Black Friday: Killing the virtues of Christmas

How exactly did Christmas, a holiday that’s supposed to be about generosity, giving, friends and family unity, become the epitome of American consumerism, greed and entitlement?

I believe the Black Friday mentality has a lot to do with it.

In years past, my holiday season has started off something like this:

After I’m done heaving down turkey, cranberry sauce and green bean casserole, it’s off to the Plaza lighting, and then I head back home to unwind before I head out to do my Black Friday shopping.

This year I decided to do things differently.

It probably has to do with how I’ve accumulated more things than I have use for, but I like to think of it as a new perspective I’ve gained with maturity.

In our time of economic distress and consumer uncertainty, retailers have become unprecedentedly aggressive in their Black Friday strategies.

A handful of items are sold at a loss to entice impressionable shoppers, who retailers hope will in turn buy larger quantities of marginally discounted items.

Cash-strapped consumers respond by taking off work to camp out in front of Best Buy and Walmart so they can snag their $200 40-inch flat screen TVs.

Some prefer to trample others (with their feet or their cars) and pepper spray those who get in their way, as one woman did in Los Angeles.

My friends’ Facebook statuses on Black Friday contained milder antics. One was about two women fighting over an $18 vacuum. Others were about people being pushed and shoved around trying to get into stores to snag their early morning deals as others, myself included, dozed through the night.

I am glad I missed out on Black Friday this year. Sure, there were probably a few deals I missed out on, but at the end of the day, I am more content going for a morning jog and reading

The New York Times than dealing with crowded stores, parking lot fender benders and hour-long lines at the checkout.

There is something to be said about contentment, and it’s a message many have lost.

The people I respect most are the ones who live within their means, not those who try to impress others with superficial displays of wealth and material excess.

My quality of life is not going to improve by purchasing a new Xbox or LED TV. People have lived thousands of years without electronic entertainment, and the world isn’t going to end if someone else snags the Black Friday bargain I was hoping to get.

Self-interest isn’t entirely a bad thing. The pursuit of profit and material well-being drive our capitalist economy. Businesses seek to maximize their profit just as consumers seek to get the most bang for their buck.

With this comes a simple caveat: in order for a civil society to exist, concern for the well-being of others must offset one’s self-motivation.

In our increasingly technology-laden, brand-conscious consumer world, it’s easy to overlook other people, and if this trend continues, it won’t be long until we are an anarchy of sociopaths trampling and pepper spraying everyone who gets in our way.

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