The horror stories of so-called “Black Friday” are piling up on Google and have been duly reported by the evening news. There are stories of a woman using pepper spray to prevent others from getting to merchandise, videos of “shoppers gone wild,” pictures of the injured and most sadly of all, even of the dying.
In the current political atmosphere, my bet is that we’ll see a rash of reports suggesting that capitalism is the problem. That’s an oversimplification at best and a blatant misrepresentation at worst, but it feeds into the prevailing attitude among the representatives of the “mainstream” media.
Let me make something absolutely clear: I abhor violence of every kind, and this includes the violence that is inevitable when large crowds of people start making what I call “bodily demands.” It’s a Switzerism. It’s my way of referring to the tendency of people to use or even to project their bodies when they are in the midst of an emotional confrontation. For obvious reasons, bodily demands are especially dangerous when they occur in mobs. Examples of bodily demands include crowds pushing past security guards or police officers, rushing toward and even demolishing a retail display, or as happened two days ago, causing the collapse of a fellow customer who later died.
Large groups of people don’t have to use bodily demands, of course. Peaceful protests are an example of large groups of people making demands without physical confrontation. While the Tea Party has been portrayed unfairly by much of the press, the fact is that they are an example of a group that has, in overwhelming numbers, demonstrated what it looks like to have passionate yet respectful protest.
I don’t know exactly how to refer to the negative aspect of the “Black Friday” phenomenon. Perhaps it’s old-fashioned greed, or maybe it’s just hyperactive expectation or the frenzied hope of saving a few bucks. Whatever you want to call it, it’s not the same as capitalism anymore than driving recklessly is the same thing as having a driver’s license. And the fact is that, despite the examples of misbehavior, millions of people went shopping the other day without any negative incident on their part.
I suspect that the isolated examples of chaos of this past Friday have to do with a selfish attitude on the part of a few people that emphasizes the need to “get what’s mine.” It’s a sense of entitlement. Some people think that they are entitled to certain economic benefits just the same as they believe they are entitled to certain government benefits. Many of our politicians continue to feed this sensibility when they divide us into those who are supposedly rich and greedy, and those who aren’t getting what they deserve–in other words, that to which they are supposedly entitled.
Capitalism is nothing more than the exercise of freedom when it comes to the exchange of goods and services. The price of the item exchanged is the business of the seller and buyer, and government should stay out of the transaction unless there is misrepresentation or fraud.
Greed, on the other hand, is a whole other reality. The same goes for selfishness. I’m an advocate for neither.
I generally avoid doing any shopping on “Black Friday.” That’s just my personal preference. I may not like to shop among large crowds, but the truth is that the overwhelming number of citizens who shopped last Friday did so without endangering anyone, without making bodily demands, and without acting in a greedy manner. Well done, America!