Posted byat 1st December, 2008
Each year, Linda, Adriane and I drive from Connecticut to Detroit to join my family for Thanksgiving dinner. We usually get to the Motor City (stop laughing; that’s not funny) a couple times each year, so we’ve been watching the deterioration of a major metropolitan region for some time now. It’s sort of like watching Winsor McCay’s classic 1918 cartoon, The Sinking of the Lusitania:
Actually, and more sadly, it’s like watching a very dry, slow motion version of Katrina. I was somewhat ambivalent about the car bailout; now I see it as what we didn’t do in New Orleans. Virtually every adult at the dining room table outside of my 92 year old mother had either lost his or her job, was notified the job would vaporize by the end of the year, or saw their work get cut by more than 50%.
Try walking over to the children’s table and explaining that to the kiddies. “Yeah, son, we could have saved daddy’s job and sent you to college, but those bastards who ran Chrysler spent the past 30 years screwing things up and now we’re going to move to a nice pre-owned cardboard box over on the Detroit River.”
I’m in favor of the government stepping in the same way I’m in favor of the government running the military: they don’t know how to do it, they will never know how to do it, they will certainly screw things up, but it beats the alternative.
So we take over the Big 3.We retool to greener cars and to green industries (all the hybrids in the world won’t help until we come up with new truck engines), adapt the infrastructure we’ve got to save jobs, create jobs, get us off oil dependence, and become exporters once again.
That’s how we’ll defeat terrorism.
Counterpoint this with America’s favorite Three-Card Monty scheme, Black Friday. This has become the dodgeball version of the mortgage scam run by the greedy asshole bankers the past couple years. It’s predatory during the best of times: the big box bastards have trained us into believing that the cool Christmas present our kids cannot live without and will hate you forever if you don’t get will sell out by Black Saturday and the price of everything else will triple on that same day.
There are only two things wrong with that concept. First, if the price triples on Saturday, everybody is going to wait until the week before Christmas for the price to plummet. Second, if your kid is going to leave you because he isn’t getting a Wii Fit, then let him go and spend the money you’ll save on some parenting classes before you pump out another spoiled rugrat.
In 2007, when we drove from my mother’s residence to our hotel last year around 10 PM, we saw the long lines cuing up at the big box stores such as Best Buy. This year, not so much. Well, actually, not at all. No money, no jobs, no bargains in Detroit. Totaled by Hurricane Greed.
As we were leaving Detroit Friday morning, we heard the most repulsive news to come out of the ether in quite a while. That very morning at the Wal-Mart in Valley Stream, New York (a trend-setting little town in Long Island on the other side of the Queens border) somebody looked at his watch. It said 5 AM. The doors were supposed to open at 5 AM. The staff was in the process of opening the doors, but the crowd – completely stoked into frenzy by the self-righteous hustlers of commerce – pushed through the entrance to storm the store. Remember, it was a damn Wal-Mart and Tickle-Me Elmo was so long ago the bastard’s shaving by now.
Jdimytai Damour, a 911 hero and part-time worker so in need of a paycheck that he had to show up at the Wal-Mart in the middle on the night, couldn’t get out of the way fast enough.
Jdimytai Damour was trampled to death on his employer’s black linoleum.
Coworkers who came to his aid were pushed, shoved, and stomped. So were the EMS workers who were trying to save his life.
You don’t have to be a history expert to know that it’s easy to rouse the rabble when they’re desperate… and it’s pretty easy to make them think they’re desperate. You don’t have to be Charles Ponzi to run a successful confidence game, and that’s exactly what America’s retailers have been doing with this “Black Friday” crap these past several years.
The blood is on Wal-Mart’s hands, but it’s also on the hands of every retailer and marketer who has promoted such hysteria. In this country, we don’t bust the victim of the con game. Unfortunately, the only con artists we arrest are the self-employed small-timers.
A half-century ago, the brilliant Stan Freberg warned us of our future in a comedy routine called “Green Christmas.” To quote historian/writer/friend Mark Evanier, “’Green Christmas’ (recast Scrooge) as the head of a major ad agency and Bob Cratchit as an account exec committing industry-heresy by not exploiting Christmas every way possible in his ads.” Freberg, by the way, was the head of a major commercial production operation at the time; he put his money where his mouth was.
His point: we’ve forgotten what all this is about. Not any more. Today, it’s about blood and death.
This holiday season is over. It’s too, too vile.