Friday, November 27, 2015

Black Friday as cultural imperalism

So, today, it seems, is Black Friday. As a Canadian, to say that I am nonplussed would be an understatement of the highest degree.
In the USA, the day after Thanksgiving is a day marked by mass hysteria and commercialization on an unprecedented scale. It is by far the biggest single shopping day in the US, a de facto national holiday, and (in an egregious example of "Christmas creep") it is considered the beginning of what is now known as the "Christmas shopping season". It is capitalism gone bonkers. Many people forego their Thanksgiving holiday to camp out for a chance at snagging the best bargains. Apparently, it regularly results in injuries, and has directly caused 7 reported shopping deaths since 2006. In case people have not had enough shopping by the weekend, it has recently spawned the demon-child, Cyber Monday (and now Giving Tuesday).
Most Canadians (and probably even most Americans) have no idea what Black Friday even means, except that they are supposed to go out and shop. I had to look it up myself: it's origins are murky, but it either originated in the 1960s to describe the heavy and disruptive traffic in Philadelphia after the Thanksgiving holiday, or it marks the (mythical and spurious) point in the year at which retailers transition from operating in the red to the black, i.e. begin to turn a profit. Good reason for a national holiday, eh? And what a good choice of names!
Canadian Thanksgiving is at the beginning of October, and the end of November has no significance whatsoever to us. But, since the days of Canada-US dollar parity back in 2008-2009, the Black Friday phenomenon has made increasing inroads into Canadian trade and commerce. Apparently, it is now also a "thing" in the UK, Mexico and several other countries. This year, it is enjoying blanket coverage in Canada, from full-page ads in national newspapers to hand-written signs on mom-and-pop stores. It follows the judicious and discerning commercial logic that says, "if they are doing it, we should probably be doing it too", and it is snowballing out of control.
Enough, I say! Let us say a resounding "no" to this cultural imperialism! If we really need a dedicated shopping day, let's choose, I don't know, Boxing Day. Oh, wait, we already have Boxing Day, or rather Boxing Week (and probably, coming soon, Boxing Month). Is there no end to this madness?

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