There’s A Riot Going On
By. Shaun Hogan
Around this time every year, Canadians bear witness to a show of consumer extremism that rivals even the most fevered political revolutions. The scourge of northern retailers, Black Friday descends upon the American populace like a psychic ill, as though madness were what plumped the turkeys. And Canadians are far from safe or innocent. Last year 4.2 million Canadians climbed the fence into our neighbour’s backyard to spend their bread on anything from discounted electronics to clothes, appliances, lawnmowers, and probably real bread, too.
Now, everybody likes a discount. Not everybody will riot for one – yet some will. It has been proven via numberless amateur videos that, in 21st century America, people will deal physical blows to their neighbours just to snag a deal. “That Samsung TV over there, don’t think about it, grandma and that wheelbarrow, you can wheel me out’a here a dead and beaten man ‘fore I leave here without that pretty piece!”
It appears that if something is half price, one only needs half of one’s brain to decide that it’s worth buying. The images of people fighting to grab X-box games, headphones, and phones are of the most frenzied variety; we knew people got this way, that folks would go to extreme and ungodly lengths to secure a prized trinket for their little boy or girl, but it doesn’t assuage the sting of association.
In the way war correspondents gain a special knowledge of the naturalness of evil, we, too, through watching these videos, are made to reflect on our own capacity to rollick and rave, push and shove in the pursuit of consumerism. (Though it might be true that, for most of us, the pushing and shoving is metaphorical, finding form in a more subdued drive for the things we want, in endless item-browsing and quiet but no-less-determined online auctions and purchases). These Black Friday brawlers are not in the business of obscuring or downplaying their item-fetishes – they’re frank and ballsy. They know what they want, and they’re not afraid to act brutish and crazed to get it.
Which is not to condone them. Perhaps it just pays to acknowledge, what with the holidays and Boxing Day approaching, that these people chose to erect skyscrapers on the same foundation on which we built modest bungalows. Maybe one day, if the item is right and the price attractively low, we’ll tear down our little houses, dive into a scrum in Best Buy, and in so doing admit we had bolder things on our minds all the while. I’d like to think this won’t be the case, but it’s hard to ignore the faces of some of those rioters – wide-eyed, focused and sporting huge, blissful smiles.