Black Friday Blues

ahhhhh!!!!

Today is black Friday. Already there are reports of Americans behaving like animals. Somehow the promise of an extra 5% off turns people in savages. This day sickens me with its hype, materialism, and sheer gluttony. What’s worse, it follows a great American holiday based on thankfulness and sharing.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It’s uniquely American and celebrates our abundance and ability to share abundance. Families come together to break bread. Friends swap their best recipes. Thousands of people volunteer their goods and time to make sure those who usually go without, do not go without. It’s a grand example of how good we can be, in the face of poverty, brokenness, and even disaster.

I’m not homeless… I just really want another 60 inch TV!

Then at the stroke of midnight, we forget everything we celebrated the day before. People wait in the cold and rain to make sure they get the $175 HD flatscreen TV. People stampede for $50 smart phones. In total, it’s expected that $586 billion will be spent on material crap. Even though studies show that this crap doesn’t even make us happier!

When my wife and I served in Peace Corps, we celebrated Thanksgiving in Transylvania. A baker’s dozen volunteers descended into a small village with hard to find American confections like pumpkin pie, cheddar cheese, turkey with stuffing, and more. We came together for friendship, solidarity, and homesickness. We invited Romanian (and Hungarian) neighbors to share in our feast. The best part was explaining Thanksgiving.

We told them it wasn’t a religious or nationalist holiday. It was a day we set aside to give thanks for family, friends, and abundance. We celebrate with food and drink, laughter and comradery. None of us in the small house knew each other very well. But we were all far from home and thankful for what we had. Especially after two years living and working in a country that was still developing. Our Romanian and Hungarian counterparts thought this was a fascinating and wonderful idea. I agree with them.

word.

To me, Thanksgiving is the start of the holiday season. We are supposed to channel peace on Earth and goodwill to men. Rooted in Christian thought, it celebrates that the savior has been born. A savior that preached things like “do unto others as you would have done unto you” and “whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” Now, I am no longer a Christian, but these are still concepts that I respect and want to perpetuate.

It disturbs me that this season is kicked off with a giant monetary sacrifice to the great god of consumerism. We sacrifice our dignity, civility, and humanity just to save a few extra dollars. Which incidentally allows us spend even more money on more stuff!

I understand how important this day is for a struggling economy. However, I do not believe we (as a nation) should be dependent on constantly escalating consumption. It’s like taking poison in hopes of curing a disease. It perpetuates our debt, increases our waste, and doesn’t benefit anybody but the 1%. Plus, it forces people to work long, odd hours, keeping them from celebrating with their families.

This holiday season, do me a favor and rethink your gifts and spending. Instead of buying the latest and greatest i-product, use that money to help relieve suffering and poverty. Save the money and invest it in a socially responsible organization or mission. My wife and I don’t buy presents anymore. Instead, we make donations to organizations in the names of friends and family. It really is a gift that keeps on giving.  Don’t you think we could always use a little more peace and goodwill and less selfishness and greed? Let’s make it happen!

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About Justin Almeida

Coffee roaster, beer brewer, spirit distiller, capsaicin addict, active activist, peaceful warrior.
This entry was posted in Life and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Black Friday Blues

  1. bluegrasspb says:

    Excellent reflection Justin, and great anecdote about your time in the peace corps. I had my fingers crossed we wouldn’t see any gunfire over Wal-Mart parking spots, truly a sympton of our materialistic sickness. I also wrote a reflection about Black Friday–check it out if you get a chance:
    http://mindfulstew.wordpress.com/2012/11/23/step-back-from-black-friday/

    • Thank you for the comment. 🙂 When I worked in television news, Black Friday became one of those days where we just expected something horrible to happen. All hands on deck for that “breaking news” moment when some jerk goes crazy because s/he didn’t get the elmo doll they wanted.

  2. Maria says:

    So very true – “at the stroke of midnight, we forget everything we celebrated the day before” such a contradiction. Black Friday is also becoming known as “Buy Nothing Day”

  3. I have never understood Black Friday, but find it pretty nauseating as well. I think, too, we get awfully confused between “needs” and “wants” and in that lack of distinction, also lack any sense of proportion and gratitude for where we’re at. Well-written post.

  4. vkktori says:

    …and what about those millions and millions of overfed caged turkeys that can no longer walk because they need to be fattened for the kill?

    • Very true… Thanksgiving is just another reminder of how we need to change our food habits as much as our consumer behavior. Heather and I went local, free range, organic and chemical/hormone free this year and it was delicious! Check out my previous blog post “What Choice(s) Do I Have?” 🙂

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