It is now "the day after Thanksgiving," as it used to be called, or "Black Friday" in current language. I write this as someone who got a great night's sleep last night, and took advantage of the day off to sleep in, rather than to line up outside Best Buy before dawn. I appreciate a good deal as much as anyone, and I am certainly no stranger to shopping simply for the fun of it. But I resent the way that popular culture has determined the value of the Thanksgiving holiday to be the shopping deals the day after, and the way that the Christmas spirit of giving has devolved into a Christmas spirit of shopping. I resent that companies and corporations took at what was, at one time, merely the economic fact that the day after Thanksgiving and the Christmas season were profitable shopping days, and co-opted the day and season for further economic gain. What might have begun as a response to consumer's shopping patterns has now become something akin to an industry in and of itself.
The 100 Thing Challenge blog recently posted a piece entitled, "Give Thanks - A Black Friday Strategy." It challenges people to take seriously the "give thanks" part of the Thanksgiving holiday, and to allow the practice of giving thanks to become a strategy to resist the ethos of Black Friday:
“Give” as in actually give someone else thankfulness. Take an action that will result in another person having a reason to be thankful next year. Be bold and do this without going to the mall.The post lists a few suggestions for ways to give rather than spend. I found the concept quite meaningful, especially the statement,
Think hard. How many of the things that you’ve bought on previous Black Fridays (or at any time during previous holiday seasons) do you still cherish? Now, when it was your chance to share during Thanksgiving dinner, did you tell your family how thankful you were for getting deals last Black Friday? There are more important things than stuff.The choice to stay home, or to go out and do something other than spending money (playing games, going on walks, raking your neighbor's leaves, etc.) is also at the center of Buy Nothing Day, an international day of protest against consumerism.
And this is really what the heart of my Black Friday frustration is all about. I have nothing against shopping, gift-giving, or looking for deals. I don't think that "stuff" is always necessarily an enemy. But I do feel a tug in my heart to resist the ethics of consumerism that view me as nothing but a shopper who can be told how to think, told what to buy, and all under the guise of taking care of my needs, making my daily life easier/better, or increasing the quality of my life. I resist the idea that I am only as valuable as the money I spend. And so Black Friday feels like a good day to take a concerted break from the shopping machine to remind myself that life is bigger than my pocketbook, and that life is worth living for so many more reasons than scoring a great 4am doorbuster deal.