As you know from Facebook, Black Friday has been on my mind this year. Last year, some retailers started opening on Thanksgiving day to try to extend the retail bonanza. It looks like they’re going to do it again this year, Target and Wal-Mart among them. This is wrong for at least three reasons:
First, they’re making their employees work a public holiday instead of spending time with family. Say what you will about some employees welcoming the extra pay, it’s not fair to ask people who already work Saturdays and Sundays year-round to give up their holiday. It’s cruel and it’s un-American.
Second, Thanksgiving is about being grateful for what you have, not lusting for more. Going shopping on Thanksgiving is like doing a shift of unscheduled overtime on Labor Day.
And third, the Black Friday sales create a gruesome frenzy of competition which brings out the worst in people, turning us into mobs who trample people to death. Instead of bringing out the best in people like the holidays do, Black Friday makes us dangerous and anti-social. And it’s not even caused by something negative or unanticipated like a stock market crash or government repression or a natural disaster. It’s intended to be a celebration. How did we end up here?
And more importantly, what are we going to do about it?
Here are some ways to make your voice heard this holiday season. I personally think legislation (see federal bank holidays, 40 hour work week) is more effective than petitions, but these are a good start:
1. Support the WalMart workers who are planning to strike on Black Friday for better pay and working conditions, and you support 2.1 million workers around the world. Black Friday is a high stakes moment to strike, and the implications for working men and women and their families are huge. The Credo Action WalMart strike petition reads simply:
“Stop exploiting your workers. Meet with Walmart workers about their demands for better pay and working conditions.”
Sign it if you support their cause.
2. Sign the petition by a Target worker on Change.org asking the retailer to take the high road and save Thanksgiving.
This one speaks for itself, and at last check, they still need another 150,000 signatures to meet their, ahem, target.
3. On a positive note, the Story of Stuff Project is collecting photos for a campaign called “What’s better than shopping?”
Or if you have more time, you can print out the sign, fill it in, and take a picture like Story of Stuff founder Annie Leonard did in the photo to the right. [Stay tuned for ours!]
This kind of thing makes us feel good and allows us to express solidarity with each other, which is not to be underestimated when you read in the news about people getting trampled to death. But as Leonard points out in a new video “The Story of Change: why citizens, not shoppers, hold the key to a better world”, it’s not our consumer power that will change the world, but our power as citizens. We can’t just buy the green shampoo bottle and call it a day. We need to use less, but we also need to demand that our cities become more walkable, our coal plants clean up their messes, and our food system stops picking cheaper over safe and healthy. This is bigger than our individual choices, and we need to get organized.
And we’re going to need to win over people who were actually planning to shop on Black Thursday or Black Friday. This isn’t a club for true believers: it affects our entire country. To fix this mess, we need a mass movement, with champions in Congress and unlikely allies speaking out. If we’re going to tackle the greed and waste we live with, we need to change a lot more than just the way Americans shop for the holidays. But you have to start somewhere, and since this is us at our ugliest, it’s not a bad place to start.
So to kick off the first of many small rebellions, let’s get out there and create some Thanksgiving memories that don’t involve excess and greed. But maybe a little sloth. Sloth is okay.