It got a little misty in the hours after Thanksgiving dinner. A marine layer filled the air just enough to blur the omnipresent police flashers as a gaggle of cops redirected traffic around a bottlenecked parking lot. 11pm, an hour before Black Friday, and shoppers were lined up at Best Buy to cash in on once-in-a lifetime deals. What a farce.
The ultimate laugh line? Every item these committed consumers shorted their families for, so they could push and shove their fellow consumers out of the way, will be available at an even lower price in a few week, when all of these box stores dump last year’s inventory for next years.
Never have the masses been so hook-line’n’sinkered in my life. Try getting these sloths off the couch to vote, or do volunteer work, god forbid, and you’ll experience the true meaning of apathy. But tell ’em there’s a SALE! on a flatscreen tv– one that at “half off!” is still turning every member in the supply chain a profit– and they’ll not only leave their fart-seasoned recliners in the middle of the night to wait on line hundred of bodies long, but they’ll also literally battle for position to do so. At least they’ll get some exercise…
Consumerism is a formidable opiate. It not only gets us high, it’s also great for the economy, stupid! This fallacy is so wide spread, so deeply ingrained, that it’s impossible for us to imagine any other form of world order. The fallacy thrives on the concept of scarcity. Scarcity determines value. But today, that thing we so desire, that’s on sale right now, today only, starting at midnight, will never run out. It will never run out because without it, the fallacy is revealed, and that can’t ever happen.
Consumerism has some powerful friends, too. The rapidity with which culture is moving due to the nature of our impulsive social media is its best friend by a long shot. There’s less time to observe, process, debate because our collective bandwidths are maxed out keeping up with everything seemingly vital. Funny how less important it all seems with the gift of distance, silence, non-sale meditation.
We’ve grown numb to the naked fact that we’re being pitched, scammed and programmed from the second we wake to the moment we sleep. The sheer repetition of it all is so far beyond the horror imagined by George Orwell or Philip K. Dick that it’s laughable. Big Brother is not just watching, he’s playing an active roll in manipulating every single desire we think we have.
And what is it about speed that’s so valuable, exactly? We can get all our shit faster than ever now, but aside from organ transplants, how often does it matter? What it does is fulfill the desire faster, created another loop of wanting. And what’s sacrificed in exchange? Perspective. When you’re in a perpetual state of wanting, other values suffer.
I’ll spare you the diatribe on corporate mind control, and how capitalist ideology repackages itself to capture and assimilate the revolutionary impulse and turn it into yet another commodity. You can read Michele Foucault and Jean Baudrillard for that. They’ll blow your mind. I promise.
Let’s get really whacky instead, and use our imaginations to think about a world order where all of life is not based on the acquisition of bullshit built to become obsolete so you’ll buy it again. How would things be different if social status was based on giving back instead of accumulating? What would it be like competing with each other for that?
What we’re best at right now is blunting our awareness with pharmaceuticals, reality television, impulse shopping. It’s the post-modern pathology, and it’s increasing in velocity. We’re all participating in this acceleration to some degree, you can’t be alive in America and not be. But similar to the propagation of the false-scarcity myth, happiness attained via bio-chemistry, or the engagement we get from the network manufactured conflicts on Jersey Shore, will never satisfy us, because if they did, the system would collapse, the show would end. We’re all buying the lie, because buying the truth releases less endorphins. And from a capitalist point of view, it’s always better selling dreams than buying them.
But what if, instead of an official national shopping binge ominously labeled Black Friday, we spent the day after Thanksgiving in group meditating and called it, Blank Friday? Meditation has been proven to increase happiness. It’s been proven to last if practiced, and you don’t have to wait in line with a bunch of other schmucks to do it. It would require a radical shift in our devout self-preoccupation, but as we’ve already seen, we’re capable of all kinds of astounding behavior.
You don’t see Tibetan monks body checking one another in the check out line at Costco for a reason. That scene is the pinnacle of the Western nightmare. But leave them in silence for five hours in an unadorned room, and hook them up to an EEG machine, and you’ll see massive spikes in the left prefrontal cortex, the area that correlates most with happiness. The brain’s other pleasure centers, the left forebrain bundle, the anterior insula and the precentral gyrus, also pop after meditation. And it’s been proven that while meditators are more aware of their feelings, they’re also less affected by them.
What if, instead of racing to amass more shit, we meditated on how consumerism continues to stratify society. Or how protecting our ecosystem might prolong our children’s lives? How would our national awareness shift with a deeper understanding of something that actually is threatened by scarcity? Like clean water, or non-gmo corn? What would it be like for everyone to set aside a few hours to consider what they’re giving back?
‘Tis the season, and for another year, we’re told that buying more is the best thing we can do for our country. It will boost the markets and slowly trickle down… What bullshit.
Milton Friedman and Unregulated Capitalism can fuck off. How many more “corrections”, aka, scandals and collapses, do we have to trudge through for us to understand that “The Market” doesn’t know best. “The Market,” as it turns out, is just as paranoid and neurotic and irrational and assinine as we are. It needs hardcore disciplinarians helicoptering its every move, at all times, in perpetuity.
The corporatization of everything– our food, energy, the internet, health care, Hollywood– has not only poisoned the source, it’s diluted the common good by pitting us against one another in a thinly veiled consumption-a-thon based on a devout self-interest. And for many, the incessant scramble for the next rung has plunged them into debilitating financial and emotional debt. And the latter is even harder to pay back.
If there ever was a sign of an empire in decline, it’s when people start deferring to hope over reason. Haven’t we essentially replaced our faith (blindness) in God with a faith (blindness) in capitalism? That this giant, all knowing, all-powerful entity is going to take care of us without us really having to DO anything?
I think a national meditation day would do wonders for the Empire. It would be a challenge, I know, but we could ease our way into this new self-awareness by declaring to all Americans that there’s gonna to be a big fucking SALE! SALE! SALE! on THINKING. Starting at midnight, December 31st. 2013. Get in line before it runs out!