Black Friday Sales – The Seductive Disease of Capitalism

Scenes from the Black Friday sales

The chaotic scenes during the Black Friday sales last week was a fine example of unadulterated capitalism, writes Dilly Hussain.

Everyone loves sales and everyone loves digital coupons. Who wouldn’t want to save money when they go shopping? Whether it’s the latest Xbox game, kitchen appliance or electronic gadget, people are always looking for bargains, especially during the run up to Christmas. But there’s a stark difference between lining up for Boxing Day sales and the animalistic behaviour witnessed last week during the “Black Friday” sales.

People, who I assume on any other normal day, would queue up like civilised human beings, trampled and wrestled with one another over flat screen TVs. The scenes that were broadcast all over the media, was something you’d expect to see in a WWE Royal Rumble. Shoppers were injured as a result, and in many towns and cities, police were called to the shops to contain the bargain hunting zombies.

One would think that the era of slavery was an embarrassing chapter in the history books of the “civilised West”, but the Black Friday sales was a testimony that psychological slavery over material possessions was very much alive in Britain and the US. The retailers being the “slave owners” in this case and the goods on sale being the prize; subconscious slaves of capitalism lost all sense of rationality when they saw “50% OFF!” and “BUY ONE GET ONE FREE!” signs on merchandises.

Origin of Black Friday

Black Friday is the day after the American national holiday of “Thanksgiving” – a day of appreciation for the harvest of the preceding year (to whitewash the slaughter of Native Americans). It is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in the US and on the second Monday of October in Canada. Black Friday in a nutshell, is the beginning of the Christmas shopping season, where retailers open very early and offer promotional sales – sales that usually last throughout the whole “festive period” and after. Amazon brought the event into the UK in 2010 and this year most of Britain’s biggest retailers – Currys, Littlewoods, Asda, Argos, John Lewis and Tescos all offered discounts.

Photograph of the black board in the New York Gold Room, September 24, 1869, showing the collapse of the price of gold.
Photograph of the black board in the New York Gold Room, September 24, 1869, showing the collapse of the price of gold.

But Black Friday’s origin goes back to 1869 during the first financial crisis in the US, where two speculators – Jay Gould and James Fisk tried to disrupt the gold market on the New York Gold Exchange.

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Gould and Fisk hoarded large amounts of gold which caused the price of the precious metal to rocket and stocks to plummet. Consequently, the price of gold collapsed during the era of reconstruction after the American Civil War.

In essence, the term “Black Friday” symbolised a political scandal when America’s capitalist economic system was at the brink of destruction.

Numerous measures were taken to overcome this crisis such as the mass sale of wheat to Europe, and the alleged selling of slaves at reduced prices to help plantation owners recover from the recession.

Many businesses at the time used red ink to mark losses and black ink to mark profits, so in actuality, “Black Friday” was when retailers’ losses turned to profit as a result of discounted sales.

Capitalism’s enslavement of the mind

There is not much difference between the frenzied consumers of today and 1869. Whilst consumers believe they are winning over the retailers, in actual fact it is the other way round. Ordinary folks are manipulated into thinking that they are taking advantage of what appears to be ‘no brainer’ deals, making the ‘proletariat’, for once, the victors over the overbearing prices set by the ‘bourgeois’ retailers.

But it’s no secret that many Black Friday “deals” are rigged. Prices are pushed up on the day before the “discount” is applied, therefore the deal price is actually very close to the original price. And let’s say you bought a brand new fridge in an amazing deal, then half-a-year down the line you are hiring a repair service similar to to get the fridge working again. Appliances do break down every now and again, unfortunately, the ones often sold on Black Friday are of poor quality and stop working more easily than most. For many small electronics or appliances, there is no possibility of repair, you will have to throw it out and buy a new one… on the next Black Friday.

You would think that, knowing this, people would be warier of their purchases. However, the rationality which people apply in their everyday duties and decision making goes out of the window, and those who are rugby tackling people to get their hands on an HD TV, become subconsciously overwhelmed by the seductive nature of materialism. The scenes from the Black Friday sales were an example of the uncivilised and primitive behaviour created by capitalism.

MANICThe individualistic outlook in secular liberal societies in the West is bankrupt of a higher sense of purpose and ethical depth, except to “live life to the fullest” and gain as much wealth and material possessions as you can.

The never-ending pursuit for worldly pleasures can affect us all, and that’s expected as we are influenced by the dominant ideology of the society in which we inhabit.

It’s rather ironic how our minds are indoctrinated to direct our sense of fashion, entertainment and even diet in a society that prides itself in freedom of choice.

The reality we are oblivious of is our slavery to branded inanimates and desirable trends. Indeed capitalism is a grave offence on the human intellect and a mighty distraction to truly think independently and liberate the self.

It appears rather, we have sold our minds for half price!

This article was first published on the Huffington Post.


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