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Spencer Critchley Headshot

The Hunger Games at Walmart

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It's becoming a holiday tradition of our hyper-consumerist culture.

I refer, of course, to the annual Tsk-Tsking over the plebeian hordes who storm the gates of Black Friday -- and now Blacker Thursday.

Who waits in line over night to go shopping? We wonder. Who gives up their Thanksgiving just to save 10 dollars on a toaster, or even a hundred on a tablet?

Poor people, that's who.

Those of us who say we wouldn't dream of entering a Walmart on Black Whateverday? We can afford to say things like that.

While we indulge in the guilty pleasure of watching videos of poor people fighting over toasters and tablets.

The difference between that form of entertainment and The Hunger Games is a matter of degree, not kind.

But surely these people could just renounce consumerism, and "just go on a long family walk," as Mika Brzezinski suggested on Morning Joe this week? (Here starting at about 09:15.)

Yes, they could, and that might be a great thing. But we'd better hope they don't do it too suddenly, because our economy would collapse: consumer spending is roughly two-thirds of it.

Everywhere and all day long, we tell people they must buy stuff, and do it now -- quick, before the sale ends! And because they do, some of us have the means to observe the consumerist spectacle from comfy seats.

All those frantic shoppers could just refuse to play, of course, and some do. But they must overcome the shame felt by Americans who are not just poor, but, naked of logo clothing and must-have gadgets, visibly poor.

Billions of marketing dollars per year are directed at making consumer stuff essential to membership in our consumer culture. That stuff is made affordable by big box discount stores -- as are the necessities of life, like groceries.

And that affordability comes from under-paying the people who make and sell the stuff -- as was embarrassingly highlighted this season by a sign at a Canton, Ohio Walmart inviting "associates" to donate to co-workers who can't survive on their pay.

Sad to say, if we ever move beyond tsk-tsking to actual reform, it may involve some inconvenience for the rest of us.

It may mean setting a minimum value on human life -- otherwise known as paying a living wage.

Tough as it may be to contemplate, it may mean making our tickets to the Hunger Games a little more expensive.