Chaos

Utter Chaos

Utter Chaos at the Valley Stream, New York Wal-Mart where a temporary employee was trampled to death. Photo was taken by a witness to the event.

What is wrong with these people???
Seriously. What’s the deal?

I used to work for a major department store in the early 90’s and let me tell you, I hated Black Friday.  Hated it with a passion.  Even with a hearing loss, and being 300 feet inside the store, around a far corner in the back, I could still hear the pack of hyenas licking their chops, smacking their mouths, salivating over the sales they’d find in my department.  As they worked their way towards my area, I always cringed.  They almost always came in packs of at least three.  Gaggling, flailing their arms like drowning swimmers, they tossed around the merchandise like Nerf Balls, leaving total chaos in their wake.

I’m not an aggressive person by nature and these displays of wild-eyed, animalistic greed always made me question the sanity of people willingly and willfully bullying others just to get a bargain.

Scenes like this have been around for decades.  I remember the fervor of the Cabbage Patch dolls of the 80’s, of people fighting over the last Tickle Me Elmo doll in the 90’s.  I remember hearing about a kid who was murdered because another kid coveted his Nike Pumps.  Beanie Babies…I admit, I collected them for a while.  Then I decided to sell them on Ebay because they were cluttering up my space, and quite frankly, I didn’t think they would ever be true “collectibles.”  They were artificial collectibles, created solely for the purpose of collecting and that rarely works for long. At least I made some good money when I sold them!

So now, we have folks fighting over not Beanie Babies and Cabbage Patch dolls, but xbox, Wii, PSP and other “gotta have it” gadgets.  The displays of such base savagery, the fierce competition, the grunts, the growls, the elbowing and shoving of others from people in order to get that new plasma TV for one-third its regular price is unbelievable.

Are people not aware that they can buy many of these items online, in the comfort of their own home?  No lines, no hassle, no aggression.

Here’s a video of what happened at another WalMart on Black Friday.

I understand that humans are competitive by nature.  It goes back to the survival of the fittest argument.  Those who are best able to defeat their competitors in the quest for food, mating rights, etc., are assured a place in the genetic pool.  Yet, the key word here is survival. The people who rampaged both the Valley Stream, NY Wal-Mart and the Florida (?) WalMart in this video did not depend on the goodies they fought tooth and nail for.  In essence, when you get right down to the bare bones of it, they were fighting, stampeding, for status.

Status of owning the newest, shiniest new toy gadget, status of having fought off your rivals for the stupid piece of Chinese-made electronic crap you don’t need.  The need for status, to collect as much stuff as possible, is a basic human need.

By the same token, logic and the ability to make reasoned, well thought-out observations, is a distinctly human trait and one which should override our “cattle” mentality when it comes to consumerism.   In the video above, you see a lady in a white top trying to get into the group to pick up the XBox 360.  She finally gives up and walks away.  She didn’t fight.  She knew better than to try.  But the driving need for instant gratification of Black Friday shoppers who fight and argue over insignificant crap just astounds me.

The chaos of Black Friday is precisely the reason I actively avoid going to stores that foster large crowds, such as Wal-Mart, Target, and any shopping mall with department stores.  It’s dangerous, it’s annoying, people are rude, the employees are harangued until they resemble Itchy and Scratchy.  It’s pathetic what parasitic consumers will do to get their “latest fad fix.”

Before I married my husband just under four months ago I made a conscious decision.  I made a decision to live without a TV, to live without a car, to live without a lot of things.  My husband didn’t  own a TV by choice.  He didn’t own a car by choice.  In Texas I had both and felt I couldn’t live without either, especially my car.  My favorite TV show is CSI  (Las Vegas).  I used to watch it religiously.  I found the characters of Grissom and Stokes extremely sexy, and I identified with Grissom because of his hearing loss.  Finally!  A leading character of a series who was like me!  I haven’t seen the show in months, now and I suppose I’ll wait for the dvd to come out.

Prior to my move, I shed about 75 percent of the things I owned simply because I had no need of them.  Most of those things were, of course, clothes.  I love clothes, shoes, accessories, but when I took a long, hard look in my closet and dressers, I knew that I could realistically do without most.  I donated the cast-offs to charity.  And four months later, I’m happy.  I don’t miss the stuff I owned and I honestly don’t remember what most of it was.

We, collectively as a nation, have become sheep to large corporations and consumer ads that scream “BUY! BUY BUY!”  TV news casters even advise consumers not to miss out on the bargains out there on Black Friday.  And because it is advertised, because it is the cool thing to own, because it’s new and shiny and no one else has one,  those who brave the elements overnight impatiently waiting on the doors to open are willing and able to knock down anyone in their way.  The fists go flying, and sometimes people get hurt, or worse, killed.  It is a sad, sad testament to the American mentality.

I would like every person who reads this to remember what the season is all about.  It isn’t about getting your kids the newest and the best gifts.  It’s about sharing your love.  Believing in something bigger than ourselves.  We owe it to our children to set good examples for them and when I see adults fighting over video game consoles or trampling a store employee to death, I have to wonder: what values are these people instilling in their children?  What does Christmas or the the Holiday season mean to them? To us?

To those who would fight, trample, shoot, and argue with others over that next “gotta have it” item, consider this:  You’re lucky.  Incredibly lucky.  You are an American.  You have the money and/or credit to shop for meaningless things to show off for others. For those who don’t have the cash or credit to buy the latest things, be thankful you have the things you have. You may feel as though this economy has decimated you.  You might be on the brink of losing some things you’ve grown to value and depend upon, like your home or car.  It’s devastating.  I’ve been in your shoes.  I’ve stood in those donation lines, I’ve subsisted on my share of Ramen noodles.  Even so, it could be worse.  You could be the family of the man who was trampled to death.  Or one of the throngs of people around the world on the brink of starvation.

Celebrate life, celebrate love, remember the true meaning of the season, smile at a stranger. Go to your local food bank and volunteer. Donate food for those Americans who have fallen through the cracks and can’t afford the basic necessities. Not everyone is as fortunate as we. I’m not a religious person by a long shot, but even the Bible admonishes us to share what we have.

Give of yourself.

(This video may be over twenty years old, but it’s still a valid message, no matter where you are.)

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