Last week Friday, South Africa survived its second-ever Black Friday. We are still reeling from the aftermath.
As if shopping isn’t bad enough already, on this day, crowds jammed the aisles, the checkouts, the parking lots, the walkways throughout the mall. People clogged every artery of each store. No one could move. Everything was sold out. People were fighting and screaming and heaving with displeasure at missing out on their 10% discount off whatever.
What is Black Friday?
In the United States, the day after Thanksgiving is a day when stores show their appreciation for their customers by applying a small discount to their merchandise, making it easier for everyone to stock up for Christmas without going into debt – in other words, their credit can (theoretically) stay in the black, not go into the red. Hence: Black Friday.
Here’s the problem …
People go CRAZY over Black Friday sales. The stock on sale is usually imported for less than the regular store lines, and it usually isn’t the best quality. So the perceived discount is little more than a panacea covering the
The stock on sale is usually imported for less than the regular store lines, and it usually isn’t the best quality. So the perceived discount is little more than a panacea covering the sale of potentially defective and certainly substandard stock.
But it’s more than that: the trend completely reinforces and ingrains consumerism as some kind of virtue. It’s touted as being, at the very least normal, but possibly even thrifty and wise to go and spend a tonne of cash on a Black Friday sale. You don’t need those things, people! Let it go. It’s not a genuine saving, and it’s not worth the press of flesh, and it’s definitely not necessary.
The implication is that buying things – for ourselves and, more so, for the people we ought to be giving gifts for – is a good and noble affair. Why ought we buy gifts for anyone, ever? Why are gifts more valuable than time together, or service of some sort, or at least, something made with love, by hand? But more than that – why gifts at all? Why do we feel obliged to buy gifts on certain days, rather than random thoughtful surprises throughout the year?
It goes beyond that, though. We are not American. This is not the USA. We do not celebrate Thanksgiving. So why in the world would we “celebrate” Black Friday? It’s like we’ve imported just half of the holiday! I mean, I can sort-of get behind a holiday that’s all about being grateful, but one that’s all about spending money and consuming stuff? Nope. No way.
However, I can only sort of get behind that holiday, because it’s actually a terrible holiday. Yes, we should be giving thanks. All the time. We are all, in some way, generously and abundantly blessed. Just having fresh air to breathe each day is actually amazing, if you think about it. And I am very grateful for that and each of the blessings in my life.
But Thanksgiving is the day US citizens rejoice in taking over the land of the native Americans and systematically destroying ancient cultures across an entire continent. How are we okay with that? More to the point, how are we, in South Africa – the land of freedom from oppression and setting right the ancient wrongs done by colonialists – okay with celebrating the aftermath of a holiday dedicated very specifically to the exact thing our entire country is built on not doing?
It’s ludicrous. And it’s definitely not okay.