Stupid, vicious and did I say stupid yet?

I like the way this Black Friday insanity story begins:

From the Great Depression, we remember the bread lines. From the oil shocks of the 1970s, we recall lines of cars snaking from gas stations. And from our current moment, we may come to remember scenes like the one at a Long Island Wal-Mart in the dawn after Thanksgiving, when 200 frantic shoppers trampled to death an employee who stood between them and the bargains within.

It was a tragedy, yet it did not feel like an accident. All those people were there, lined up in the cold and darkness, because of sophisticated marketing forces that have produced this day now called Black Friday. They were engaging in early-morning shopping as contact sport. American business has long excelled at creating a sense of shortage amid abundance, an anxiety that one must act now or miss out.

The story goes on to dwell effectively on our obsession with things and shopping for them and how this is driven by business and advertising. But I don’t buy it’s conclusion for a minute:

It seemed fitting then, in a tragic way, that the holiday season began with violence fueled by desperation; with a mob making a frantic reach for things they wanted badly, knowing they might go home empty-handed.

With me that somehow leaves the impression that there was some rationale – even some justification – behind this frantic, mob action. I think it’s the phrase “fueled by desperation” that gets me. If it were a bread line – yes. But these people were in line for bargains on items I would wager most did not, in any real sense, need. They were dealing with manufacturered wants and their wants got way out of hand. Hell, their wants were out of hand as soon as they got up at 2 am so they could be in line at 3 am. Doing thata lone should make us question our sanity long before we trample some poor guy to death.

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