Columns, Opinion

WEIL: Blacker Plague

Black Friday stomped in and took its victim this past week. Many media outlets touted this year’s post-Thanksgiving as a spectacle of American perseverance in the face of recession. On the other hand, The New York Times described images of Black Friday as ‘a shopping Guernica’ and illustrated the phenomenon as a product of ‘a broken culture of consumerism.’ And ironically, the ridiculous decrease in prices overpowered the quantity of items sold and quantity of people shopping, as reflected in the increasingly negative Wall Street response.

Even in the shadows of a newly restored American faith, this national tragedy should shake American society up. Jdimytai Damour, a temporary employee at that great bastion of American extravagance, was tragically trampled in an episode of American history that is ‘-‘- to me ‘-‘- one of the all-time low points of humanity’s existence. Damour was trampled because 2,000 Walmart aficionados were too absorbed with the idea of price cuts and slash-downs to notice what was under their feet. They were literally blinded by greed.

If this sounds like an embellished Brothers Grimm tale or one of Aesop’s fables, it is because there is an obvious wrong here, caused by conditioned behavior.

The blame for conditioning this materialistic insatiability could be placed on many different institutions and groups: consumers, producers, the government, education and the media. Sociologists, anthropologists and behavioral scientists all have their own theories about the origin of group behavior, and in today’s society, it is even harder to pinpoint these sources.

The producers play a major role in inducing behavior. Walmart has reportedly taken recent steps in worker protection with improved dealings with unions and sustainability, establishing a Green Jobs Council and marketing a whole division of green products. However, this weekend’s events demonstrate that despite both of these socially responsible efforts, however bold or superficial, did nothing to combat the atrocity of extreme consumerism. Companies need to adequately prepare workers for such events and set up systems of protection against both wage fluctuations and physical risks.

The producer cannot do it alone, however ‘-‘- as seen in Detroit. The Big Three auto companies are asking for government aid (at around $25 billion) to fund the development of a more fuel-efficient fleet. This is certainly a recession risk for these companies, but they can see the long-term security of these cars as oil prices will inevitably rise back up, resulting in waiting lists for the new Ford Scion. Many environmental ‘-‘- or just straight-up ‘-‘- economists will point out, you need the consumer response to these initiatives. With a gallon of gas as cheap as a King-sized Hershey’s bar right now, people are content driving their old gas-guzzlers because they’re not burning holes in their pockets. Consumers and producers both need the long-term socially responsible perspective, as aided by government, education and the media. This way, society won’t feel the necessity of 5 a.m. shopping rampages and perhaps will opt for a more peaceful morning-after with the family.

Rachel Weil, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, is a weekly columnist for The Daily Free Press. She can be reached at

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