12/05/2011 07:18 pm ET Updated Feb 04, 2012

Don't Sell Your Soul for a Good Shopping Deal This Christmas

When I was a kid, there were certain things you didn't do. You didn't tattle to the teacher. You didn't cheat and you didn't cut the line. Cutting was unseemly. Muscling or weaseling or conning your way into a better, more advantageous, spot in line was unfair. The rule of the herd -- of the schoolyard and play yard -- was that you went to the back of the line. As I got older, I learned to adopt the phrase, "after you," and to hold the door open even if it meant someone was able to get in line in front of me. Older still, I learned why such deferential childhood behavior was actually vital in order to create and maintain an adult civil society.

Society doesn't seem so civil anymore. Black Friday this year has given a black eye to the start of the official holiday season, a season that used to be associated with the phrase, "Peace on earth, goodwill to men." Apparently, peace and goodwill stop at the doors of Walmart and Target. On Black Friday, a woman in the Los Angeles area decided her need for a discounted Xbox game console was so great that it necessitated pepper-spraying her fellow shoppers. Twenty people, including children, were injured. But she got her Xbox. In the ensuing panic, she apparently was able to make her way to the registers, purchase her item and exit the store. She has since been identified and turned herself in but, at this point, she's not talking.

On the other side of the country, in West Virginia, a 61-year-old man suffered an apparent heart attack while shopping for priced-to-move Christmas decorations at a Target store. Fellow shoppers didn't go out of their way to hit him with pepper spray, but neither did they go out of their way to help him. By some reports, as he lay slumped in the aisle, people continued to walk around and even over him on their way to whatever bargain they were hunting. An E.R. nurse and an off-duty paramedic eventually came to his aid, but unfortunately the man died at the hospital.

Back in California, a San Leandro man survived his Walmart experience in the store without being pepper-sprayed or tripping over fallen shoppers, but he wasn't so fortunate getting out of the parking lot. A little before two in the morning, as part of a group of shoppers heading out to their cars, he was confronted by several men demanding they turn over their purchases. When this man refused, he was shot in what police have termed a "robbery gone bad." Shootings happen in robberies with guns, that's fairly standard. I don't think it was the robbery that went bad as much as it was the shopping that went bad.

Media reports are now filled with similar incidents of violence occurring over the Black Friday weekend. In one of these articles, a woman voiced frustration, targeting her specific concern not over the presence of violence on Black Friday but over the lack of better shopping deals, saying "If I'm going to get shot, at least let me get a good deal." People are apparently willing to give up a lot in order to get their own good deal. They now appear to be increasingly willing for other people to give up a lot in order to get their own good deal too.

No, society doesn't seem so civil anymore. Granted, 30 years ago I might not have had the opportunity to know of these incidents 15 minutes after they happened, complete with cell phone video. Is society really less civil or has it always been and I'm just now hearing about it? Either way, I've decided I'm not going to participate. I refuse to compromise my humanity for a discounted Xbox game console. I refuse to ignore my compassion for sale-priced Christmas decorations. That's not a bargain to me. I refuse to be bought so cheaply.