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Black Friday

Black Friday is aptly named. It is difficult to imagine a blacker scenario than the almost hysterical crush of shoppers fighting to get into major retailers and snap up deals. More than 100 million people tried to take advantage of store sales and some were none too gentle about it.

People pushed through line ups to try and get ahead of others, one woman pepper-sprayed other shoppers and in California someone was shot outside a store. It was so bad in one store, police were called and had to use pepper spray to subdue the crowd.

It made me quite happy not to be a part of the mania but it did get me thinking about something.

How much of what Occupy protests against when it comes to corporations is actually driven by consumer greed? Certainly Black Friday is nothing but an orgy of greed on all sides. Retailers are trying to increase sales by discounting and consumers are lined up like pigs at the trough, jostling each other to get at the slop.

It isn’t just consumer goods where this applies.

Occupy likes to blame the sub-prime mortgage fiasco exclusively on banks and banks do share some of the responsibility but no one forced anyone to take out a sub-prime mortgage. Money was suddenly very cheap and too many consumers took advantage of it. They purchased and financed houses they couldn’t afford or with no equity in their new home to cushion them in case of an economic downturn. Some, after having attended one of those “get rich through real estate” courses bought houses with no money down, were over financed and crashed when the economy crashed.

Nothing draws out greed faster than the perceived opportunity to get something for nothing or at least to make money or save it.It isn’t a corporate thing. Sadly, it is a human thing in this age of consumerism. Everyone wants a piece of the dream but too many have lost all perspective on what that dream really is.

In China, a young man sold a kidney to get money to buy the latest iPhone. In the U.S., extreme couponers devote more hours to collecting coupons than they do to their families in order to buy absurd amounts of products which they then hoard all over their homes. Banks nickel and dime every service opportunity while securities companies constantly look for new products to sell in order to skim off a few more millions in commissions.

It isn’t banks or consumers or corporations that are the problem, it’s all of us. We have lost our sense of perspective and our values are crumbling. We place things ahead of people and the acquisition of money ahead of the development of a successful life and everyone wants something for nothing.

Students want free university tuition. Unions want more money and benefits for the same amount of work being done by their members. Corporations want more profit and government wants more tax money to squander on more failed programs and wasted initiatives. It’s a vicious and needless circle of greed and that greed isn’t limited to one segment or group in society. It touches us all and drives too many of us.

When people line up overnight to purchase the latest release of a piece of software or to see a new movie that will be around for quite awhile, it is indicative of something missing in their lives. Who cares if the store sells out of the newest thing today? They’ll get more and we can buy one then but we’re driven to get it “now”, driven to get a deal, driven to be first, driven to make a few extra bucks or to save even more.

It’s greed and whether you’re a corporate executive or someone working for minimum wage, it can affect us all. Maybe it’s the lack of values and the greed across all levels of society that Occupy and all of us should be protesting and then working together to change. It isn’t just one Friday of the year that is black, it’s too many days out of too many years.

For me, Black Friday is the perfect metaphor for what is wrong with our society. It is the epitome of what greed is and does to all of us.

On this one thing, Occupy and I agree. Greed is at the root of the problems we face in our societies today. I just don’t happen to think that greed is the sole province of a few. It is something that undermines too many of us.

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