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Giving Thanks — But Not For Black Thursday

November 24th, 2011 by Alison · 3 Comments · sustainability

Grateful is a beautiful feeling, like coming in out of a cold winter night to a warm, crackling fireplace. I feel grateful right now, at 6:34 on Thanksgiving morning. I have a loving marriage, secure and meaningful work, plenty to eat, the right to vote, and freedoms of expression and religion that much of the world’s population, unfortunately, may never have. By all means, I’m grateful: I’m blessed, I know it, and I’m not grasping for more.

Desperate is the polar opposite of grateful. Desperation is about fear, grasping, not having enough, and behaving compulsively.

Desperate is the word that leapt to my mind upon learning that many retailers are turning Black Friday into Black Thursday, starting their sales on Thanksgiving night instead of the day after Thanksgiving. Many retail employees are unhappy about losing a rare holiday with their families. If I were them I’d feel outraged. Wait: I’m not them, and I feel outraged anyway.

I suggest boycotting Black Thursday to show retailers, and ourselves, that we are not desperate to get more stuff for less money. Nor do we need bargains on the backs of workers who would like  to have  holiday time with their families like the rest of us.

In the deeper picture, beyond Black Thursday and Friday and Thanksgiving weekend, consider the possibility (and my opinion) that the U.S. is over-retailed altogether. I’ve seen research stating that 75% of our non-food retail purchases end up in landfill within six months. We need market transformation, so that our economy’s health does not depend on endless consumption of resources, but on good stewardship of resources. We should be measuring quality of life, rather than Gross Domestic Product. Research on happiness shows that joy is correlated with the number and quality of human relationships in our lives, not with the number and quality of TV’s, electronic gadgets, shoes or clothes we own.

The frenzy for more and cheaper stuff that Black Thursday represents cultivates our culture’s desperation, not our gratitude. Let’s  not go shopping tonight. Let’s be grateful for what we’ve already got at home, and support retail employees’ desire for Black Thursday, i.e. working on Thanksgiving, to not become the new normal.

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3 Comments so far ↓

  • Tess Giles Marshall

    Well said! I think it is a difficult journey because the consumerist model upon which our societies are built is so entrenched, and there are some tough decisions to be made, hence the retailer desperation you describe so well. But there are jobs to be created in “green” industry sectors, and less money needed anyway when we buy fewer things.
    Someone said to me the other day that if we all worked part-time there would be jobs enough for everyone.

  • Colleen

    After our Thanksgiving meal with my cousin & her family, Thad and I and my dear Mom had a 1-hour drive north to get to Mom’s home, where we spent the rest of the holiday weekend. We left my cousin’s at 10pm and once on the freeway — wow! — bumper-to-bumper traffic from the “Black Thursday/Friday” shopping frenzy! Some of the off-ramps were backed up for nearly a mile. We were shocked and irritated that so many people buy into the advertising hype to shop-shop-shop -(in the wee hours of the night, no less!) simply because the stores say they must. So even those of us who mindfully avoid the whole thing were affected by the traffic. I’m not one to complain, but I want to see this phenomenon GONE in my lifetime.

  • Alison

    I want to see the phenomenon gone in our lifetimes, too. I agree with Tess that change is difficult here because our ways are so entrenched. I also agree that if we all worked part-time there would be jobs enough for everyone. I’d add that we’d then also have more time for each other, and building our bonds and communities and neighborhoods, and we wouldn’t need so much time to look after our possessions — we wouldn’t have so danged many of them!

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