Once again Thanksgiving has come and gone. Many of us were lucky enough to come together with our families and loved ones and relax in a rare moment free from work. When the day ended and many people began to wind down, millions of others across the country left their homes to participate in the yearly ritual known as Black Friday.
This year, in their attempt to get more shoppers, many big name stores opened their doors even earlier – at 12am on Friday. This meant millions of workers were ripped away from their families on Thanksgiving to work the stores. And others either left early or skipped Thanksgiving dinner altogether in order to try and get to the stores at opening.
This year’s shopping ritual shows the insanity of this economic system clearer than ever before. Millions of people across the country have been evicted and become homeless. Tens of millions of us have been fired from our jobs and can’t find any work. And as most workers are more broke than ever – the message to all of us is to go shopping because it will make us feel better.
Tens of thousands of us across the country are being met with the brutality of the police for protesting a system that favors the banks and the corporations and the super rich over the interests of working people. Police have been using teargas and pepper spray to break up peaceful protests. And harmless encampments of protesters, the homeless, and some of the most destitute in society are being ripped down by the police and those camping out are being thrown in jail.
Meanwhile, other encampments have been popping up across the country this past weekend. Only these encampments are encouraged by the media and the politicians – and are even protected by the police. These are the mini-villages of shoppers, camping out in store parking lots, waiting to be the first ones in line for the hottest new deals.
At a Walmart in Los Angeles, a woman pepper sprayed 20 people in order to be the first in line to get a deal on an Xbox. In other cities there were broken windows, robberies, two shootings, and a near riot over two-dollar waffle irons.
There’s something wrong with this picture. Most of us are making less money and doing more work than at any point in US history. So that means we’re spending more time at work, away from our families. We’re more stressed out from all of the extra work. And on top of it, not only are we making less money – but we’re spending more on basic necessities as we just barely scrape by.
The cure for all of this is supposed to be to spend more money shopping – just handing even more of our wages back to the bosses and the bankers. Since we don’t have enough time to spend with our loved ones – we’re supposed to buy each other’s love with presents. Since we’re so stressed out, we’re encouraged to buy ourselves gifts to feel better. And if we can’t afford to buy love and happiness, then we’re supposed to tap into any savings we have or go further into debt. And if we are unwilling to do this – then we should feel ashamed because we’re told there is something wrong with us.
And who benefits from this kind of sick logic? The very same banks and corporations that are making record profits off of us – the 1%. First they take our money by laying us off and foreclosing on our homes. Then they take our money by making us do more work and lead stressful lives. Then they take our money when they convince us to buy products we don’t need to make ourselves happier and show our love for one another.
Black Friday is just another symptom of a system run solely for making profit – no matter what the costs. Profit at all costs – even if the costs are our health, our families, our relationships, our sanity, and our lives. The problem is not us – it’s this system that doesn’t work for us.