism is a system that pits us at each other’s throats. We are all in a kind of nasty competition to suck at the teat of the state in that system. In business, competition is inherently mitigated by the needs to not only please your customers but to live in the same community with them. That is not so in regards to government, which is impersonal, and where it’s truly a zero-sum game. If I get something more it means someone else gets something less. It’s a nasty-making scheme if there ever was one.

                People really did used to drop everything to have a barn-raising for a neighbor. This is how people used to live in this country. The first colonists were usually members of a tight religious community. It’s statism, as well as being jammed into big, impersonal cities, that has made us all strangers to each others.

                “It’s a Wonderful Life” provides just the tonic we all need. I should have named the site just that, in retrospect.

  2. pst4usa says:

    Nice post Glenn. Just more signs of our times though, coveting what is in our neighbors cart goes far beyond Black Hearted Friday.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I’m not trying to steal Glenn’s thunder, but let me recount a story that my other brother told me a couple years ago.

      A couple years ago we had been hit with cold weather, snow, and prolonged power outages throughout the region. We’re not talking a Buffalo kind of cold. But it was miserable enough.

      My brother lives in the sticks and he came to town to look for a generator to run a space heater. He went all over town and couldn’t find a thing. It seems that others had the same thought. There were lots of shortages for candles and such basic necessities.

      But then he finally found a generator at a large chain store which had just gotten a shipment in. There was one left sitting on the shelf. He picked it up and starting heading for the check-out line. Out of the corner of his eye he saw some fellow with a dejected look in his eye. It was not a look of anger but one of despondency.

      My brother asked him what the matter was. The fellow told him that he had been looking for days for a generator all over town.

      Well, my brother says that the look on this fellow’s face moved him. He offered to let this fellow take the one he had gotten as the last one off the shelf. The fellow refused, but my brother insisted. The man then broke down in tears and told him of his sick young child at home.

      My older brother, being a pastor, believes that God had put him right in the place he needed to be. Maybe so. But what a difference from the typical stories of covetousness and greed surrounding Black Friday. There’s something to be learned from this.

  3. Timothy Lane says:

    We basically avoid shopping on Black Friday, since fighting crowds isn’t our pleasure. What’s really weird is that most of the shoppers, maybe all of them, could get what they want a day or two or a week later and still have plenty of time to ship them.

    As for Veruca Salt, after I saw the Gene Wilder Wonka movie, she impressed me as the model for Crybarry’s petulant personality.

  4. Kung Fu Zu says:

    I wonder how much of the pursuit after this junk is the result of the breakdown of families? Fathers playing ball with their children. Mothers reading to their kids? Even if there is a whole nuclear family with original mother, father and 2.2 children, it is apparently much easier to give the kids electrical appliances and tell them to go play, than actually spending time with the kiddies.

  5. Timothy Lane says:

    Responding to Brad’s late post today, I will point out that I’ve long described government spending as a zero-sum game. So it’s natural that it weakens social cohesion. Everything about liberal policy works this way, because it makes the government the ultimate arbiter of who gets what, thus maximizing the power that is their sole concern.

  6. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I walked into the belly of the beast last night. I live within short walking distance of Best Buy. So I walked to the store, which was a good thing because the parking lot was jammed and there was a circling line of cars already playing the auto equivalent of musical chairs, everyone trying to be in position to nab the next open spot.

    The crowd was tame, if packed. And if my Spider Senses are to be believed (and they regularly are calibrated to federal standards), the mood was generally good. There wasn’t any grabbiness on display. But it must be confessed that I got there late, perhaps around 7:15 or so. I’m guessing the store opened at about 6:00 or earlier, so this had less the feel of Black Friday than just another day of shopping, although very busy shopping indeed.

    I found a Blu Ray video in the bargain bin for $4.00 and picked it up. I browsed around the store for a while more seeing if there was anything that I didn’t know that I desperately needed. There were some good deals but not many killer ones that I could see. One wonders if the luster of simply shopping on Black Friday plays some kind of Jedi mind trick on shoppers, making them presume that all prices are way lower than normal. But gauging by the big screen TV prices, they seemed like everyday prices, if not a little more.

    I eventually put the Blu Ray disc back because when it came time to check out, the line was gargantuan and barely moving. Even in the best of times, Best Buy is not known for a fast-moving checkout line. I wasn’t going to wait in line for a half hour to save $3.00. The muted madness had apparently not got to me.

    But a little did. I bought a computer from OfficeMax last year. And ever since then I’ve received email ads from them. I’ve just never bothered to get off the list. And they had a very nice 128GB PNY USB 2.0 flash drive for $43.00 with free shipping. I tend to deal with a lot of very large files, so I ordered one online yesterday. And this could be the new trend in Black Friday. Why bother to fight the crowd (and the effects of the tryptophan) if you can just order online? Look for more of Black Friday to move to the internet. But without even the possibility of body-slamming a fellow citizen for that last big screen TV deal, can it really be called “Black” if you do this remotely?

  7. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Glenn’s on somewhat of a sabbatical. So we’ll dust this one off from last year…particularly because it’s that time of year again.

    And oh, god, save us from the retailer-Scientologists. You know the kind. The conversation goes something like this:

    Me: Where can I find the calendar section?

    Store Clerk Zombie: Have you heard about our new price club?

    Me: No thanks. I just came here to buy a calendar.

    Store Clerk Zombie: With our new Price Club Plan, you earn points!

    Me: I don’t want “points.” I just want to buy a damn wall calendar.

    I had that experience twice just last night at the mall while doing some early Christmas shopping. In fact, one girl said her well-practiced spiel (at Target) so fast (like one of those disclaimers at the end of a TV commercial) that I sincerely did not understand a single word she said. It just came out like one long syllable: Wouldyouliketosignupforourpointsplan?

    I must have given here a fully irritated look. I said “What did you say?” And she repeated herself, but this time not in 78 rpm but 33-1/3.

    I’m thinking of marketing a t-shirt that you can wear while shopping: “I don’t want your points. I don’t want to join your club. Just leave me the hell alone to shop.”

    A few weeks ago I had a hilarious exchange at the local REI sports store. I went in to buy some small item for my bike and went to pay for it at the check-out counter. It was the first time I’d been in the store. I swear, it was like an Abbot and Costello “Who’s on first?” routine. I kept saying “No thanks” when asked if I had heard about their special price club and she (why is it always a she?) kept ignoring me and telling me about it.

    Finally I got a little abrupt and just said something like, “No, I don’t want your price club plan. Ever hear that the customer is always right? What I want right now is to pay for my item and that’s it.”

    She finally shut the hell up. But I’m not exaggerating. That’s why I call them Store Clerk Zombies.

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