Here we come a shopping
While Halloween is regarded as the day for masquerades and make-up, the more noteworthy season of transformation begins soon after the trick-or-treaters return home. This calendar period has become so expansive and removed from any one date that it is now referred to as the nebulous holiday season.
During this time we are no longer students, parents or even everyday citizens.
Rather, we take on the hideous guise of consumers and acquiesce to the will of the market.
As the American public takes up this annual role, we readily fall prey to a ceaseless barrage of advertisements that drive us further into a spending frenzy. In the end, we allow our worth to be determined by how much we purchase, with the thrifty being cast as scrooges and the profligate being held as virtuous.
Despite this, we remain vaguely aware that such behavior is slowly eroding society, and by Dec. 26 we vow that next year things will be different.
Yet the continued advancement of the beginning of the holiday season makes it clear that such promises are made in vain.
This year has witnessed Black Friday morph into Black Thursday, as a number of storefronts decided to trample Thanksgiving with a stampede of ambitious shoppers.
Toys“R”Us opened its doors at 9 p.m. on Thursday, with Walmart starting its sales at 10 p.m. Target opted for a midnight opening, but given that crowds were forming as early as 5:30 p.m., they might as well have been open all day on Thanksgiving.
Marketers defend their actions by claiming that they are simply meeting consumer demand, and that people gladly sacrifice time with their families for the chance to save a few dollars on that perfect gift. But no matter what day of the week retailers choose to paint as black, the fact remains that most of the commotion and fervor surrounding these sales is manufactured by the stores.
The holiday specials are rarely limited to a single day, and often prices are reduced further as the season progresses.
Many stores keep a limited supply of popular items in order to create a sense of immediacy, only to restock the shelves in the coming weeks. Perversely, retailers would have us believe that shopping after Thanksgiving is some sort of an American tradition that is inseparable from the rest of the holiday festivities.
Such deception accomplishes little more than bringing out the worst in people.
On Friday, a woman in a Los Angeles Walmart used pepper spray to ward off other shoppers from a coveted Xbox 360 gaming console, sending 20 people to the hospital.
In 2008, a temporary worker at a New York Walmart was trampled to death by a voracious crowd of Black Friday bargain hunters. An angry mob in New York broke into and looted a clothing store that had the audacity not to open before midnight.
Some retail chains went as far as hiring riot control experts in order prevent outright chaos.
Across the country, reports of fist fights, shoplifting and armed robberies marked the passage of another typical day of this fine shopping tradition.
Yet, the barrage of advertisements continues unabated as retailers seek to perpetuate this crazed spending spree. Shamefully, we buy into this propaganda and crater to the siren song of sales.
Those who lament the secularization of the Christmas season are sadly mistaken; religion is alive and well, just in an altered form.
For the misguided masses, worship now takes place at the altar of the almighty dollar, and salvation is purchased from store shelves.
And so we carry out our duty as ever-faithful consumers.Marc Anderson is a third-year cell biology doctoral student and may be reached at [email protected]