So it’s the “Holiday” season here in the United States and I thought I would take some time away from all the mirth and merry making to document (and ridicule) all the absurd expectations that we as consumers are pressured to fulfill as we fly through this time of year, busy, stressed out and overwhelmed.
The Christmas Holiday season officially starts on the day after Thanksgiving, however anyone who lives in this country knows full well that retailers start stocking their Christmas stuff as early as September. I can confirm seeing Christmas lights and decorations in Home Depot for sale even before Labor Day. It seems the unofficial line to start Christmas shopping is right after the “Back to School” sales which amusingly start in July, even though most children don’t go back to school before the end of August or early September.
The shopping fun begins in earnest on “Black Friday” one of many unofficial Holidays invented by retailers that purport to give their “best” deals on this day. This is not accurate and you can pretty much start saving money on “Black Friday” specials usually right after Halloween ends in October. In recent years, many of the retailers have started their Black Friday specials on Thanksgiving Day, which is the day before the actual “Black Friday” Holiday. This has caused some consternation in this country as many traditionalists feel the Thanksgiving Holiday is meant for family time and they express their outrage on many a Facebook post. It is unfortunate that you could have to work on Thanksgiving, but I can say with confidence that the retailers would not pay their employees time and a half(by law) on that day if it wasn’t worth it to them. So while many turn their nose up at this practice, there must be many more who quickly gulp down their Thanksgiving meal and head right out to the mall or big box retailer to get their hands on some Black Friday specials before Black Friday “officially” starts.
To be fair, I can’t blame them. Black Friday is well known to be a grueling, stressful en devour. Every year the media treats us to such images of shoppers lining up outside of a store in the elements to be one of the first to get their hands on a deal. Every year there are stories of problems, traffic jams, brawls, and even deaths happening because someone didn’t look both ways before crossing a parking lot, or someone got into an argument and got killed over a Black Friday deal.
Don’t take my word for it. Here is a website devoted to documenting such events:
You may have noticed the casualness of how I mentioned that people actually get killed on this Holiday. They died shopping for deals on overpriced material items that are not necessary. Such is life in America. We don’t really care. Oh sure, you might see some social justice warrior with a website and an ax to grind rail about such things, but the vast majority of Americans just see it as something that happens in our way of life. The only other subject where I see such detachment from reality is the notion that more guns, more weapons, more powerful weapons, and more bullets in the hands of every American somehow makes us all safer when all research, logic and reality fly in the face of that notion.
The real kicker is that Black Friday is just the beginning. Then we have “Cyber Monday”, the first Monday after Black Friday where you are supposed to get all the best online deals. Once again, the term is misleading as “Cyber Monday” deals show up pretty much the entire month of December. After that is “Green Monday” which is the day when supposedly the most money is spent on Christmas shopping in a single day. Since retailers don’t know what day they make the most money is until after the Holidays, they seem to just pick a random Monday in December and that day becomes “Green Monday”. Again, sales and deals are not limited to just that single day, but throughout the Holiday shopping season.
While this may seem excessive, it really does not give an accurate description on how crazy the BUY BUY BUY BUY BUY A WHOLE BUNCH OF WORTHLESS SHIT CONSUMER messages get this time of year. It is relentless. Every day I receive messages in my Inbox announcing deals available to me. Every single vendor I have ever bought something from in my entire existence sends me things. I get Black Friday offers from companies where I bought one item on a one time thing that I will never do again. I don’t need a Black Friday deal on some backup software I purchased 2 years ago for a one time need and have never used again. But I get offers from that vendor announcing Black Friday deals on another highly specific, and unnecessary software suite they offer. I get Black Friday deals from charities I have donated to. Apparently they have special Black Friday deals where you can donate and get some useless tchotchkes in thanks for your donation. Of course the television, radio, internet, magazines, newspapers, billboards, public areas, buses, trains and hell, even sky writers all blast Americans with messages to remember the Holiday season and BUY BUY BUY!
I could write an entire dissertation on how we as Americans are indoctrinated from birth, sometimes even conception, to be a dutiful consumer and buy some shiny worthless shit we don’t need. It is the backbone of our entire culture. We are born and bred to get an education, get a job and start consuming. Fuck what they say about baseball, this is the American pastime.
I will close with 2 egregious examples of the insidiousness of the consumer culture this time of year and then let go of your ear.
One is that every year, Lexus, a luxury car manufacturer will promote their own Holiday shopping deal, called “December to Remember” This is where they push people to purchase a car as a Christmas present. A car! An automobile is usually the 2nd most expensive thing most people will ever purchase in their entire lifetime after a house. It can typically take 3-7 years to pay off such a purchase. Never mind the fact that a Lexus will cost you at minimum around $40,000. Yet Lexus does this every year. They even sell these giant red bows to put on the car that you purchased. Even I will admit that the bow is quite pretty, but please, buy a fucking car as a Christmas present?? Who does that? Well, some people must as Lexus does this campaign every single year. It must be successful because other car manufacturers have followed suit.
The second example is one that every man who lives in America will nod their head at in recognition. The large jewelry retailers will conduct adverting campaigns to influence men to buy overpriced jewelry and diamonds for their beloved at Christmas. They pull out all the stops and use every tool at their disposal to convince men that a small glass like chip of super aged and compressed carbon is all they need to fix whatever problems exist in their relationships, and the perfect gift to please their girlfriend, lover, wife, or significant other. They even push the notion of purchasing an engagement ring and doing a marriage proposal at Christmas. Essentially the jewelry companies are making the single most important decision of your life(who you will marry, and ostensibly live the rest of your life with) into a consumer purchase. It happens every year. Every year. Yet no one bats an eye. It is quite routine I assure you.
Finally, I will admit that I am not immune to the consumer culture of America. I too get all excited by the prospect of receiving some overpriced piece of technology that will allow me to live my life with just a bit more convenience. I LOVE my toys, there is no denial of that. I also enjoy purchasing gifts for my loved ones. It is an enjoyable experience to give someone you care about something that they want. Notice I have yet to mention the actual, supposed reason for this Holiday. I am an atheist so I am not speaking of the birth of Jesus Christ. Rather, I am referring to the notion that this is the time of year to reach out to your friends and loved ones, and spend some time with them, let them know you care for them, and appreciate them in your life. I do that, but it is an afterthought. Most of my time leading up to Christmas is spent figuring out what I need to buy and for whom. Once that is done, then and only then do I turn to the “real” reason for the Holiday. That seems to be some fucked up priorities. But what do I know? I am just an idiot consumer living in America.
Thanks for reading…