On Black Friday, Noah Brand has two words of advice: just don’t.
People complain about commercialized holidays, ones like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day that seem, in practice, to be trumped-up excuses to spend money on crap nobody needs. And yet the same people will, for reasons surpassing understanding, observe the living hell out of Black Friday.
Black Friday is a holiday celebrating nothing, literally nothing, other than shopping. It is entirely recursive, a holiday held in observance of itself. Stores do special hours and sales, but can’t put anything on the posters other than the fact that they’re doing special hours and sales. It literally fails to rise to the level of those Presidents’ Day ads where Washington and Lincoln endorse saving 20% on a mattress.
There are a number of different religious observances that fall during this season, but I’m not aware of a single one of them for which Black Friday is an appropriate kickoff event. For those that celebrate nothing more sectarian than a general respect for generosity, goodwill, and togetherness, Black Friday is if anything even worse. There is simply no observance or interpretation of the holiday season that is well-served by a celebration of naked greed so ugly that it feels like someone put the Grinch in charge of the Whoville Civic Planning Commission.
Never believe anyone who tells you that Black Friday is called that because it’s the first day in a year that stores turn a profit. That’s a story made up by retail associations to paint themselves as the victims and try to reclaim a name they tried and failed to bury. It’s a name that comes from working people and cops, the folks on the ground who have to deal with the real-world logistics of this mass psychosis. The traffic jams, the checkout lines, the crowd-crazed individuals whose moral calculus has, just for an hour or two, shifted to the point where their common regard for their fellow human beings now ranks below their desire for a musical reindeer toy.
Don’t be part of it. Shop online. Shop evenly and gradually over the next month. Don’t shop at all. Make gifts, donate to charity as gifts, forgo gifts entirely. Do anything other than mobbing some poor damned store staffed with poor damned people who do not need you adding to their misery. Yes, no single raindrop believes itself responsible for the flood, but you, unlike a raindrop, have a choice. Make a better one.