Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Domination of Black Friday-ism (Brian E. Konkol)

The following reflection was published by The Huffington Post on November 24, 2015, and can be found at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brian-e-konkol/the-domination-of-black-f_b_8633356.html

One of the dominant ideologies that now surrounds Black Friday seems to be both loud and clear: Our value as human beings is often dictated by our capacity to produce and consume.
We are dominated by "Black Friday-ism".

"Black Friday-ism" is a social system in which the value of human life is determined exclusively by rates of production and consumption. We notice this condition most often, of course, on Black Friday. Yet this phenomenon continues to grow in both reach and depth, as Black Friday-ism breeds chronic and hyperactive economic activity which in turn tempts us to believe that supply and demand are the sole dictators of our society.

In other words, Black Friday-ism is the predominant religion of this holiday season and beyond. As Victor Lebow states, "Our enormously productive economy ... demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption."

To appraise human value based solely upon production and consumption, as Black Friday-ism does, is an explicit form of dehumanization. Our dogmatic obedience to the so-called invisible hand of the market has a direct impact upon our sense of personal value (not to mention our public health), for the desire to belong and be validated in society seems directly related to whether or not we contribute to the gods of gross domestic product. Economic participation seems to be the accepted price of our admission into the human community. And so, because the highest rates of selling and spending typically occur during this time of year, and due in part to our longing for communal belonging, the season surrounding Black Friday is, in many ways, a period of gross domestic dehumanization.

While economic activity is indeed a significant characteristic of human life, such activity does not define human lives, despite what our Black Friday-ism too often declares. People of all traditions, not just Christianity, should be concerned with the ways in which such a dehumanizing ideology is spreading, for not only does it all seek to crucify Christmas and Hanukkah (and increasingly so, Thanksgiving), but it also oppresses all of us who participate in its imperial process. 

In other words, Black Friday-ism breeds domination -- even in a so-called free country, for in our search to produce and consume beyond our natural limits, such a search ultimately owns us, and in the process we are the ones who end up being both produced and consumed. As mourned by the writer Emile Gauvreau, "I was part of that strange race of people aptly described as spending their lives doing things they detest, to make money they don't want, to buy things they don't need, to impress people they don't like."

The time is upon us to embrace what it truly means to be human and resist the dehumanizing pressures of our Black Friday-ism. While it may be tempting to kneel at the altars of acquisition and assembly, in doing so we forget who we truly are, lose track of what matters most in life and in turn decay our collective conceptions of human value.

Perhaps the time has come to journey toward the close of the calendar year not with a culturally conforming outpouring of economic activity, but with authentic acts of compassion and generosity that affirm the humanity of others in response to the assurance that all people, including ourselves, are of infinite value. Perhaps the time is upon us to recognize the critical difference between human needs and wants, and in doing so, want to embrace the crucial need of life-giving deeds that build up rather than tear down. Perhaps the time is upon us to affirm the life-freeing reality that we do not need valuable things in order to be valuable beings, nor do we need to produce more goods in order to be more affirmed as good. And ultimately, perhaps the time is finally upon us to to have the security, strength and genuine freedom to refuse the desire to always produce and consume something new, but instead live inspired this holiday season and beyond, and in doing so, always be made new.