The day after Thanksgiving. No, wait. Thanksgiving.

by Yule Heibel on November 29, 2013

Today is Black Friday. It has for a long time been the start of the Holiday shopping season, and, went the thinking, if retailers could get shoppers into stores today – the day after our Thanksgiving holiday – they had a reasonable chance of getting “in the black,” that is, having a profitable season.

Black Friday was supposed to be a kind of litmus test that would indicate whether consumers were willing to spend enough in the remaining days of the holiday season to bring up retailer profits (or whether there would be any profits at all).

Well, that’s obviously all gone out the window because now some stores are opening on Thanksgiving. In a seemingly continuous non-stop race to the bottom, Thanksgiving, which had a certain magic about it because it was non-religious and non-gifting (i.e., not linked to shopping),  is now removed from that privileged place of non-consumption. Instead, it’s more and more a day like any other: Go forth and shop.

As one 18-year old Thanksgiving shopper put it while standing online with a pal at a suburban Chicago mall, “Thanksgiving dinner is over…  And there’s nothing else to do.” (source) I seriously expected her to say, “Thanksgiving dinner is so over,” that is: we’re not doing that anymore.

Which brings me to another pet peeve: the so-called politically correct crowd that gets its kicks from pointing out that white settlers screwed the indigenous population, that this happened at “the original” Thanksgiving, and that therefore all Thanksgiving festivities are a sham if not outright a white man’s plot to keep injustice alive.

I have news for you, dear Leftie comrades of mine: you are the latter-day stirrup holders of the bourgeoisie, except now you’re holding the stirrups for the oligarchic disrupter class. Your corrosive criticism of Thanksgiving as a “white man’s” holiday that somehow represents the oppression of Native populations is the hand that reaches across an ever-diminishing Thanksgiving gathering table to shake the hand of today’s ultra-capitalism.

Hey, if Thanksgiving is just a sham, if Thanksgiving isn’t actually the nice holiday we were told it was, then why not turn it into a day like any other? And so the capitalist disrupter smiles, sits down to his fully-larded table, while the rest of us are harried into ever-greater sacrifices …for the effing economy!

Excuse me while my head explodes.

To whit: yesterday I read an article in one of my favorite news sources that claimed it was ok to shop on Thanksgiving because the economy needs it. (source) Who is this “economy” and why does it need my blood? Ok, that’s a silly rhetorical question because of course I know why it needs my and your blood. But really? This is the best case the writer can make? It was also interesting to me, an immigrant twice over (first to Canada, then to the U.S.) to see the author, who was born in the U.S. but is of Indian extraction, born to immigrant parents, bolster her case this way:

Some countries actually embrace the US system of more work, less pay. Multinationals especially deal with large variances in different countries’ holiday calendars. Their solution often is to offer a more liberal number of personal days so employees can pick and choose the holidays of importance to them. In countries such as India—which, like the United States, has a polyglot of faiths and cultures across its workforce—some state governments have been trying to limit the number of official holidays. [emphasis added]

Well, if you don’t celebrate any religious holiday, I’m fine with that. But Thanksgiving was never an expressly religious holiday – it has nothing to do with “polyglot[s] of faiths and cultures.” It was simply a holiday: a day to stop, cook a good meal, sit down together, break bread, be peaceful (just for a bit), and give thanks. That’s all.

But now, here we are: in all, Thanksgiving has been “exposed” by my Leftie friends as a vile white man’s holiday whose origins lie in the oppression of Native populations; youthful “innovators” tell us that the economy needs us to go shopping; and “disrupters” of all stripes tell us that we live in an age of extreme personalization, whether it’s in the Quantified Self movement or our social media personae, so why shouldn’t I pick and choose the holidays, too? I mean, isn’t social media all about creating my tribe, man, that ultra-personal self-expression of mine that’s just about the effing same as everybody else’s, except I can spend personalized money on mine? If I’ve got my tribe, why should I bother with something as corny (and destructive to our holier-than-thou 1%-enriching economy) as a non-gifting, non-shopping, boring old dinner-based holiday? (And by the way: if everybody is off in their personal and personalized tribe, there will be no more unions, and without unionized bargaining power, there will be more oppression of people, irrespective of whether their skin color is white or brown or black or anything in between. Continue to splinter into tribes, children, and The Man will eat your effing lunch.)

As for the argument that shopping shopping shopping consumption consumption consumption is absolutely necessary to keep the economy going, ask yourself what kind of economy we’re enabling. Heck, back in the day that swine Henry Ford at least made sure his workers made enough money to buy a family car. Today’s equivalent industry moguls? Not so much. (see this) We’re all in love with the Creepy Crawleys of Downton Abbey, worshiping their wealth and “glamor.” But even they took better care of “their” workers than the Waltons of Wal-Mart do.

Was tun? you may ask. Well, there is Buy Nothing Day, although I have to admit it always sat the wrong way with me (not sure why).  And there’s the buy local movement (see Katrina Scotto di Carlo’s excellent talk at Portland Oregon’s Creative Mornings).

Beyond that, it’s up to government and law makers to create protections for workers. Not sure however that there’s much to be done about the sheeple who take advantage of all the glorious opportunities to buy ever more junk no one (not even they themselves) need.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Yule November 29, 2013 at 2:27 pm

By the way, the article really did say “Some countries actually embrace the US system of more work, less pay.” Less PAY. Not less play. Might be a typo, but how fitting, regardless.

maria November 29, 2013 at 4:06 pm

Great rant! 🙂 I am so staying away from shopping, but then, I am staying away form a lot of shopping anyway these days. I did spend money at my local restaurant for a meal yesterday … and after watching the link you had put up on FB to Katrina Scotto di Carlo’s talk… I am more determined than ever to continue buying as local as this is possible. It made me sick watching the news last night, where they showed hundreds of people lined up at the cash registers at those big box stores, like sheep at slaughter. The truth is (and even the Wall Street Journal says this) the majority of those “bargains” are illusory at best.

And don’t even get me started on Thanksgiving being the white man’s oppressive holiday … but a lot of these controversies flaring up are great diversions and easy ways to divide and conquer, aren’t they? Yes, it’s up to government and law to protect workers… but with government distracted with the ‘divide and conquer’ political processes, the social contract, or civilized customs, go the way with civilized holidays….

Meanwhile, the populace is standing in line for the bargains, and even in those lines for hours, rather than talk to each other, they are probably busy texting, SnapChatting, Instagramming with their virtual pals 🙂

Yule November 30, 2013 at 8:59 am

Thanks, Maria! Isn’t the Katrina Scotto di Carlo talk fantastic? And there’s that infographic produced by (a Cambridge MA company), which argues the case for locally made products (I posted that to my Facebook wall – fully public, for those with whom I haven’t, er, “friended”). …Admittedly, it isn’t possible to buy only local all the time, but every little helps, adds up.

Oh, and there’s this very interesting interview in Wired with Vaclav Smil, This Is the Man Bill Gates Thinks You Absolutely Should Be Reading. Powerful thoughts on our country’s manufacturing ability…He’s also a bit of a polymath, which reminds me of that other great article in Aeon, which I think I posted to my FB wall and also bookmarked to Diigo, in which case it will be posted to this blog tomorrow.
Smil answers this question:
Q: Can IT jobs replace the lost manufacturing jobs?

A: No, of course not. These are totally fungible jobs. You could hire people in Russia or Malaysia—and that’s what companies are doing.

Fungible is the key thing. Maybe we thought we were moving into a world of personalization and customization, but no. It’s (also) a world where people are increasingly fungible – exchangeable, and therefore also disposable, just like in the bad old days of collectivism and Leave-it-to-beaver style conformism. Maybe that’s our default mode, and the hard work of art and thought and humanity is individuation …which current capitalism has captured in the “cool” push to tribalization and bro-culture (and whatever female variant thereof exists) and so on. Submerge yourself, submit, don’t think, follow political shibboleths. Same old same old, perhaps. 😉

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: