Thanksgiving might be a uniquely American holiday, but Black Friday seems to be going global. I read a number of things about Thanksgiving this week, extolling the holiday because of its lack of religious affiliation, I guess that depends on how one defines religion, Thanksgiving may well be devoid of traditional religious trappings but its about to be eaten up by America's chief religion--consumer capitalism. Black Friday--the kick-off to holiday shopping frenzy is beginning earlier and earlier and more and more workers are being forced to work on Thanksgiving as consumerism and its relentless need for fuel, for capital, turns a day that was marked by a certain home-boundness and family/friend dynamic is giving way to being little more than a fuel-stop in preparation for the real event, which is now the bargain shopping. You have to wonder about the psychology of it all, the fact that prices are slashed and sales are everywhere would seem to imply that regular prices have little or nothing to do with real cost and exist only to maximize profit--no brain-surgery needed to work that out, but what about offering lower prices all-year round and inviting consumer consistency and maybe loyalty.
But of course we are talking false desire here and the creation of it--consumerism has to create an event to overcome the lie--that we actually need or even want more stuff. I am not even being hyper-critical at the moment, just acknowledging what is. From a personal perspective, I can admit to being every bit as much of a consumer as most people, I speak from no aloof externality, I am in consumer culture, fight against and also go with it more often than not--I can be a victim of 'wanting something I didn't know I wanted-to feeling that desire that is almost uncontrollable at times when I set my desire on something that I want.'
I am not sure what the answer is to how we shift the ground. We have attached our cultural coattails to consumer capitalism and it has wrapped its tentacles around us tightly and pulls us continually, but something must be done. I think the answer is to become poorer in a sense. Gianni Vattimo, a philosopher whose work I have a lot of time for, has said that the excess of industrial irrealism suffocated communism; the excess of financial realism is now suffocating capitalism. Forced consumerism I call it, and I don't care for it. I do find something compelling in this animated talk given by David Harvey at the RSA in 2010. It was given in response to the banking crisis of that time, and therefore focuses on a narrower set of issues, but I think there is resonance here to long term needs and some nuggets to consider a way forward.
On another note, the image at the top of the post is from Peter Adamyan, who creates wonderful 3-dimensional paintings on wood, as well as traditional sketches, painting and posters,