If you’re rooting for humanity to survive much into the future, then you’ll surely find yourself on the opposite side of the holiday shopping season from America’s big retailers. If they’re rooting for more sales, you may be rooting for consumers to buy less.
People who care about climate change and peak oil want industry to stop trashing the planet. But industries that make money from selling stuff that the rest of us don’t need have other priorities.
Environmentalists might’ve rejoiced that Black Friday sales were down 13.2% this year. Buying less means that people use fewer resources and cut down on waste and pollution.
But most global retailers aren’t interested in humanity’s prospects for the next century. They’re interested in their own balance sheets for the fourth quarter. So if you say that Black Friday sales were down, Big Retail would happily answer back that more people went shopping on Thanksgiving Day itself, putting overall weekend sales up a couple points over last year.
What they pay PR companies for
Yet, I’d like to think that protests by unions for better wages or by activists against excessive consumerism might have kept some shoppers home for ethical reasons.
Apparently, somebody in the retail industry was also worried about protests.
A shadowy anti-union website with ties to a former Walmart executive put out a video telling shoppers to ignore anybody who told them to shop less this year. “This Black Friday, just buy your gifts, not their lies” advises the amateurish video from Worker Center Watch, “Black Lieday 2013.”
The video makes for a good laugh. Its stars must be the most surfer-boy-looking activists east of Laguna Beach or Van Nuys. No dreadlocks or tie dye T-shirts for these slacker-dude Occupiers.
And if the woman pushing the shopping cart is the hero of the piece, then she’s standing up for the well established American right to buy stuff you don’t need without some socially responsible a-hole trying to make you feel guilty about it.
This lady is the American Everywoman, a fighter for the freedom to shop.
And it’s all in the grand tradition of George W. Bush, who will go down in history for urging Americans after 9/11 to show the world that the terrorists can blow up our buildings but they can’t cut up our credit cards.
Doorbusting for Jesus
Yet again this year, back in the reality-based world, the moral tone set in the stores on Black Friday was less heroic than tragi-comic.
For proof, it’s hard to decide which video of a “doorbuster” sale is a more disgusting example of holiday bargain-hunters trampling their fellow shoppers as they push, kick, scream and claw their way to deeply discounted iPhones, Xboxes and big-screen TVs. For example, this video from ABC News includes a shooting and an arrest but still manages to sound jaunty about big doorbuster deals on hot electronics.
It’s enough to turn a secular humanist into a follower of the anti-capitalist Pope Francis.
Only at the holidays can you witness Americans displaying all the Seven Deadly Sins at the same time with the full blessing of both Caesar and the Pharisees. Joyeux Noël!
After all, it’s the time of year when Americans celebrate some homeless guy from two thousand years ago who hassled pay-day lenders, fed people for free on local seafood and ancient grains, and basically observed Buy Nothing Day all year round.
Freedom from shopping
Against itself, this clumsy video points the way to the real heroes of the holiday season: unions who stand up for underpaid workers, activists who stand up for maxed out consumers and the Occupy movement itself. Though the mainstream media would have you think that Occupy died when Mayor Bloomberg cleared Zuccotti Park, Occupiers around the country have been keeping busy.
These days, Occupy is doing less protesting and more helping. For instance:
- Through Rolling Jubilee, Occupiers have bought nearly $15 million of Americans’ personal debt, freeing thousands of cash-strapped families from their bills (mostly medical).
- Occupy Sandy stepped in when FEMA failed to arrive, providing supplies and medical assistance to East Coast communities devastated by Superstorm Sandy.
Meanwhile, when it comes to Black Friday and holiday shopping, perhaps no voice has been more eloquent in spreading Occupy’s message that we can all free ourselves from corporate control by shopping less than Reverend Billy.
Rev. Billy is a performance artist who rains fire and brimstone down on the banks and big marketers who continue to push the consumerism that makes us all complicit in climate change and the extinction of species like the golden toad.
His 2007 documentary What Would Jesus Buy? is must-see TV for anyone who worries about commercialism of the season. If he can stay out of jail, look for the Reverend to lead his Church of Stop Shopping choir in front of busy stores this holiday season.
– Erik Curren, Transition Voice