Time flies, and as I write this, we’re now just slightly more than a week before Christmas. Here we are, and of course it’s a few weeks past the burst of insanity that now seems to be referred to by the phrase “Black Friday” as if it’s some standard cultural feature day now. Unfortunately, I suppose that for many Americans, it is, now.
Evidently, the newest developments in that mass mob insanity have had this madness completely take over the Thanksgiving Day holiday. Even if people avoid getting sucked into that mob lunacy, the basic fact of that scenario is that for people working in the corporate retail stores that do this, for them the Thanksgiving holiday is ruined completely. I do hope that anybody reading this has rejected that perversion of a day of reflection and human socialization and goodwill.
Talking about this is a little weird, contemplating a puzzling and unhappy thing, that so many people here in America seem to be perfectly willing to play along with the ugly lunacy. It’s an obvious sign of a broader obvious thing, that being that way too many Americans have willingly let themselves be manipulated into the game of being thought of, not as people, or even citizens, but as consumers.
It isn’t hard to notice. Pay attention to yapping in the public realm and notice how often you find people babbling about “consumers” and how often they use the word “people” (or, in the domains of politics and government, the word “citizens”).
It’s revealing, to notice how much of the endless babble about economic matters, particularly “economic recovery”, contains some variation on the theme of grand statements about getting consumers consuming more. Get out there and buy shit you can’t afford and don’t need. Combine that very same stuff paired up with people shoveling out bullshit selling the contention that it ruins “the economy” to have people being paid a decent living in exchange for doing good useful work, and you have a clearly malfunctioning knot of thinking, or what passes for thought.
There’s an online discussion in a web forum that was revived again, after the discussion thread had started a couple of years ago, after an Australian regular in the forum posted a note with a link to a story about that year’s insanity of “Black Friday” here in the US. The thread returned to life when the same guy posted a note pointing to a story of this year’s circus, which has only gotten worse, even more bizarre and ugly. It should not come as a surprise that the paraphrased general essence of his comments was “what the fuck is wrong with you people?“.
I’ve offered my own thoughts there. One was that I think quite a lot of this twisted behavior comes down to something that applies to more than just this particular corporate/consumer frenzy. It’s a mass psychosis of some kind infecting us, that revolves around, basically, pretending we’re much more wealthy than we really are.
I’ve been mentioning small and local business. It’s worth noting that if you find some Black Friday shopping frenzy marathon, it is, unless there are some exceptions I don’t know about, going to be the action of some large corporate retail behemoth, a decision made by office dwellers, well up the corporate heirarchy, who don’t actually have to deal with it. These kinds of things come from people who seem to have detached themselves very well from the effects of these things on any given local community and the people there, or, for that matter, from any real grasp of the very idea of communities. Places where we think in terms of communities (or at least they used to be thought of that way) are now thought of, in the realm I’m talking about, as “markets”, each just a line item entry in a report to be perused at corporate headquarters.
Thinking about these things is not some kind of sentimental nostalgia. It’s about functioning human life, or dysfunctional alternatives. We’re now in a period when I think a large majority of Americans, if you mention small business, tend to think of this as some sort of fringe margin realm. I suspect most people in this country think of the idea of “small business” in terms of “ma and pa” little retail shops, some kind of quaint little anachronisms, or quirky niche businesses. Judging from what I see, I think it’s fairly certain that most Americans these days are so immersed in the idea that everything in life revolves around big corporate commerce, from retail trade to everything else, that it’s almost a foreign concept to think that everything was once small and local business. It’s especially weird to them if you try to tell them that things are going to need to be more small and local again. What? What madness is this?
Here in this time, this place, people seem to have been thoroughly programmed like remote control consumer robots operating on the basic notion that corporate business operations and daily commerce are all and everything, in all things. People hold on to this as an unquestionable assumption, even as we’re living through a time when the complex dysfunctions of giant corporate commerce and organizations of massive size and scale are becoming more and more of a regular feature, a long list of serious problems.
So many people here in this country (people, not consumers) are so completely programmed in some form of mass hypnosis that even trying to seriously discuss all the dyfunctional problems associated with large corporate commerce, banking, and finance seems to trigger all kinds of reflex babbling about how somebody is supposedly some kind of Marxist communist who hates America, freedom, and the all-powerful mighty “Free Market”.
To get into the subject of “small and local” versus large massive overly complex entities and systems (including the whole idea of “globalization”) is to get into a very involved combination of many interrelated subjects,not some singular neat item. It’s a little similar to the problems revolving around the whole American post WWII phenomenon of suburban sprawl, in that it’s not just complex, but involves the difficulties that come from widely accepted presumptions of some things as “normal”, that, really, in the bigger picture of the history of human civilization, are in fact not normal at all, but a fairly recent state of affairs that are an anomaly.
Along with that, there is common ground in that these are things that run into the problem that they clash with the fairly common idea that for any given “issue”, that there should be an expectation that somebody needs to, and will, offer up some simple “solutions”, some magic that starts by saying “if we just do this…”, and then the problem issue will be “fixed”. We’re talking about things that require a load of corrections and changes in whole general mindsets and presumptions, and even then, that’s just a start, there’s no instant “fix”, like replacing a malfunctioning component in some kind of machine, and presto, there, it’s working again. A running theme of most of the things I often find myself writing about here is that we’re in a time and place in history where we have a batch of assorted needs to make some pretty substantial changes, on a very fundamental level, with the added element that there isn’t some switch-flip of a quick fix. We’re looking at unavoidable necessity to change some things that are going to probably be a slow long gradual haul, with a lot of complications.
The overall problem here has become more and more apparent, which is that the more complicated these problems get, the more people end up locking into some kind of simplistic refuge that avoids even understanding what’s what, never mind dealing with it.
That takes all kinds of forms, although offhand I think it’s worth repeating the point that right now in the United States a hell of a lot of these consciousness and cognition failures increasingly revolve around people simply attaching themselves to what they view as the right political club in herds of “Left” and “Right”, even as a whole hell of a lot of all that revolves around all kinds of problematic presumptions and cliches. The ugly dilemma there is that the worse somebody has themselves boxed into this kind of thing, the more intractable they are about it.
One thing that has been very interesting lately has been reading and hearing about the new head of the Catholic church, Pope Francis, speaking about some things and acting in ways that are remarkably, you know, Christian. What has been providing some extra interest here is the flurry of reactions to all that from some people here in America, who carry around some pretty firmly ingrained notions in their minds about society and politics and how they think things are supposed to be and how they live, that set up some pretty obvious cognitive dissonance as they go about things while holding some often pretty aggressively sanctimonious attitudes about what good Christians they imagine themselves to be. Pope Francis appears to be a severe shock to their system for some people. Good.
There are all kinds of severe cognitive dissonance conflicts in the minds of a lot of people, and I wonder if the new year of 2014 will see people snapping out of it, or digging in deeper. I’m hoping for the awakening option, so we can get on with doing a lot of work we have to do ahead.