Friday, November 28, 2008

Stampede

The stampede has begun already and the marauders are out in force. Today was the first fatality of the door-busting sales on Black Friday in the US. Such flagrant and vulgar mobs have already brutalized each other over the years, but this year, for once, someone saying hello to grateful customers perished after being trampled.

I read a few comments from people at the scene who discussed the credit crunch and how difficult things were for them this year. I read about people using debit instead of credit, about long lineups late at night. And naturally, I recalled the US election.

Often invoked in the last few months, is the idea of Socialism. That hated, evil philosophy that equalizes all humans as holders of rights and responsibilities to themselves and each other. I see the point; the extreme left is Totalitarianism, versus the current extreme right, Authoritarianism. Those who can hearken back to the days of terrifying tales of Russians waiting in line for milk from as early as 3 am, in the shadow of ugly, grey boxes of cement.

These difficult, libidinal times make us seasick as our collective value swings up and down with every second. An attack here, a mortgage subsidy there, nothing is secret: everything is permissible. In a continent of people convinced their history is built on rugged individualism, that the very idea of cooperation is fetishized and unions are by definition corrupt, this makes sense. Without our things who are we? What would happen if the state owned it all?

A single mother on employment insurance stood outside at 4 am to get her son an iPod, the only thing he said he really wanted. She used her debit/credit card (true debit cards are only in Canada, where Visa and the Master can't get their mits on every bank transaction) and was thinking of the short term future. The slate-coloured box had a lone line in front of it that morning, and as the doors finally opened, like a group of starved citizens in front of a produce store, they burst inside. Doors were wrested from their hinges and three people were injured, including a pregnant woman. A welcome hand was crushed under the boot of desperation. Out of conjured need and false famine.

Christmas is coming, and with it, the bills. Refusing to carry a balance is a start, and a good one. Now if only someone had thought to pick up someone caught under a rush of pushing feet. If we could take a careful step forward and think to carry each other, we might just avoid the inevitable chill in our fingers and toes as we stand hungrily outside our grey buildings. And wait.

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