The Chaos That Is Black Friday: What It Represents and The Meaning of the Holiday Season   Leave a comment

Introduction

Its that time of the year again folks! The Turkey is eaten and hopefully you’ll have the strength to overcome that Post-Thanksgiving Lethargy in order to wake up early to shop in America’s Most Chaotic Shopping Season. On second thought, I’d rather see you sleeping restfully at home than waking up at absurd hours in the morning to buy things in a store at reduced prices. Black Friday is a day that really shows how morally bankrupt our culture has become, its the best day to examine the psycho-spiritual state of the nation. I know that its the holiday season and we want to buy things for our loved ones and I intend to offer some practical advice on that as well, but we really need to re-examine the meaning of the Holidays.

Black Friday and the American Psyche

If one takes the time to look at The West in general and America specifically, it is marked by a sense of consumerism, and I have said it once before but I will say it again, consumerism is an idea that is it; it has its benefits and it was created – I believe – for the expressed purpose of increasing the standard of living to the maximum number of people by the mass production of both necessary and unnecessary goods and services. However it has become perverted and twisted (like most things that meet our fallen position), because now Consumerism has changed from something that allows for more material comfort in our lives over and into something that distracts us and defines our sense of worth in the world. I do not believe this is the best course we should be following as a society, in Ancient Rome, during its Imperial and declining years, a Roman Satirist named Juvenal writes of his people as such,

“Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses” – (Satire 10.77-81)

The Phrase “Bread and Circuses” or in Latin, Panem Et Circenses related to what society valued, namely food and entertainment, so long as the people have sufficient recreation and food for their families they did not care how they got those things so long as they got them. Such a moral prognosis is dark for society if we begin to care only about such limiting things as food and entertainment, my blog was created in rebellion against such a limiting perspective. Now this is not to say that food and entertainment is bad, evil, or wrong, these things are good to have, but if people desire true liberty then they will be concerned about this, they will desire to make sure that food and entertainment is created from the bottom-up rather than given from the top-down.

I often love to point to the ideas and parallels founded in Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World: Revisited” to explain my point of view. One of the pillars of the BNW Universe was a society based upon Consumerism! An excerpt from Huxley.Net reads that:

“In BNW, however, the production and consumption of manufactured goods is (somehow) harmoniously integrated with a life-style of drugs-and-sex. Its inhabitants are given no time for spiritual contemplation. Solitude is discouraged. The utopians are purposely kept occupied and focused on working for yet more consumption: ‘No leisure from pleasure’.”

To be fair the author then says:

“Is this our destiny too? Almost certainly not. Productivist visions of paradise are unrealistic if they don’t incorporate an all-important genomic revolution in hedonic engineering. Beyond a bare subsistence minimum, there is no inherent positive long-term correlation between wealth and happiness. Windfalls and spending-sprees do typically bring short-term highs. Yet they don’t subvert the hedonic treadmill of inhibitory feedback mechanisms in the brain. Each of us tends to have a hedonic set-point about which our ‘well’-being fluctuates. That set-point is hard to recalibrate over a lifetime without pharmacological or genetic intervention.”

But I am willing to debate on this disagreement because, in Psychology one of the first things you begin to learn about is Classical Conditioning, and in that the short-term high of a shopping spree builds an association between the high and that which caused the high, over time. Couple this with a society that values higher levels material wealth, this causes a social pressure as well as an association that material success is the highest concern of everyones life. Look at our society which celebrates pill-popping and even overt and commitment-less sexual behavior, this “harmoniously integrated lifestyle” of the BNW Universe is seen in our society today as well. My concern with these misguided values is that, these things are used either as an escape from the pains of modern living or runaway from a higher calling. Again I must make clear that, I am NOT a Puritan, I am NOT saying that Sex is Bad, I am NOT saying that the Body is Bad, I am NOT saying that Material Success is Bad, but I am saying that making any of these things your Ultimate Concern is Unhealthy both Psychologically and Spiritually.

Good Gifts in Tough Times

There are of course somethings one can do to shop intelligently for the Holidays especially in these tough times:

The First thing you can do is to Start Thinking for the Long-Term, rather than Thinking for the Short-Term. I practice what I preach, people know what I want, it usually revolves around books and silver. Knowledge is certainly something that is an investment in the future, if you need a book on something for education or a good interest that will pay off in the future then buy books! It is also good to ask for financial security in these tough times as well, and now is the best time to ask for money or other financial instrument that can appreciate in value for hard-times.

The Second thing you can do is to Shop Thinking Practically and Rationally, rather than Superficially and Impulsively. Ask for tools that can have a multitude of uses around the house and in an emergency, ask for supplies that perhaps you would ask for like as if you were going on an extended Camping/Hiking Trip. Gifts with a practical use will always keep on giving especially at a Practical level. Do not buy items just because they are popular and everyone wants one. What most people want are subject to change in short period of time, thus proving their superficial and impulsive nature.

The Third thing you can do is to Shop Thinking About A Gift That Can Still Make A Person Happy To Have It. When you open that present, you still want to be happy having it or caused someone to be happy in receiving it. However, the best gift will be one that meet the 3 Criteria I explained in this section: LONG-TERM USE, PRACTICAL AND RATIONAL, AS WELL AS CAUSING A SENSE OF JOY AND GRATITUDE.

The Meaning of the Holidays

However this post would not be a post about the Holidays without explaining the meaning of the Holidays! In our increasingly secularized culture, “The Holidays” are losing their inherent Christian Nature and turning into a mere cultural religion Celebrating Mass Materialism. Although I love the sentimentalism of The Holidays, we must recall that it is a season of Hope and Love; Hope in a better world to come by doing the best we can to manifest that better world in a voluntary way and also a season of Love, a season to reach out to others in a personal way, rather than being so cold, alienating, and impersonal to others as we usually are. We must remember that Christmas is a day Celebrating the Birth of the One Who Made All Things, rather then the Birth of Modern Materialism and Hyper-Consumerism, which are ironically only possible because of the One Who Made All Things.

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