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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Boycotting Black Friday

The other day, I received the holiday catalog from Tiffany’s, world renowned jeweler with pricing closer to a compact car than a trinket to be worn on the body. The catalog came with a gift guide that was prefaced by an official letter from the North American Senior Vice President of the company. They began their holiday greeting with the following: “The Tiffany & Co. 2015 holiday catalog celebrates the spirit of giving with a carefully curated selection of beautiful designs that are sure to be treasured for years to come.”
This one trivial sentence, the one used to christen the holiday gift-buying season, really struck me, most namely the arbitrariness and misuse of the motto “spirit of giving.”
Call me a traditionalist or old-fashioned, but a pale aquamarine Tiffany’s box, perhaps containing jewelry that could pay off the first installment of my student loans, is not what comes to mind when talking about the concept of holiday giving.
In our culture of consumption, where shopping is synonymous with breathing, “giving” has taken on a whole new meaning. It is a meaning that now deeply disturbs me, thus giving me reason to boycott Black Friday.
For the past three years, I have refused to partake in the popular U.S. pastime of rushing into shopping malls for “deals” on the Friday after Thanksgiving. As a veteran of retail work, I can attest to the chaos that holds hands with the biggest shopping day of the year. This is where the behaviors of customers are more akin to a scene witnessed in the animal kingdom than a local shopping mall.
Shoving and trampling, stampedes of crazed shoppers in full offensive mode, and customers void of rationale and restraint are commonplace during this yearly celebration of capitalistic gains.
Is this what we have amounted to in the United States?
What does it say about our culture when physical harm upon another person is widely accepted and practiced, just to get our hands on a product? We have become consumed by our own consumption. This is not okay.
I would like to clarify that I am not opposed to consumption. As human beings, we require adequate amounts of goods and services in order to survive and thrive. I am, however, opposed to the consumerism that has come to epitomize our society and our national identity.
As a nation, our habits of consumption far exceed our needs. We are living with a heightened consciousness of excess that then fuels our obsession and compulsion regarding the accumulation of material “things.” To what end will we allow this consciousness, steeped in the all-for-profit ideology of capitalism, to mold and shape our priorities and values? Have we already reached such a goal?
Black Friday is only one of the countless ways we have allowed the almighty dollar to reign over our lives. This problem isn’t isolated to just one day out of the 365 available.
Annie Leonard is a former Greenpeace activist and the creator of the 2007 animated short, “The Story of Stuff.” Her video creatively portrays the effects of a consumerist culture, reiterating sentiments like the following: “[It’s] a particular strand of overconsumption, where we purchase things, not to fulfill our basic needs, but to fill some voids about our lives and make social statements about ourselves.”
I believe this to be the sad truth of our obsession with “stuff:” no matter how much we have, it will never be enough. We are in a rat race, always doomed to fail. When will we wake up and question this trivial pursuit of excess? At what point will we take a good hard look at our lives and see the true price of our excessive lifestyles?
So yes, I am boycotting Black Friday. Not because I hate crowds or because the general free-for-all terrifies me on multiple levels (although those are great reasons to boycott in and of themselves), but because I refuse to let “things” define me. I am taking a small, yet defiant stand against a culture that has manipulated and indoctrinated its people with the belief that our self-worth and happiness lie in possessions.
I don’t expect others to share my exact thoughts on the subject. Many are content out there, maintaining their current consumer habits. That’s fine. To each, their own. I would just like to pose one question to these individuals: Who are you without your possessions?