Today is the day I give thanks that Black Friday isn’t a thing in Finland. Yes, there will be sales. Normal holiday sales, with stores opening at normal hours. No doorbusters. Certainly no dangerous mobs. Shops might be slightly more crowded than usual. All I plan on doing is normal grocery shopping, wearing a mask and practicing social distancing.
“Throughout human history, as our species has faced the frightening, terrorizing fact that we do not know who we are, or where we are going in this ocean of chaos, it has been the authorities — the political, the religious, the educational authorities — who attempted to comfort us by giving us order, rules, regulations, informing — forming in our minds — their view of reality. To think for yourself you must question authority and learn how to put yourself in a state of vulnerable open-mindedness, chaotic, confused vulnerability to inform yourself.”
Timothy Leary, How to Operate Your Brain (1994)
This will be my 7th year explaining Black Friday to my non-American friends. Yes, the stores do open stupid early. It is true, people start lining up the night before. Some of it is because of the ridiculous deals. They might be there because the only way they can afford a new television, or a video game system, or some other big-ticket item is if they can get it at the exploitive. Purge-like event.
Others are just competitive consumers. They may not be after anything in particular. It’s not a matter of some need they need to fulfill. They want to be able to brag on what they were able to get for an egregiously low price. It’s the thrill a hunter gets for bagging the biggest elk, the fisherman for catching the biggest trout.
Put Yourself in a State of Vulnerable Open-Mindedness
I’m happy to have broken free from a culture that defines itself by consumerism. No ads making me feel bad because I don’t have disposable income to spend on things I don’t need. A lack of pressure to buy gifts for everyone I know. No sense of entitlement that people owe me presents.
Even though I rarely ever went shopping on Black Friday, I always knew people that did. I’m happy to not have people trying to talk me into going along with them. Even more joyful is the fact that I do not work in any sort of retail position. Working in a shop on Black Friday is sheer hell, as you can probably imagine.
Finally, I am grateful that I know who I am. I do not need a cultural institution to define who I am for me. Without the constant messaging to be a good consumer, I have found peace. It’s so ubiquitous that most Americans don’t even see it any more. It’s there, and it’s disturbing.