The headline in today’s local newspaper trumpeted the triumph of our annual shopping orgy. Once again, our friends and neighbors let their inner lust for consumption loose, feeling free to behave badly – often very badly – in pursuit of The Bargain.
Scanning the Internet this morning, I see Black Friday was a success all across America. Hooray for Black Friday! Hooray for the economy! Americans are buying. Money is flowing. God Bless America!
My first instinct was self-righteous disgust. I congratulated myself and my always wise wife, Sandra, on our restraint. Would we lower ourselves to jostle and scuffle with the “bargain hunters” to save a few dollars here or there? Of course not.
So I wasn’t one of the lucky shoppers who took home a flat-screen TV for $180. So what?
So now I don’t own a flat-screen TV, that’s what.
Maybe I’ll never own a flat-screen TV.
Sandra will probably be ashamed of me when she reads this. She scoffs at the idea of a flat-screen TV. She will point out that we have two, no three – actually four if you count the little one in the mother-in-law suite – fully functional television sets, and there’s not much worth watching on any of them. But I have to admit, I did feel a twinge of lust for one of those beautiful sets you hang on the wall like a priceless work of art.
The awareness of my own vulnerability tempers my scorn for the folks in Kansas – mostly women – who rioted at a Victoria Secret outlet, crazed by their desire for the lingerie on sale there. And I felt a fleeting kinship with those shoppers across America who camped outside Walmart stores throughout the night to be first in line for the “door-buster” sales.
I doubt many people spared a thought for the abused Walmart employees begging for a supportive Black Friday boycott. The bargain-crazed masses were driven by a force far greater than any sympathy they might have felt for the workers’ cause.
What is this strange urge that drives human beings? I suspect that the desire to shop is often stronger – especially among American women – than the desire for sex. The spell of the Golden Calf lingers on.
It is the spell that drives the hedge fund managers on Wall Street and the corporate raiders feeding on the carcases of ruined companies. It is the intoxicant that poisons politics and shreds relationships. It keeps fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, away from their loved ones as they ardently pursue the Almighty Dollar. You could call it greed, but it is more powerful than that.
Whatever it is, America depends on it. The world’s greatest economy is based on consumption. And as long as Americans lust after bargains, the country will prosper.
Until Moses returns from Mount Sinai, anyway.