MYERS: Casualties of consumerism

Charles Myers

Twenty miles east of Manhattan, Jdimytai Damour, a night shift worker at a Wal-Mart, was literally trampled to death by a horde of shoppers.

His crime? Daring to attempt to open the doors to the store and not getting out of the way quickly enough as the masses rushed into the store, desperately attempting to purchase new flat-screen TVs (just $798!), vacuum cleaners ($28!) and 10 megapixel – nine megapixels more than any non-professional photographer needs – digital cameras (only $69!).

These items were worth more than Damour’s life. In fact, the customers were so desperate to participate in this tradition of American capitalism that they even trod over other store employees who were attempting to help their fallen co-worker. Eventually, when the police arrived and attempted to close the store so that they could isolate the crime scene, the murderers still in the store flew into a rage.

Their bargains would have to wait for another day.

In hindsight such an over-indulgence was bound to happen in our annual Bacchic festival. When things are tough, we are told to “go shopping.” When we find ourselves in the midst of a recession brought about by the irresponsible purchasing habits of some and the irresponsible bond-trading habits of others, it is no subtle irony that those who fell upon Damour likely were about to spend borrowed money.

For too long, Americans have reveled in the idea of spending money that they do not have. Holidays have become commercialized beasts. Best Buy runs Hanukkah iPod commercials, and Christmas advertisements have been around for years.

Once that’s over, we are given the message that we do not truly love our significant others unless we spend outlandish sums for them on Valentine’s Day.

Then, goshdarnit, it is time for Easter, when we worship a rabbit that lays eggs in exchange for a swipe of our good old MasterCard. Once Easter is over, we have Memorial Day and the Fourth of July – because our war dead and George Washington want you to spend, spend, spend. Then we get Labor Day, when the backyard barbeque is king and the “end of summer sales” begin.

And once we have finished that cycle of buying, it is time for a new one to begin. It is time for a new Bacchic revel on the day after our Thanksgiving feast. The plan is really simple. Human beings do not matter one bit. All that matters is that we continue to spend and spend and spend, until we right our nation’s sinking ship – just so long as no one notices that the water consists of unpaid credit slips.

So when we have finally spent ourselves out and wasted our yearly savings on things that we do not really need, it is time to do something productive: like blame our current situation on corporate greed. Yes, they have some blame to bear, but the lion’s share is owned by the shoppers – the people to whom a Nintendo Wii matters more than the safety of the rest of us.

Perhaps the most bizarre thing in this disturbing episode was the callous disregard for human life displayed by the shoppers at the Wal-Mart where Damour was killed.

For them, the “bargain” prices at the store mattered more than the 10 seconds they needed to wait for him to get out of the way, while the police meant an unwelcome

distraction.

In the new American cult of the consumer, Thanksgiving means Black Friday, and Black Friday means never having to say “I’m sorry.”

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Charles Myers is a junior political science, history and philosophy major from Elkins Park, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected]