“… lust and fear and infatuation …”
From a 2008 Thanksgiving Day op-ed at one of my former blogs, Carver’s Dog, comes this musing that is still highly relevant five years after the words were first spun:
Extranea: The Fool’s Gold Edition
The liberal elite. The cultural elite. Those were the words they used. For the last year, those of us in America who read, write, and indulge the creative arts were under assault by one of the nastiest GOP presidential campaigns in recent memory; only the 1972 Nixon vs. McGovern campaign, where the stakes were just as high and the slime just as sickening, dares to compare.
Today was Black Friday, the hectic holiday shopping day after Thanksgiving, and “the other side” (that would be the non-liberal elites) have spoken.
With consumers drastically curtailing discretionary spending and retailers spinning like punch drunk boxers from the solar plexus blow, stores offered deeper discounts than usual to lure customers through the doors and the end result offers a sad commentary on America in the 21st century. In New York’s Valley Stream, a Wal-Mart employee was killed, trampled to death, when impatient shoppers broke down the glass doors at 4:55 AM (the doors were set to open at 5:00 AM — I suppose that extra five minute wait was simply a rude imposition on these holiday revelers). Four others were hurt in the post-Thanksgiving incident that a Wal-Mart spokesperson called “tragic”. Digging deeper, thanks to the New York Times, the story gets uglier:
The shoppers broke the doors off their hinges and surged in, toppling a 34-year-old temporary employee who had been waiting with other workers in the store’s entryway.
People did not stop to help the employee as he lay on the ground, and they pushed against other Wal-Mart workers who were trying to aid the man. The crowd kept running into the store even after the police arrived, jostling and pushing officers who were trying to perform CPR, the police said.
“They were like a stampede,” said Nassau Det. Lieutenant Michael Fleming. “Hundreds of people walked past him, over him or around him.”
The employee, who was not identified, was taken from the Wal-Mart to nearby Franklin Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 6:03 a.m., the police said. His exact cause of death has not been determined. The police said that three other shoppers were injured and a 28-year-old woman who was eight months pregnant was taken to the hospital for observation.
One shopper, Kimberly Cribbs, said she was standing near the back of the crowd at around 5 a.m. on Friday when people started rushing into the store. She said several people were knocked to the ground, and parents had to grab their children by the hand to keep them from being caught in the crush.
“They were falling all over each other,” she said. “It was terrible.”
As the doors snapped open and people streamed in, several people fell on top of one another. The 34-year-old employee who died was at the bottom of the pile, the police said.
The same sickening herd mentality was observed in Los Angeles, as reported by the LA Times:
At a Best Buy consumer electronics store in the Glendale area, the line was 15 people wide for the first 20 feet and snaked around two corners of the building. Just before the store opened at 5 a.m., tempers were flaring in the rowdy crowd, as impatient shoppers hooted and hollered and strained toward the door.
Families, huddled together to keep out the cold, clutched hands to stay together while a staff member with a bullhorn tried to control the crowd. Across the street,200 people eyed the line of shopping carts blocking the entrance, hoping to skip the line and run through.
What type of merchandise had customers so frantic? Once more, from the LAT:
Once the doors opened, customers frantically darted toward the merchandise, clutching colored fliers and snatching for baskets. A few kids headed straight for a Guitar Hero console and started playing Sublime’s “Santeria” as shoppers swarmed around them, waddling under the weight of laptops and TV screens.
One shopper interviewed by the Times, weighted down with two laptops, three desktops, laptop cases, printers, cameras, and phones, told the newspaper that he was “doing (his) share to boost the economy.” Not by buying largely Japanese manufactured electronics. The consumer is helping Tokyo aplenty but Main Street America, not so much.
And what about those frantic, drooling, pathetic Wal-Mart shoppers? Those Joe the Plumber Middle America holiday bargain hunters? China exports literally tons of goods to Wal-Mart stores across the U.S.A. and China, you see, has been largely untouched by the global economic meltdown we are experiencing because there has been a rapid geopolitical shift and China, home of the heathen Communists that red state America has been so frightened of since the Cold War (thank you, Joe McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover), is coming out on top in the wrestling match. From John Gray’s essay “Utopia Falls” in the December 2008 issue of Harper’s:
China in particular was hectored relentlessly (by America) on the weakness of its banking system. But China’s success has been based on its consistent contempt for Western advice, and it is not Chinese banks that are currently going bust. How symbolic that on the day Chinese astronauts launched their spacewalk mission the U.S. Treasury secretary was on his knees begging for a bailout.
But the average WalMart
trampler shopper doesn’t know this. Hell, most of them wouldn’t even know the meaning of the term “geopolitical shift” if they had to define it to save their lives in a life or death version of “Wheel of Fortune.” When was the last time you heard of a deadly consumer stampede at a Barnes and Noble book store or an art gallery opening or a classical music recital? I’ll tell you when: Never. These are Americans who, as John Updike observes in the 2007 novel “Terrorist”, are “full of lust and fear and infatuation with things that could be bought … they think safety lies in the accumulation of things of this world, and in the corrupting diversions of the television set. They are slaves to images, false ones of happiness and affluence.”
And so it goes.