Black Friday was something I only became aware of in the UK last year. I had some notion of the tradition in the United States around Thanksgiving, but since Thanksgiving does not exist on this side of the Atlantic I, like most here, gave no more thought to it.
Then the terror started.
There are two reasons I was appalled.
The first is economic. All this grabbing, barging, jostling and outright fighting was a mad consumerist binge for “stuff”, which has no rational justification whatsoever. It does not buy children’s love, it does not buy family happiness, it does not buy general social wellbeing. In fact, fuelled by debt as it inevitably is, it leads to certain economic disaster, financial anxiety and in some cases genuine poverty. Just such a calamity befell us in 2007/8, and for some reason, within easy memory of that, we wanted to repeat the lunacy. For what, precisely?
The second is arguably less serious but also noteworthy: it shows not only that we have no sense of value but also that we have no self-respect. Black Friday is clearly, without dispute, an American tradition. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the UK. So why on earth would we meekly import it? For all the criticism of Tony Blair being “America’s poodle”, now we are all at it! Is that not pretty pathetic?
(Americans have many fine traditions, by the way – but they are theirs, not ours. They have no meaning here and should not be imported just so multinationals can make a quick buck from the hard-pressed worker.)
Self-respect is perhaps what this is all about. We need to have more self-respect than to think we can buy love or happiness; we need to have more self-respect than to think retail binges constitute a serious economic plan; and we need to have more self-respect than to copy cultural traditions from elsewhere without any rational justification.
Americans can keep Black Friday. At least until they import Boxing Day…