Last Black Friday, we bought a big screen TV. Not that we could afford it. Not that we needed it. Not even that we really wanted it. Yet there it was, sitting in the middle of our garage, amidst the remnants of the other disposable "stuff" that was packed tightly into a room once used -- long ago -- to park our cars. What's that? A no-interest, three-year loan on that SUV at the dealer's till midnight? Let's go!
Thanksgiving clearly has evolved into sanctioned gluttony. The average diner apparently stuffs over 4,000 calories in the dinner meal, gorging on high-fat, high-carb and high-sugar treats in an effort perhaps to quell the anxiety aroused by uncomfortable family get-togethers. Saturated and sedated, celebrants stagger off to siesta and dream of regaling their co-workers on Friday with diet-inspiring details of their lush Thanksgiving spread.
Working off the Thanksgiving spread may have been the original motivation for the birth of Black Friday. Certainly today, with stores opening in the wee hours, the masses are exhorted to get off their "masses" and race to their local retailers for a local version of World Wrestling Federation tryouts. "I got here first... that dress is mine... dibs that camera... mine, mine, mine." With nary a moment to digest their Thanksgiving feast, the gladiators are sent into the ring to fight for ostensible bargains amidst cheering crowds. Hey, everything's half off-- who can resist?
Apparently no one, judging from the snaking lines at our local Big Box everything store last year. Spirited shoppers packed the aisles, grabbing merchandise right and left in a frantic frenzy that resembled a chaotic looting spree. Don't stand in one place too long or you might get hurt. Black Friday commercial orgies have come to resemble the drunken revelry that infected the denizens of ancient Rome. And few are immune to the high of the rampage. Tomorrow, or in a few days, the crash will come -- the piper will be paid -- at 29-percent interest. But for now, let's dance.
Our consumerist culture has managed to transform Thanksgiving from a celebration of gratitude to a celebration of consumerism. Then, fed and fattened, the gates to the arena are opened and the running of the bulls*! begins -- spend, spend, spend, buy, buy, buy, pay, pay, pay. And, hungover with credit card debt, we the people certainly will pay -- when we wake up and wonder how we were hoodwinked into a capitalist hysteria that has needlessly run up our debt and indentured us to our banking masters for yet another year.
The ancient Greek philosophers coined a marvelous phrase, "Pan Metron Ariston" -- everything in moderation. Would that our markets today promote a similar philosophy. Now that would be something for which to be truly thankful.
Yolanda "Linda" Reid Chassiakos, M.D., is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, and a Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA. She is currently the Director of the Klotz Student Health Center at California State University, Northridge.