Hunter S. Thompson spent decades looking for the American dream. But did he ever dive into the dark heart of American consumerism itself, Black Friday? Not really, no. But if he had, it’d probably read something like this.
Black Friday, they call it. A wild bacchanal of capitalism at its most primal, most unleashed, most livid. If evolution has brought us here, it is high time we finally admit that the everlasting climb we were on was a hairpin loop all along. And we’re just skidding on the downward slope, grabbing all the useless sh*t we can on the way down. Why not have a television the size of your wall? Monkeys gotta worship fire somehow.
I can feel the tension from the parking lot—we’re are all wired into a survival now. That was the fatal flaw in Brook Stevens trip. He crashed around America selling "planned obsolesce" without ever giving a thought to the grim meat-hook realities that were lying in wait for all the people who took him seriously. All those pathetically eager lost souls who thought they could buy peace of mind by acquiring something a little newer, a little better, a little sooner than is necessary. But their loss and failure is ours too. What Stevens took down with him was the central illusion of a whole life-style that he helped create, a generation of permanent cripples, failed seekers, who never understood the essential old-mystic fallacy of capitalism: the desperate assumption that somebody... or at least some force — is tending the light at the end of the tunnel.
There’s people fighting the moment I walk into the store. Over what? I’m not sure even they know. It’s a non-descript box of cardboard, containing a non-descript box of plastic, containing…hope? Happiness? The knowledge of a deal gotten, of a scam well played, the idea that this time, this one time, we got one over on the retail overlords?
I’d like to believe that the savage avarice I am witnessing comes from a howl of defiance, however misguided. But just as likely there is no large goal, no thought at all, other than a hunger that will never be satisfied, because it comes from without, not within.
This may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves; finally just lay back and say it—that we are really just a nation of 326 million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms at all about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable. The tragedy of all this is that Christmas, for all it mistakes and all his imprecise talk about “peace on Earth” and “goodwill toward men,” is one of the few holidays that really speaks to all the best instincts of the human race this country might have been, if we could have kept it out of the hands of greedy little hustlers. Christmas is hardly without its problems, but in context they seem almost frivolous compared to the things I’ve witnessed today, as I watch people commit atrocities, on purpose.
If there is a war on Christmas—and there is not, I will tell you inequitably, not the capital letters sense that right-wing pundits love to jerk off to—it is here, where we trample another for the promise of saving money we don’t have. For a box in a box. So that at the end of the year, some of us have won Christmas, and some of…haven’t.
Ignore that nightmare in the bathroom. Just another ugly refugee from the shopping mall, some doom-struck gimp who couldn't handle the pressure. Move on. There’s more stores. More shopping. Maybe this will be the year we drown ourselves in packaging, unable to dig our way back out again. Monkeys, in caves of cardboard. If we're lucky.
If not, there’s always Cyber Monday.