Deep, Dark Black

Sharon November 29th, 2008

I don’t have a lot of patience with consumer culture today.  Maybe it is that we still haven’t heard the news from Eric’s College roommate and his family, living in Mumbai, and we’re getting worried.  Maybe because I don’t necessarily want to be a member of the same species of people who trample folks to death to get first shot at the discount tvs.  Maybe I’ve just eaten too much and know how much wood I’m going to have to split to work off the cranberry bread.  I don’t know.  All I know is this - Black Friday will turn out to have been black indeed.  No matter how good the deals in your local mall, they’ll be better in February when all the going out of business signs are hanging out.  And then there won’t be nearly as much junk to spend on - which will be good, because most of us won’t have nearly enough money.

 Most of the most desirable black friday items were electronics, high tech gadgets designed to make your tv picture bigger, let you get your internet messages in the airport toilet, let you pretend to ski without actually getting any real exercise or allow you to make calls from right next to someone’s ear.  That is, all the stuff that has led to a world of people who don’t really know what to do with each other.  We spent Thursday reconnecting with family, and on Friday, we went to express our love by making sure we don’t have to do that again until next year.

I didn’t buy nothing yesterday, I admit.  It was too good a chance to take my kids to the science museum in Boston while I’m here.  So I bought tickets, half of lunch with friends at a thai-buddhist vegetarian restaurant, and while I was in the neighborhood, picked up a songbook for a friend, Goodnight Moon in Hebrew for another friend, and some sheets of beeswax for a homeschool project making Chanukah candles.  And I’m not claiming any level of moral purity as I sit here on my laptop.

But it isn’t just that it has to stop - and it does - did you see that we now have 73% fewer zooplankton than we did in 1960?  Nearly every sea animal or sea animal eating creature in the world is heavily dependent on zooplankton.  That’s why even if we could find a magic bullet to go on the way we could, it would just put off the inevitable reckoning.  But it isn’t just that it needs to stop - it is that it is stopping. 

The economy is a game of music chairs, and the chairs are disappearing.  When the music stops for each of us, and our chair is gone, for a time we will rely primarily on the resources we’ve built up now.  Those of us left holding the big screen tvs and the designer handbags will have them - or whatever their resale value is.  And those who have ties - biological or chosen - will have those.  The truth is that our consumer culture needs us to be isolated, fragmented, alone, empty - or advertising wouldn’t work, the nonsensical reasoning that we have to have this year’s big thing wouldn’t work.  The primary project of consumer culture is to drive us apart, to make sure we do not share, we do not combine resources, or even consult on how ridiculous the things we are being told are.  And it has worked magnificently.

The music is hectic, the chairs are disappearing, we’re going faster and faster.  And pretty soon it stops.  What will you have when it just…STOPS?

Sharon

44 Responses to “Deep, Dark Black”

  1. Tickmeisteron 29 Nov 2008 at 9:27 am

    I bought nothing on Friday because I wanted nothing. I must be
    insane.

  2. Jannieon 29 Nov 2008 at 9:36 am

    I was also appalled with the reports of trampling of an innocent worker in New York. However, here in Minnesota my friend and I waited patiently in line with hundreds of others for our local farm and garden store to open. The crowds were friendly, no one pushed ahead and we did get some fairly good deals. If we hadn’t found anything, that was OK too. We did manage to find a wooden toy box filled with wooden toys for a preschooler at a good price. Our tradition is to treat ourselves to an inexpensive breakfast and shop at a few stores at a leisurly fashion. People watching is great and everyone is in a festive mood.

    I understand that the commercialism of the entire venture could be challenged, but if it isn’t taken too seriously, it can be a fun outing.

    We love your posts and are relieved to have found a community of folks who are concerned about the earth’s future and are actually taking practical steps to confront and embrace what is inevitably coming down the track.

  3. nikaon 29 Nov 2008 at 9:56 am

    no shopping here - I think my natural self is miserly.

    My question is tho, if you have no money - how can your miser-self manifest?! Mine has had to struggle all my life (winks).

    Must have pennies to be able to pinch them.

    Just kidding. I have wasted plenty of pennies in my day.

    One year (2004?) I was part of the press push for “Not One Damn Dime” day and it was about facing the full brunt of American Denial around consumerism.

    On that day I found myself on the phone all day on call in radio shows, at the depths of this depravity I was on the phone, live, with Sean Hannity where he was berating me on national radio for this whole thing (was doing it as a favor for a friend - had NO idea what I was getting myself into) - I shared my story and he was stunned a bit and asked why a seemingly normal mom of two (and preg with 3rd) would be doing this (I didnt have the heart or energy to educate him on progressive values - he is too lost)

    By the late afternoon, I was on TV, explaining further.

    By the end of the day I was less than charitable with the bottomfeeder radio hosts who insisted on having me on their evening programs, figuring they needed to pile on where Hannity left off.

    I hung up and decided that I was speaking to what ever is the opposite of the choir and that it seemed simply hopeless.

    Denial, American Dream Denialism, is a deep and pervasive thing.

    It deserves everything it has coming to it.

  4. baker ladyon 29 Nov 2008 at 9:58 am

    Last spring there were police in riot gear holding off food riots in Haiti, India, Mozambique. CNN reported that people in Bangladesh were rioting over a 2-kilogram bag of rice that costs a poor family half of its daily income.

    And here we are, witnessing well-fed Americans killing each other over discount electronics. The man who was killed at the WalMart was allegedly stepped on by hundreds of people. Emergency workers who tried to save him were also jostled around.

    I don’t have very high hopes for a future in which there are no more PopTarts on the supermarket shelves.

  5. Lynneton 29 Nov 2008 at 10:10 am

    Yesterday I bought cat food (they really couldn’t wait) at a small local store, and we went to the library.

    I’m horrified by the death at the Wal-Mart. Even after people were told that an employee was killed by the crowd, they KEPT ON SHOPPING! The police had to run them out of the store. What’s wrong with people?

    Just say no. The insanity has gone far enough. Put that credit card in your dresser drawer.

  6. kathprepon 29 Nov 2008 at 10:19 am

    Oh Sharon, I share your despair this sad day. My daughter, who has been raised better, is annoyed that I can’t share her enthusiasm over an unsolicited catalog of clothes. My sister is talking about getting a hot-tub. My Jewish friends are in mourning over the India tragedy while another friend is worried that tech support for her ipod might be hard to access. How can I talk to her about this? Her ipod!!! Still, I will climb up out of this bleak place. I will go to our neighborhood pot luck dinner tonight and get some more donations to our sustainability group’s potlatch where all of the stuff is donated and you take what you want while no money changes hands. It is true recycling. I will take stock in the root cellar and make a cobbler from the peaches I put up in August. I will get a good book from the library. I will mull over some old seed catalogs and begin to plan my spring garden. I will sit in the greenhouse and nibble some parsley. Life will feel good, or at least better, for a bit.

  7. conchscooteron 29 Nov 2008 at 10:32 am

    “What will you have when it just…STOPS?”

    Lots of great memories of a life well lived. And a reasonable shot at making more for as much time as is left.

  8. Jennon 29 Nov 2008 at 11:33 am

    I did shop yesterday in non-thrift stores for the first time this year (although I’m in Canada, and we don’t have Black Friday in the same way). I seem to have gotten to a point where even when I’m buying things that are going to be good for my preparedness (mattress for friends to stay on, flashlight, crank radio, and canning supplies, none of which I’ve been able to find used), participating in the process still makes me feel horrible for a whole host of reasons.

    It was even worse when I got home and heard some of the radio reports of what’s going on in the world. I find it unfathomable that there’s such disregard for other people shown in these situations of consumption, and even more unfathomable that such things seem to be so important still, even with the world in the shape that it’s in.

    I suppose I can’t sit here and judge too harshly. I can’t say I’ve ever been in that exact situation, since shopping has never been my MO, but I have bought things, spent money where I shouldn’t have, and bought into the whole consumer process. But, at the same time, I recognize that this is madness - hurtful, isolating, hugely problematic madness that needs to be dealt with somehow. There is a better way, and after today I feel more committed than ever to helping to find it.

  9. […] Casaubon’s Book » Blog Archive » Deep, Dark Black I don’t have a lot of patience with consumer culture today. Maybe it is that we still haven’t heard the news from Eric’s College roommate and his family, living in Mumbai, and we’re getting worried. Maybe because I don’t necessarily want to be a member of the same species of people who trample folks to death to get first shot at the discount tvs. Maybe I’ve just eaten too much and know how much wood I’m going to have to split to work off the cranberry bread. I don’t know. All I know is this - Black Friday will turn out to have been black indeed. No matter how good the deals in your local mall, they’ll be better in February when all the going out of business signs are hanging out. And then there won’t be nearly as much junk to spend on - which will be good, because most of us won’t have nearly enough money. […]

  10. margareton 29 Nov 2008 at 11:37 am

    I worry about feeding and sheltering my child. We don’t have much, and my job as a waitress is dependent on food being cheap and people having disposable income. Yesterday I bought corn chips to go with the guacamole I made for a gathering of friends. I forgot to buy toilet paper, even though we were out, so it was a BYOTP event. No trips to the mall for me.

    P.S. Our restaurant (located in a tourist town near an outlet mall) was not nearly as busy as past Black Fridays. Tips were good, though.

  11. Shambaon 29 Nov 2008 at 11:42 am

    My heart goes out to the people in Mumbai the wounded, the dead and all those who are suffering because of the attacks. The death and injuries at the WalMart just made me ill. I didn’t read any of the detail after I heard the general infomation on some news somewhere. I’m sure the details would have made me even sicker.

    Conchshooter, I love your observation! I hope that’s my attitude for the rest of my life and i have quite a bit to go yet.

    As for consumer society, well it’s about to go it’s way, way away from us consumers.

    I ‘ll have to say I went out yesterday to a mall to see how it all looked, look at decorations and stroll through stores. I love going to public place at Christmas taking in the decorations and people who are there. I do it because I’ve always loved this time of year and I do like to “shop” which usually means looking at all the stuff but not buying much. and, yes, it IS possible to “look” and “shop” and not buy anything! I have few left to shop for these days so I’m hardly buying anything as a gifts.

    I’ll just be wherever doing whatever when it stops–if it hasn’t already!

    Peace to you all and comfort to the hurting,
    Shamba

  12. KatJon 29 Nov 2008 at 11:54 am

    I spent Black Friday gathering wood with my husband and 6 year old daughter out in the woods. It was a glorious, cold day. We had such fun, then came inside for a pot of lentil soup and cornbread that my older daughter had made. Our big Christmas present to each other is or little girl, because the adoption is final on December 8 (and we have waited so long for this to happen!) How can any toy or gadget compare with that? Adoption is expensive (and the lawyers seem to find ways to make it even more so), and we won’t have as much money anyway as a result to spend on made in china junk. Of course, she doesn’t watch any TV except occasionally PBS or on of her movies, and is therefore not subjected to the barrage of commercials telling her exactly what to ask for. When my older daughter asked her what she wanted for Christmas, she shrugged and said she didn’t know. I’ve already told her that she is MY Christmas present this year, so she’s pretty excited about that.
    Sharon, I do hope that your friends in Mumbai are alright. That is such a devastating situation, and makes all this trivial silliness about shopping almost criminal.

  13. risa stephanie bearon 29 Nov 2008 at 12:02 pm

    And there was the shooting at Toys-R-Us … what was THAT all about?

    … stayed home … built a bed on the south side of the house … painted … put leaves on the big new beds on the “north forty” …

    I have been taking books we no longer want to the community free box and gathering, there, books we do want, to bring home and stock the shelves with something-to-do-besides-watch-tv … as important in its own way, maybe as stocking with flour, salt, and beans.

  14. Brad K.on 29 Nov 2008 at 12:30 pm

    Sharon, what about buying board games - for interacting with adults? Friends and neighbors? With a House Rule - no smoking inside and no electronics? If someone wants to play piano or recorder - great.

    I would like to see restaurants and stores employ amateurs for background music. Maybe trade play time for meals as well as pay and tips. Or just meals.

    We do need to be careful, to keep booksellers and sheet music sellers in business. The copy of “Twice 55 Community Songs” I picked up at the flea market is mouse-eaten and faded (Copyright 1919). I mean, all three verses to “Taps”!

    I spent yesterday on a neighbor’s tractor, disking before last night’s rain.

    Blessings to all.

  15. Anion 29 Nov 2008 at 12:36 pm

    Yeah- the death at the Wal Mart following on the Mumbai attack- what on earth is wrong with us? Something is very wrong in this world for humans to act this way and I don’t know what will have to happen to turn it around, if indeed it is possible.

    Regarding the WalMart incident- I don’t have a clue as to how people can be that frenzied over obtaining a HDTV or a toy- to wait in line overnite and then stampede, running over innocent people as they go? Insane. We’re not talking about survival here- basic food and water- we’re talking consumer electronics. What I wonder is how people would react if the lines WERE for food and water? Is this how they would behave? We are no better than animals in that case.

    I would hope that some really good lawyer will sue WalMart on behalf of the poor man’s family- as they set up a dangerous situation. I would like to see all of these special shopping days ended- it is crazy to advertise specials that will only be available to those who push their way in first as they are limited in number- it is setting the stage for a tragedy to result. And what would induce people to act like this?

    As for me, I bought nothing on Friday- stayed home, relaxed, practiced some music I’m learning, read a book- a nice quiet day on the mountain-a long way from a mall thankfully!

    You know, on NPR they were talking about how shopping was going and they interviewed a woman who had purchased several thousand dollars worth of electronics- she said she was doing this for the economy- that if we don’t shop the economy is toast- how do we turn this around? This is the steady drumbeat coming from Washington as well- shop or else. I’m not hearing any recognition from elected officials that this is not sustainable and we can’t keep this up- we are destroying the planet(see the latest on Antartica??) It isn’t making us any happier either- shopping doesn’t fill the deep hole inside people either- how do we change this? I just don’t know….

  16. Philon 29 Nov 2008 at 1:12 pm

    Ani mentioned the common mythos, that “if we don’t shop the economy is toast- how do we turn this around? This is the steady drumbeat coming from Washington as well- shop or else. I’m not hearing any recognition from elected officials that this is not ”

    Over here in the U.K., the government has reduced Value Added Tax (sales tax to ordinary people) from 17.5% to 15% in an attempt to stimulate “the economy”. At a time when we should be increasing taxes, as our governments are going to need higher revenues to help the rapidly increasing numbers of unemployed.

    Go figure.

  17. Susanon 29 Nov 2008 at 1:14 pm

    I did do some shopping yesterday — blades for my jig saw, so I could cut holes in the recycled barrels I got from craigslist to use as rain barrels. Other than that I spent time with my kids and husband. I got about two more inches of a sock done for my husband; I really enjoy making socks but I really HATE making this pattern — it looks really great but I am not enjoying the tediousness of the making of it.

    I am buying some stuff this year, as I do every year, but the bulk of my holiday gifts will be home made as they usually are. Milk and honey soaps, socks, jellies, breads, etc. It seems kind of hokey, but my kids actually ask for this kind of stuff now that they’re older and on their own.

    I was stunned that poor man was killed. I couldn’t help but wonder how he would have spent his last night if he had had the slightest inkling it WAS his last. And I couldn’t help but wonder about the family he left behind. All for a TV/stereo/whatever. We will be lighting a candle at our next get together in remembrance of him.

  18. Stephen B.on 29 Nov 2008 at 1:31 pm

    I was going to comment on the Walmart situation here earlier, and in fact did so on some newspaper sites that had the story. Ultimately, it’s the shoppers that are responsible for stepping on someone to the point of death, but just the same, Walmart knows damn well what it’s doing, trying to create an atmosphere of excitement to drum up sales with these kinds of stampede promotions. It seems that if an associate is killed as a result of the chaos their endless advertising hype creates leading up to these early morning sales, then so be it. There is no mention of the lost associate on walmart.com and even on the main corporate site, walmartstores.com, one has to go to the news section to find even a tiny, terse, little PR statement on Jdimytai Damour’s death.

    I wonder how many more serious injuries and deaths have to happen at the major stores before the managment and/or government step in and say NO to more of these types of panic store openings? I’m all for letting the “market” sort it out, but frankly it also makes me want to write to some of my state representatives and see if Massachusetts can start regulating these promotions in light of this death.

    I have refrained over the years from bashing Walmart too much as we discuss sustainability and other social issues, and truth be told, this could happen at any store that sets up a situation in which hundreds of shoppers are at the door at the opening, waiting for a sale, but this was really bad. If anybody out there needed just one more reason to shun Walmart, this looks as good as any.

  19. Stephen B.on 29 Nov 2008 at 1:36 pm

    One more thing on the Walmart death…..This isn’t even the first time this kind of thing has happend. If I recall correctly, there have been several people injured or killed in store front stampedes in the last few years.

  20. Ameliaon 29 Nov 2008 at 2:10 pm

    A dear friend survived a horrid roll-over on Thursday with only bruises and a few cuts from the windscreen glass; that was a sufficient gift for me.

    DS is plowing through homework and looking after the neighbors’ animals; they’re in San Jose with their parents, preparing for the move into the addition they’re building on the back of their house.

    Things are shifting within my family: my SIL needs to go back to work, so my grandmother may be moving in with them to look after my youngest niece. Room will be provided by my eldest nephew moving out after graduation; he’ll be going to my sister in Austin.

    People may not be able to buy cars, but they’re willing to spend to keep them running: my brother’s shop is booked through the end of January and he’s had to hire someone to help with the work.

    My father has converted to the Church of Square-Foot Gardening and is taking most of his local parish with him; my mother may have found work closer to home.

  21. Chileon 29 Nov 2008 at 2:11 pm

    I’ll admit we shopped yesterday, but it was at a couple of thrift stores where there were no great deals nor frenzied crowds. I got an additional oil lamp for the emergency supplies as well as another small bottle for my home-made liqueurs. I had ZERO desire to participate in the Black Friday sales. (I did that once about 15 years ago and decided that it was insane. Never again.)

    And, as you say, Sharon, this can’t continue. I hadn’t heard the zooplankton number before but that is very scary. You can’t have a food chain if the most basic food is gone. Yikes.

    Back to sorting stuff for the yard sale next week. Getting rid of more unnecessary things will allow us to move into a smaller place (less expensive and lower energy requirements) and provide a little cash for the garden needs.

  22. Pat Meadowson 29 Nov 2008 at 2:14 pm

    The Wal-Mart stampede was very sad and shocking, of course. Not least because (obviously) the world’s richest company did not provide sufficient security.

    To put it in perspective, however, many Muslims have died in stampedes at Mecca during the Haj, when crowds were trying to get to their holy places. There have also been many fatal stampedes at Hindu festivals in India, when crowds were trying get into their temples to worship their Gods.

    The people at the Wal-Mart stampede were trying to get into *their* temple, to worship the God they have been brought up to worship (the God of Consumerism), the God that their politicians and leaders have instructed them to worship, over and over.

    Sadly, most people don’t question what they are told by their leaders, by some so-called Christian preachers who teach their parishioners that they deserve prosperity (which is directly opposite to the actual teachings of Jesus Christ, of course). They are told the same thing by television, many of their parents, politicians who exhort them to consume, consume, consume, and by society in general.

    Pat

  23. Karinon 29 Nov 2008 at 2:19 pm

    Yesterday, hubby woke early ad hung out with the kids and the person who cooked the feast (me) got to sleep late. We had a quiet breakfast of biscuits and cranberry sauce. Lunch was left overs and dinner was leftovers. We did not get in the car all day.

    I think it is a true testament to how damaged we are as a culture that; as many folks did, left their family holiday to stand in line for things. One question that kept coming to mind as I heard of 500.00 computers and 600.00 deals of widescreen tvs was how were these things paid for? It still seems like a large outlay of cash to me…go figure.

    That we would put the acquisition of things over the welfare of another human being is a sad and disturbing.

  24. Tanyaon 29 Nov 2008 at 3:02 pm

    Reading about the Walmart worker’s death depressed me even more than usual - it was so unbelievably sad. I can’t stop thinking of the spiritual poverty that is so pervasive in our country. I can speak from personal experience about the emptiness of “stuff” May God have mercy on us all. Peace.

  25. Shambaon 29 Nov 2008 at 4:19 pm

    I think we need to remember something here–the so called “consumer society” of the Modern Western World isn’t all the bad things that the world has ever known.

    It’s our time and our place in the space-time continuum so it’s hard to remember that there has been evil and good and people doing good and evil as long as there has been human civilization of any kind. And there probably was way before cities and agriculture and when we were hunter gatheres.

    It is discouraging to think that humans still seem to be unable to learn better from our own past cycles of poverty, war, violence, rebuilding and prosperity. In every time, in every place in the world, humans have gone throught these cycles. I don’t think we’re worse than humans every were but I’m so tired of us not seeming to be better so much of the time.

    So, a reminder to myself and all of use, remember the great souls of the past who have been great and good: Oskar Schindler, the German saving Jewish lives in the Second World War; the small groups Americans and Europeans who saved the lives of so many Chinese when the Japanese invaded there in 1937; many whites and blacks in the United States who saved black slaves along the Underground railroad. There ar countless of examples of great souls in the past and are right now in small parts of the world to the people and the world immediately around them.

    I’m not sure why I’m on my soap box today but I think I’m finished now–I hope I can remember my own words when I need them.

    Namaste,
    Shamba

  26. Erikaon 29 Nov 2008 at 4:33 pm

    Although the death of the Wal Mart employee grieves me, it doesn’t shock me. I work for Starbucks, and worked an overnight shift at a near-by outlet mall. The stores were to open at 12:01; when I got there at 9:30, there were lines and lines of people waiting outside stores. The most impressive line was outside the Coach outlet… I can’t imagine paying more than 15 dollars for a purse… and these people were in a snaking line over 100 yards long?! Starbucks was busy from the time I got there, until well after I left - a line stretching out the door and down the sidewalk, folks waiting half an hour for a cuppa joe. Most of the people were pleasant, a few were rude beyond comprehension, and most had their arms full of bags.

    On my lunch, I headed to the restroom. I waited in line for nearly 20 minutes. When I offered two very pregnant women my spot in line (we would just trade spots, they were about “10 minutes” behind me), a lady several people behind insisted it’s a “1 for 1 switch,” that if both pregnant women needed to “cut,” someone else would need to trade places. I wanted to make a scene, tell the woman she’s crazy - these women will probably stand in this line 3 or 4 times tonight, and you’re not willing to wait another 10 seconds for a toilet on your only trip here?!

    Most of the customers at the outlet mall were not Americans (the mall is about an hour from the Canadian border), so I wondered if the Americans were elsewhere, or if they were staying home to either “buy nothing” or because their budget wouldn’t allow for shopping…

    I think Pat M. made a very good point - about how many people have been trampled in the name of religion, and that, for apparently many, consumerism is the closest thing to a religion that they have. I could not imagine stepping on a person… let alone being trampled to death by people.

    I didn’t exactly buy nothing yesterday, but I certainly didn’t go shopping. If you’re really interested in what I spent money on, it’s on my blog. :-)

    –Erika

  27. Alanon 29 Nov 2008 at 5:05 pm

    The only thing I bought on Buy Nothing Day was a take-&-bake pizza to which we added leftover turkey — this to save the big day’s chef fixing another meal.

    I usually shop on Black Friday only because Friday is my regular day to work at the co-op and do my shopping, but this year I stayed home to do the laundry and keep company with my cold-infested spouse.

    I agree that Walmart has a big debt to pay to their employee’s family and, in his memory, they, at a minimum, must institute security procedures to keep such a stampede from ever happening again. Such stampedes and struggles to get bargains used to be the stuff of cartoons in magazines. There’s nothing funny about them any more.

    Our leaders are in a bind. Without consumers buying large amounts of merchandise from electric can openers to automobiles, our consumer-based economy will go down the tubes very fast indeed. But if consumers do continue to buy these large amounts of stuff, our environment will go down the toilet even faster.

    I don’t envy President-elect Obama the Catch-22 choice he faces. If I believed in prayer, I would be praying for him and for all humankind.

  28. Don 29 Nov 2008 at 6:44 pm

    Black Friday is a horrible tradition that brings out the worst in our culture - a culture of…uh…wait. Shopping *is* our culture. OH SNAP!

    I’ve lived in the upper Midwest my whole life, and I feel very lucky right now that this is still mostly a place were the accumulation of unneeded stuff and the ostentatious display of wealth (especially wealth you don’t have) is considered immoral. Which isn’t to say that there weren’t people camping out in front of the big box stores overnight readying themselves for a day of bargain snarfing, but I’ve had way more conversations about how disgusting this all is than the OMG YOU SHOULD SEE THE NEW DVD PLAYER I GOT!!!ONE1 type of exchange.

    One of the oddest things about this to me is that America is supposedly a nation of doers, but all we seem to know how to do anymore is consume. The economy is based around our utter and complete helplessness - our inability to grow and preserve food, make our own shelter and clothing, take care of our elderly and sick, create our own entertainment, you name it. I’ve been asking myself what will happen when it all stops - and having nightmares about it - for a long time now. If it were just a matter of fossil fuel depletion, that would be one thing, but when you throw in climate change, just, ugh. I know it would make John Michael Greer’s eyeballs itch, but to me, that’s the sod on the coffin right there, you know? I just don’t see how things are *not* going to be very, very bad. (Thank heavens we have a lot of beer in our fridge at the moment - do you think the lone rider of the apocalypse likes stout? ;)

  29. Texicalion 29 Nov 2008 at 7:38 pm

    Pulled out the tomato plants yesterday. It was time, the fruit wasn’t really ripening anymore. We haven’t had any frost yet though so the plants were still very healthy.

    Sharon, your day took me back to some good times. I lived in Brookline during college. Buddha’s Delight was a short walk away, one of the best veg places I have eaten, and there were stores which sold Jewish religious material all over the place. Fall days there were beautiful, if a little cold for a guy from Texas. One of the best examples of comfortable urbanism. Short walks to two different light rail lines, residential buildings along the rail, attractive old apartment buildings. Great place. Can’t be certain you were there, but that is where it took me back to.

  30. peteon 29 Nov 2008 at 7:56 pm

    Sharon and the community of respondents here seems particularly glum today (or is that just my reading?). The disconnect between what we know of the state of the world and continuing business as ussual consumerism is indeed demoralizing sometimes.

    This is the first place I have read about the wal mart death - it’s just a normal week here in Australia and I haven’t looked at any mainstream news since Thursday night. I think we do have some sort of regulations to calm this type of ’stampede marketing’ - or maybe it was just a volluntary code amongst the big stores? It was certainly on the agenda quite some years ago when the crowd gathering outside a department store (Myers I think) before the Boxing day sale were pressed so hard against the doors the glass shattered and quite a few people were injured - nothing on the scale of a death though - that is really shocking.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about the financial crisis etc. What I am finding really interesting at the moment is that the reaction of governments and markets iis revealing just how much society is not at all ready to countenance any reduction in consumption yet - despite the things our leaders are starting to say about emission reductions. I mean governments around the world are willing to take out huge new debts to ’save’ the economy from what? A contraction of a percent or two? Disasterous news - China might GROW next year by ONLY 8%! India might GROW by only 5%. Many western economies are shrinking by amounts of less than one percent and aparently this is a great catastrophie - we are so not ready to give up on the myth of perpetual growth yet are we.

    Some good news? Well at least we’ve been getting a bit of rain here the last week or so.

  31. Shauntaon 29 Nov 2008 at 8:13 pm

    I spent a good part of Thursday convincing my husband that our son should get a bicycle for Christmas instead trying to get one of the $199 Wal-Mart X-Box 360 specials. It wasn’t a huge fight or anything, but he got a little caught up in the hype. Anyway, we ended up not spending any money on Friday.

    We live 200 miles from the nearest Wal-Mart (or any other chain store for that matter.) We moved here two years ago from Las Vegas where our kids didn’t own bicycles because EVERY SINGLE bike we ever bought (at thrift stores) was stolen. Now we live in a town, population 1500, where it’s safe to ride a bicycle and to own one.

    So our main gifts to the kids this year will be bikes for the teenagers and a Radio Flyer for the 4 year old. The baby and my son both have December birthdays as well. We just got back from a community craft fair where the local toy store had a booth of classic toys set up. My little one was completely fascinated by a metal Jack-in-the-Box with a little sock monkey that popped out of it. My husband went on his way to work and picked one up for her birthday.

    That was a revelation to me. If I hadn’t seen it myself, I never would have thought that such a simple toy could spark my little girl’s imagination. Kids are kids, no matter when they were born. Given the chance, they don’t need all the bells and whistles they think they do. If you asked Nick, he’d probably tell you he’d like to have an X-Box for Christmas. But when he wakes up to see a bicycle under the tree? Yeah. He’ll be so happy.

    Unlike so many people right now, we have more money than we’ve had for a long time because I started working regularly (I was a substitute teacher and only worked a handful of days a month before. Now I’m a drug abuse counselor and work full-time. We work opposite shifts, so no daycare is needed and my husband’s job is very non-recession proof, so this felt necessary.) But we’re spending considerably less this year on gifts than we did last year.

  32. Anion 29 Nov 2008 at 8:22 pm

    Hey Texacali- I lived in Brookline too years ago- used to take the “Green Line” on Beacon St- a good walkable community with good mass transit as well-

    So a couple of friends stopped by on their way back home from visiting family for thanksgiving- and we got to talking for hours over the economy and where are we heading as a people- pretty heavy stuff I guess,but maybe that’s the mood now?? We also played some music together and had yummy homemade apple pie and scones and tea so not all doom and gloom.

    Two of us were pondering if the way people think and behave is just so ruled by biology that to expect significant changes before eons have gone by to allow for us to evolve is to just plan for failure. In other words, is it that we just behave as animals do in the wild when we do the WalMart stampede or the aquisition orgy or whatever? Are we perhaps so ruled by biology that we are fooling ourselves to believe we can overcome our own nature as a society, although inidviduals may see the need for change and even try to do so but not the vast hordes of the world?

  33. CatHerderon 29 Nov 2008 at 8:25 pm

    I agree..and its quite scary. I ordered my stuff online this year…mostly books and nice warm quilts…I wanted to get something that would be useful for years to come. The only reason i went out friday was to get my sick cat to the vet…otherwise i wouldnt have set foot out of the house.

  34. Mona, Pepperell Maon 29 Nov 2008 at 8:43 pm

    Black Friday - that day was aptly named this year. My family and I sat and watched the news after having eaten a lot of great Holiday food for 2 days. We were all so disgusted that people could be so ignorant, mean, selfish, and every other harsh word under the sun!! They don’t deserve to be part of humanity.

    I don’t plan on supporting the economy in any nonsense spending way, nor did I on Black Friday. the gifts I plan on giving this year will all be homemade and “hokey” as Susan stated. There will be jars of canned, homemade stews; homemade breads, cookies, candles, soaps and coffees(yes, the one item that I will buy from the grocery store!). My family members have too many material things now and I find that they really enjoy these things made by hand as it shows more love than spending money on nonsense items.

    We need to learn to come together as a people and realize that we will need each other to survive in the coming years. Yes, technology has made life easier, but it has also helped to drive people apart. The advertising companies have made us feel that we can’t live without any of these techie toys; that we need them to help entertain ourselves. I believe this has helped us to forget our humanity. We don’t “connect” anymore. We text or email instead of picking up the phone or actually going and physically visiting with friends or family. We have shut ourselves off from reaching out to other people just for the common act of sharing. We will truly be lost if we don’t learn how to just be human without the techie toys as artificial extensions of ourselves.

  35. debraon 29 Nov 2008 at 8:52 pm

    after a lovely thanksgiving dinner that started late and ended early because several family members “needed” to scout the stores before friday and then get up at 3am the next morning, the kids and i headed home. while the boys dozed in the back seat and the radio hummed i thought about the insanity of making what should have been a family unifying day into nothing more than a fuel stop between shopping trips. that’s when i saw the line of tents outside my local big name electronics store. tents?! when did family football games and watching granddad fall asleep in front of the big game turn into camping out on the sidewalk to be the first one to have a crack at the shelves of stuff? the next morning on the local news only one of the three major networks led with the situation in mumbai. the other two rallied the shoppers. it made me feel sad, and angry, and sick. did i shop on friday? yes, i did. the boychild and i had lunch with a friend and her mom then went to the feedstore to pick up rabbit feed, a 20 gallon trash bin to store it in and 4 new chicks. i like to think of the things we brought home as an investment in the future. the kids are curious about the chicks, asking questions and getting involved. they’re up early feeding and watering, petting and groming dogs, cats, rabbit and chicks. they’re involved, engaged and growing. certainly worth the 17 dollars removed from my wallet that day.

  36. Ginaon 29 Nov 2008 at 9:13 pm

    Like all, I was beyond saddened by the news of that man’s death (and the other two as well). I literally felt sick to my stomach. I learned about this from my husband when I called him from work during Friday (he heard it on the radio). After we hung up, I did a search for the news story and I actually thought it may have been a rumor as I couldn’t find anything on it. Then, I did. A small story on some small network. I have been beyond fear at how apathetic our gov and media seem to be to this story. Sure it’s happened before, but I find it tragic and avoidable and just plain scary.

    If you read what the Wal*mart folks have to say about it, you hear that the guy was not employed by Walmart, but an agency and was working at the store on their “behalf”. In other words, the guy was brought it in to help stock for the BF madness through a temp agency.

    Like many of you, I wondered about his family and the grief they must have had at the news their father, brother, son died opening the doors to a bunch of soul-less consumers looking for their next great bargain (i.e. fix).

    I worked in retail for years and shunned Black friday not only due to my own beliefs, but out of experience with the day from an employee point-of-view. It’s been enough years, however, that I too stopped by an office supply store on my way to work and was dismayed to find a line stretching all the way to the back of the (normally empty) store. I got hit by a woman manuevering a shopping cart and she shot me a look from h*ll and kept pushing on through. In line, a lady told me that Wal*mart (the only store in the small town I work in) was a frenzy of shoppers and that all (ALL!) the carts were gone right at 5 am.

    Madness. Personally, if I had been a shopper that day, I could not have wrapped up something and given it under the guise of “Goodwill towards man”. I think I would have been trampled too, as I could not have stepped on that guy and would have stopped to help him. At least I certainly hope I still have that much soul left…

    i like the idea of lighting a candle to honor the guy (and the others who lost their lives in the mess as well…)

  37. Rebeccaon 30 Nov 2008 at 8:34 am

    I am incredibly disgusted by what happened on Friday. I didn’t buy anything. I went to work, went to a friend’s house for dinner, came home and went to bed. I had more fun at my friend’s house than I could have had shopping. But people prefer shopping. Garrr.

  38. Sharonon 30 Nov 2008 at 9:05 am

    KatJ, congratulations on your gift. It is indeed, a wonderful one - mazel tov.

    Texicali, you got it just right. Buddha’s delight (and old favorite) is now My Thai, which is just as good, and essentially the same only now there is bubble tea to be had, if you like that sort of thing. We made two trips to little Israel - one with friends and another to buy books for the kids (the Comic book Siddur or 10 Tales from Chelm are not books that I can find at my local library sale - most of the new books we buy each year are Judaica), and had a lovely, lovely time. I actually lived two blocks up from Marty’s liquors, in a studio apartment over a bar in Allston for a time in the late 90s when I was in graduate school, and it was my favorite neighborhood I’ve ever lived in. I love going there and watching the neighborhood evolve, and still stay the same. I used to love the sheer variety of overlapping ethnic communities - Salvadoran, Russian, Jewish, Korean, Vietnamese, Brazilian, Somali…. it made for some lovely synthesis. If I were a city dweller again, I’d love to be back in Allston.

    Sharon

  39. Jillon 30 Nov 2008 at 9:24 am

    The kids and I walked across the street to the resale shop on Friday. They had things 75% off - but it was our plan to go regardless. I was looking for snow pants and up-sized clothes for my 16 month old son. The snow pants I found will fit him this year and next and are very necessary in here in Michigan. We had near record snowfall last year! The clothes should fit him next winter as well. It’s consignment - so people in the community will be getting a little bit of cash in return and the owners are local as well. I try to shop there when possible.

    We don’t shop often and even my 4 yr old daughter knows the difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’. For Christmas, she’s getting 1 toy, a dress from the resale shop, and some handmade items like soap (she loves it!) and doll clothes. Yesterday she asked if we could get her store-bought cookies for Christmas! Something she wants…but doesn’t need.

    I’m hoping when all the chairs are gone (and they are disappearing faster and faster) we have close family and friends, a supportive community, fine stories and memories, and reasons to laugh. Good people are the best investment.

  40. Lanceon 30 Nov 2008 at 2:31 pm

    I have never shopped in my memory on Black Friday, and I kept to that tradition. Not out of any high-mindedness, but because I hate shopping and I hate crowds, so such an event would be pure hell to me anyways.

    I find it interesting that the average American of my acquaintance despises Wiccans, Muslims, etc. and the Bible-Thumpin’ Christian would consign them to hell for idolatry and “false gods.”

    Yet action speaks louder than words. I wonder how many “good Christians” would go through the hell of a Black Friday madness if it wasn’t deals they were getting, but if they had to go through the same horrid mess to worship at a church?

    Let’s be frank…regardless of whatever we Americans _think_ or _say_ we worship, the reality is we are effectively a nation of idolators, sacrificing sanity and lives and our future at the altar of consumerism.

  41. Michelleon 30 Nov 2008 at 5:30 pm

    Well, I’ll have rabbits, at least. I just butchered the first four my pair produced. They are cooking and they smell SO GOOD! So… the world might be going pearshaped in a handbasket, but I’ll be able to provide some protein for my children. Meanwhile, they’re getting mostly handmade things for Christmas, except for some Breyer horses for my girls that I bought secondhand on eBay.

  42. Michelleon 30 Nov 2008 at 6:01 pm

    For Brad - I just left you a message at your blog about the three verses of Taps….

  43. greentangleon 01 Dec 2008 at 10:14 am

    Just signing in as another ex-JP/Brookliner who also loved Buddha’s Delight and its new incarnation as well, though I’ve only been back to the new version a few times. After I moved away from Boston I would sometimes look at the Buddha’s menu longingly. Will probably be moving back to the area next year.

  44. […] As our economy changes, can we truly afford Black Friday instead of days building family and community? […]

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