Why are all my Facebook friends wishing each other Happy Thanksgiving and jumping up and down about Black Friday? Most of them are either Canadian or from abroad. I give a pass to the maybe 10% who are shouting out to their American friends or family. The rest, I can only conclude, are going to bed dreaming vicariously of Blue Rays, iPad minis and even flatter screens. This, people, is how the world ends.
Nero fiddled. Marie Antoinette ate cake. Mr and Mrs Smart Shopper go deeper into debt, buying cheap electronics and even cheaper clothes made in countries where there are no words yet for “living wage.” Over 250 million Americans do this on the appropriately named Black Friday – entire families together as if hunting on the savannah. They split up so each member, credit card in hand, can wait in line for hours, argue at the clearance bins, and elbow competition at the check out. Oh yeah, and kill each other.
Just when and how are things supposed to change? To get better? To turn a corner? 9/11 didn’t do it; a few countries just got decimated instead. Hurricane this and tsunami that didn’t do it, no matter that children in Japan are growing tumours and people in New Orleans still don’t have anywhere to live. The entire Gulf turned black with oil but, hey, we got over it. And as for that so called Great Recession of 2008, well the wrong people are still in jail and the misguided people are still out shopping up to their eyeballs.
This kind of rampant consumerism does not become us. It is beneath us. Charging through doors, shoving past each other, stampeding to the ½ price table. It is obscene. These people, many of whom identify with the empowering 99% label, are not getting their mojo back by trucking home a fridge they don’t need or a computer for their 6 year old. What they are doing is adding to the problem, they are the problem. The problem is us.
We don’t need more stuff. We don’t need smarter shopping. We don’t need to get deeper in debt. We don’t need to continue off-shoring our economy. We don’t need to create more landfills. We don’t need to use developing countries as our personal fun factories.
This “economy” that we are all beholden to, that we all willingly prop up, is an illusion. Haven’t we looked behind the curtain often enough to see the tiny wizard men blowing smoke and mirrors? The enormous economic growth of the past 25 years, for example, has only made things worse for just about everybody. That’s me and you, kid.
And it’s not like any of this is a secret. What’s more, the entire global Occupy movement was predicated on us taking the blinders off. And yet, a good deal is hard to resist, isn’t it. That’s what Suprenant and his fellow plate skimmers have said, and clearly they speak for the people. They are the 99%.
What do we need? I’ll leave you to answer that for yourself, but first you have to look long and hard in the mirror. I bet what you need is not a thing at all, and I bet no thing will ever substitute for what will truly make you happy.
Leila Marshy is Editor of The Rover.