Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Real Deal



It's all there. When a Wal*Mart worker gets trampled to death by an unruly mob at 6:00 a.m. on a day called Black Friday, even the clueless take pause. So many kinds of sadness. Horrible enough that he was only in his mid-thirties, a temp worker trying to survive in New York. Everyone has got something to say about this, from the cynics to the corporate defense lawyers. They will split hairs about who is at fault. They will gasp about how a few hundred people saw this blue collar lamb go down and kept on moving. Gives a new meaning to "shop till you drop." Over, under, around and through. No air. No life. They are no longer people. First they become their machines, fenders and bumpers, lifting the physically and/or mentally obese blithely into crosswalks, over curbs, fast lanes, much faster than the posted speed.
So who is out there, hanging around all night for the chance to by a flat screen TV or a DVD player. High Definition TV certainly warrants some sort of sacrifice, no?
Stampedes are by no means an American phenomena. I think of soccer games and religious celebrations. The individual evaporates into a collective personality. Group norms become a tsunami that blasts through glass doors, digesting human life, and destroying any trace of civility.
A religious experience? Absolutely. Ask what is being worshiped? The biggest, crystal-clear idol of them all.
Who is out there in that consumptive lava flow? Where does this desperation to define the self from possessions originate?
It is the perfect union of church and state. Wal*Mart is the non-denominational shrine of the consumer class. It's about the numbers, it's about price, it's about limited time, it's about me, it's about worship.
It's never about human life. Illusory values; stained glass; bloodstained glass.
But wait.

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