Monday, December 01, 2008

A Black Friday Indeed

I came one step closer to fear on Black Friday.

Economic malaises will come and go, darker times than these current have perhaps fallen on our nation and others. We have been disappointed by elections before. We weathered eight years of a spineless pathological liar and adulterer.

And how long has shameless commercialization overshadowed the holiday season?

People have been trampled underfoot by mobs before this.

2003, almost exactly five years past, an instance similar to the one that marred this past Friday occurred in Florida, also at a Wal-Mart, also killing a man.

1979, The Who concert in Cincinnati opened its doors for general seating to a thronging crowd that claimed the lives of eleven fans.

2000, fans of Pearl Jam killed nine in a crush in Denmark.

2004, 244 people died on their pilgrimage to worship Allah in Saudi Arabia.

And the morbid list goe on.

So, the death of a Wal-Mart seasonal in Long Island is nothing if not tragic, but nothing to get all prophetic about, right?

Realistically, yes, the death was an anomaly. The early morning rush on the Friday after Thanksgiving is traditional, if increasingly frenetic in the past few years, and similar crowds mobbed retail outlets all over America on Friday morning without the tragic results.

The Long Island incident wasn't precisely what disturbed me, however. Only one tragedy marred this particular crush of capitalism, but the scene enacted all across America at 5 and 6 a.m. is worth a second look, if you don't mind being depressed.

A visit to YouTube will grant you all the evidence of consumer mania you wish to observe and then some in this depressed economy. And it is this sociological phenomenon that gives me pause.

It isn't so much the over-commercialization, the greed, if you wish, of the retailers or consumers, nor is it the weird groupie behavior of the campers on the sidewalks outside Best Buy and Circuit City and, of course, Wal-Mart. It is what happens when the doors open.

I've no doubt that many who actually stepped over the body of Jdimytai Damou felt a pang of guilt, if they noticed, a fleeting distraught moment of panic as they wondered if they should stop, help.

I don't know what they felt. But I know what they did.

They kept going, and went shopping.


Food, medicine, warm clothes to keep out the cold?

The devil will be in the credit card receipts, but I'm willing to bet the mob wasn't lined up outside for markdowns on potatoes and blood pressure medicine.

It was for Wii's, flat panel TV's and X-boxes.

And what's most disturbing is this: The death was a statistical anomaly, but the herd mentality is not.

And to the point, if people behave such in search of non-essential Christmas gifts, how is it they will behave in something like a food shortage, another Depression, or a nuclear attack?

I think there can be little doubt.

To brush this off as an abnormal tragedy you must ignore the implications of it.

New York may be a strange place to most of us in fly-over country, but in reality the people who line up outside Wal-Mart in Long Island are not a whit different than those lined up outside Best Buy in Lexington, KY.

This mob that savagely trampled a man to death to buy a television is a cross-section of America. There is no reason to believe that any other crowd in any other city or state would have behaved any differently. You can tell yourself otherwise, just as you may view the Holocaust as a German moral deficiency, or even turn-of-the-century American eugenics as simply an appalling but abnormal chapter in our nation's history, but the truth is that you live in a country where abortion is legal, safe and common.

I don't for a minute believe that even one of that mob wished death upon a retail employee they had never met, nor do I believe they didn't care, but the momentary pricks of conscience were soothed by the actions of every one of their peers. Nobody else is stopping, it must be okay.

What is the likelihood of mob rule in the event of a national crisis?

Yes, I know, Y2K and all that.

But nothing actually happened on Y2K.

I'm not predicting anything, but I am saying that if a crisis ever comes that deprives the people of this country of essentials it is naive to expect anything but savagery.

And by the way, happy Thanksgiving.

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