Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Black Friday melee

There have been reports of inappropriate behavior at stores and shopping centers on Black Friday in the past, but this is the first time there has been a nationwide wave of consumer-driven violence on the day after Thanksgiving reminiscent of the Festival from the old "Star Trek" episode "The Return Of The Archons". And if you think I'm exaggerating, keep in mind that there have been reports of shootings and stabbings attending this madness.

Now, everybody who isn't being an ostrich with their head in the sand (and in the USA, that isn't very many folks at all, really) knows that we're heading toward a collapse of some kind. Exactly what form it will take and when it will happen is not for me to say. But some kind of mass-reversal of American society's fortunes is on the horizon from environmental degradation, resource depletion, and financial over-exploitation. The form and severity of any such event will always and inevitably be shaped by the moral condition of the society in question. This Black Friday 2013 ugliness has really driven home for me that there is no hope whatsoever for our society. If anything good emerges on the other side of collapse, it will be because what's left of society in the aftermath will renounce everything that we are as of this writing as a consequence. But before that? The big meltdown will be massively ugly. Thinking about that made it hard for me to remain asleep last night.

The new pope seems to be in agreement with me, as he recently penned an apostolic exhortation warning that the "tyranny of capitalism" is propelling all towards "disintegration and death". Right-wing know-it-all blowhards such as Rush Limbaugh have predictably slammed Pope Francis's critique as "pure Marxism", but one doesn't need the ideological shackles of Marxist doctrine to realize what is becoming increasingly apparent.

For instance, there's the financial crisis of 2008 from which we never really recovered, and the consequences of which are merely being held at bay with unsustainable financial gimmickry such as the Zero Interest Rate Policy and everlasting Quantitative Easing. What brought this about was an orgy of greed and corruption driven both by shady financiers and consumers eager to use their houses as an ATM for fueling their out-of-control consumption. There's the fact that the ability of the planet to sustain life is being dealt body-blow after body-blow. Everybody knows about global warming, even if they're in denial about it. But how many people know that the oceans are dying? For pity's sake, the oceans are where life on this planet began!

But this Black Friday ugliness really draws a big red circle around the fact that it isn't just the big capitalists and corrupt politicians who are to blame for the mess we're facing. It's ordinary people who don't know any better who are a big reason why nothing has changed despite how obvious it has been for so long that something must change if we are to avoid a very nasty collision with some very severe consequences. This Black Friday ugliness is a good example of why our collective foot is going to remain on the proverbial gas-pedal right up until this collision occurs. There's no point in being bitter about it because being bitter has never helped anything. But I must confess to being more than a little alarmed, dismayed, and yes, downright afraid.

So in closing, I'll just turn the microphone over to Chris Hedges, who as always gets to the heart of the matter much better than I ever could.