Black Friday makes for juicy news. We’ve all heard the accounts of people being trampled as greedy shoppers, driven foaming-at-the-mouth-mad by consumerism, race to pimp out their already lavish homes with a Black Friday superdeal. And this year, we have all been scandalized by reports that Black Friday is now encroaching onto Thanksgiving Day. Black Friday really is an appropriate name, isn’t it?
That’s what the news media—money-focused conglomerates which push the consumerist mentality more than anyone else—would have us believe. They thrive on the drama of the whole thing. But I’m not convinced that Black Friday is as wicked as all that.
I recently watched some footage of one of these Black Friday tramplings. It’s tragic. But what I saw wasn’t greed-blinded consumers trying to kill someone for the sake of a good deal. Sure, people were pushing to get into the store. And a few people even tried to step over the fallen. But crowds are crazy things. If you’ve ever been up close at a good concert, you know that the crowd moves and sways. It pushes and jostles. And as the crowd moves, people sometimes get tripped up. No one is trying to step on a human being—the people who are pushing the crowd have no idea that someone is on the ground.
What I noticed about the video is people pushing their way back into the crowd to help the fallen people up. A few shoppers looked back and then just kept moving, but let’s get real. They weren’t thinking, “Let them die! I’m saving $20!” They were thinking, “Oh no! Well, people are helping them up, there’s nothing I can do, I guess I can keep moving.” Call me an optimist, but I didn’t see the bloody hands and dollar-signed eyes that the media saw.
I stay away from Black Friday for two reasons: (1) I hate waking up early, and (2) I hate crowded stores. But I have good friends who love Black Friday. They aren’t greedy people. They are as wary of the consumeristic mentality as anyone. They head out into the disgustingly early morning and wait in lines for two reasons: (1) they are trying to be good stewards of their money, and (2) they think the whole thing is kind of fun.
Let’s not forget that many Black Friday shoppers are buying gifts for other people. That doesn’t sound greedy to me. Plus they’re going for the deals because they can’t justify spending x dollars on whatever product, but they believe the product is worth x – 100 dollars. That’s stewardship, not greed.
We should also remember that enjoying the good things in this world is not inherently evil. It becomes evil when we idolize those good things or fail to use them compassionately. My suspicion is that some of the people who have been camping in front of stores since the beginning of the week fall into this category, but I’m also sure some of them are doing it just for fun (though I don’t understand the draw). Very likely, the most idolatrous, consumeristic people are not participating in Black Friday at all—they’ll spend their money on whatever they desire as soon as they desire it, regardless of the price.
Having said all of this, I think that Black Friday does indeed represent a loss of humanity. But I’m hesitant to place the bulk of the blame on the shoppers. I’d say the dehumanization comes from the corporations and marketers who view people not as people, but as moneybags; corporations that do everything they can to manipulate human beings into parting with their money. Family time on Thanksgiving Day is not sacred to a corporation, but your money is.
The media and marketing superpowers that loudly mourn the loss of humanity amongst shoppers on Black Friday are the very entities doing their best to make us into something less than human. They want us to be consumers, spenders, and producers of wealth. But if we are careful to expose the lie in their marketing campaigns and cling to that which makes us human, we don’t have to become the consumeristic monsters they tell us we are.