During the months leading up to the election several people ranted about socialism, claiming the country was headed that way or that this or that political candidate was a socialist.
We already partially live in a socialist country with public schools and public police and fire departments and Medicare and Social Security.
We also live in a country that embraces the free market and in which capitalism thrives.
As I write this, an approaching holiday should calm the fears of anyone worried about a socialist takeover. Capitalism is clearly part of our very foundation – not that it shouldn’t be – and we overwhelmingly show our support for it every Black Friday.
Nationwide, people hit the stores early, in the freezing cold, lining up at the doors hours before opening with folding chairs, blankets, food, coffee and even portable music and movie players, very likely purchased the previous Black Friday.
This year, in anticipation of ever increasing numbers and because of public demand, the stores are opening earlier. That should come as a relief to the individuals waiting, their breath white in front of them, with visions of LCD-TV’s and laptops and music players dancing in their heads.
I’ve always felt sad during Black Friday, because while some people simply want to accumulate more stuff, others are there because this is the only time of year they can afford a gigantic television. I am not judging, because I might be there too, except I usually cannot afford the super-cheap gigantic television.
Black Friday shows what people are willing to line up for hours for, and in that very act makes a statement about our priorities.
It should relieve anyone worried about a socialist or communist takeover. Capitalism and the free market are not going anywhere, and not that they should, and if Black Friday is any indicator, consumer culture’s place in society is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, safe.
Think about it—stuff, material stuff, is on sale, and we are willing to line up for hours in the freezing cold for those items that we do not need to survive, but we clearly want. I am not saying there is anything wrong with those items or in wanting or possessing those items. To each their own, and you are not a bad person just because you spend a year planning how to secure your spot in line to land the deals on Black Friday.
Yet why aren’t people willing to line up for hours in the freezing cold for the things we, in some cases, need to survive and thrive?
Let’s examine our priorities.
Various medical agencies offer free clinics and workshops and seminars geared toward educating the public about its health, touching on topics ranging from cancer to diabetes to obesity to exercise. I don’t see anyone lining up hours for these free educational experiences that could save people’s lives, or at the very least considerably improve their health.
In fact, there are often many empty seats at such events.
Various agencies, including mental health and organizations that work with the disabled, hold events that touch on stigma, disabilities, mental illness, mental health, family support and more. These events provide valuable information that in some cases is vital to a healthy, functioning society, information that could alleviate much pain and suffering and improve the quality of life for so many people and answer an array of questions for individuals in desperate need of such answers, and I am not just speaking about the individuals afflicted and their families.
No lines for these free events. No folding chairs and coffee and music players for entertainment while waiting in line. In fact, individuals holding these events are often quite pleased if at least a dozen people show up.
Yet these events might reveal that you or a family member is mentally ill and there is help available or that your actions hurt members of an already marginalized community.
Perhaps you discover your family has poor eating habits and you take the information you gather and prevent your children from developing diabetes.
Maybe one workshop saves you from cancer, another from a loved one committing suicide, a third is educational and gives you the tools you need to begin the process of changing careers, a fourth reveals there is support to help you go back to school, and yet another provides people with the tools to make the lives of themselves and those around them more pleasant and less tragic.
I’m not saying stop turning out for Black Friday, but there are an array of free and/or cheap events in this community that we should be lining up for too.
These events will help us in ways three hours in front of a massive wide screen ever will.
So what are we willing to risk frostbite for? Healthy, happier lives in a supportive society, or televisions?
Stephen Bartlett may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org