Consuming ourselves to death…

Like pretty much everyone else I know I was horrified by the story of
the Walmart temp worker who was literally trampled to death by
over-eager shoppers on Black Friday. The reaction I heard from a lot
of folks was something along the lines of “what a horrible way to
die.” Well, yes. Being trampled is probably not at the top of many
of our lists of ways we’d like to check out. More horrible though was
the reason people were stampeding in the first place – the so-called
Black Friday sale at Walmart. Ugh. If I do have to be trampled to
death there are a few ways in which I could accept this:

1) The building is on fire.

2) A wild animal has gotten loose from its cage at the zoo.

3) I’m stupid enough to participate in the running of the bulls in Pamplona.

In each of the above cases I would still be roadkill, but at least my
family and friends would know that there was a good damned reason for
the folks who smooshed me to death to be running in a chaotic and
uncontrolled fashion towards me in the first place.

Getting killed because people are trying to spend money they do not
need to spend on overpriced garbage that has been temporarily
discounted doesn’t qualify as an acceptable reason to trample another
human being to death.

For several years I’ve made a personal commitment not to enter any
retail establishment on Black Friday. It’s unnecessary. That much
I’ve known for a while. Now I know it is also dangerous, so I’m even
more committed to avoiding this utterly absurd ritual of consumerism.

What strikes me is that, as a whole, our nation seems to have not
noticed that we are in a major economic downturn that was *ding*
primarily caused by thoughtless consumerism and abuse of credit. Yes,
we all spend too much from time to time, and honestly in a healthy
economy there is very little wrong with that, but this situation we’re
in today is the direct result of people buying things they well and
truly could not afford – complicated by the banking sector’s
willingness to extend credit to people who it could never reasonably
expect to repay these debts.

In such a time it seems to me that the best reaction would have been
to think very seriously about our spending this holiday season. I can
recall lean times when I was young where members of my family gave
very few gifts for the holidays. The funny thing is, those were the
years that I recall the gifts meaning the most. They were few in
number but well thought out and meaningful. What it seems like most
of my fellow Americans are doing this year is trying to use up their
balances on their credit cards before they have to default on them or
their limits are reduced. Thus the literal mad rush to bargains that
cost one man his life.

Susan Brooks Thistlewaite tackled this same subject in a column in the
Washington Post today. Give it a read
here
. She’s right on the money. Oh, and definitely read “The
Grinch Who Stole Christmas” to your kids.

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