Nov 27, 2011

From Wall Street to Walmart: Thank Greed It's Friday

0 comments



For the past month or so, I’ve been reading street flyers and Internet posts demanding that Americans boycott his weekend’s Black Friday sales in order to send a message to the corporate 1% that the 99% is tired of its greed.


Of course, anyone who read my last year's post about shopping on a full colon knows I’ve been boycotting Black Friday for years, mainly because I dislike shopping and dislike crowds even more. I’ve also spent enough holidays without people I love on account of obscene mandatory holiday hours, corporate retail policies uncivilized enough to sour even the most enthusiastic bargain shopper over the years.

For those of us with family members who have long toiled in retail, Black Friday is more like a black cloud—one that looms over Thanksgiving dinner with the malaise of a thousand Sunday nights. And yet, the painful irony silver lining of that cloud remains that, without their jobs in retail, those same Americans would not be able to afford gifts to place under their own trees come Christmas.

And so, my goal this weekend was two purchase two things only: A haircut, and a ticket to see The Muppets (I succeeded in that goal...well, plus large bucket of popcorn). As in years past, I boycott Black Friday this weekend not so much to send a message to the 1%, but rather in an effort to preserve my own sanity, not to mention my cash and my karma.

Still, I respect those who choose to make a statement with their pocketbooks as, in the end, a silenced cash register speaks far louder to corporate America than a throng of linked-arm hippies singing We Shall Overcome. And yet, when I read the news that, by early Friday morning, acts of violence/terrorism had already occurred at nine Wal-Mart stores nationwide, I was reminded that the 1% does not have a monopoly on greed and corruption. Shameful Black Friday stories like the ones from Walmart speak to the fact that remorseless acts of greed are not relegated to Wall Street fat cats and corporate moguls. The 1% is not the only % plagued with unabashed cupidity, nor are the rich the only souls to fall prey to an unraveling of conscience in the face of seemingly irresistible opportunity (incidentally, what exactly is so irresistible at Walmart anyway?). At one point or another, to some degree or another, we all have caved to temptation and greed, although it is fair to say that our financial posture and position in society often determine the repercussions of that greed on a larger level. Indeed, generally speaking, the more well-off we are, the more resounding the societal effects of our rapacity.

I suppose therein lies perhaps the most difficult task appropriated to Occupy Wall Street—to create a movement in protest of tangibly definable crimes—transgressions like deceit and swindling—as opposed to nebulous human weaknesses like desire, megalomania, and, of course, greed. Such an effort is complicated, of course, because the acts that lead to the current economic crisis were born specifically of greed and, in a victimized person’s state of outrage, it is often easier target the failure of character than the criminal manifestation of that failure. But the paradox is not unlike the inconsistencies associated with the so-called War on Terror; just as it is physically impossible to wage a war against a tactic of intimidation, one cannot successfully fight a battle against a trait in human nature. We can only combat people and the organizations they comprise, not the emotions, urges, or desires that motivate them.

Occupy Oakland protesters vandalized this
Downtown Wells Fargo branch...two days prior
to depositing 20K into an account at the bank.
Image by Justin Sullivan, Getty Images.
Speaking of which, on the flipside, I worry sometimes that (perhaps as a subconscious side effect of the Supreme Court’s recognition of corporate personhood) protesters have fallen into a trap of thinking that corporations can be somehow swayed by their emotions, their contempt, their outrage, their spite. They are not. (Case in point: The 20K in Occupy Oakland cash Wells Fargo gladly accepted in the form of a deposit, just hours after the same protesters picketed and vandalized the bank’s local branch.) Indeed, greed is a whore’s best friend—well, that and antibiotics.


In the end, man might succeed at occupying Wall Street, but he can’t occupy the broken conscience of another man. He can punish crimes, he can lock up criminals, but he can never incarcerate greed. Greed is gansta, with the slight-of-hand of a motherfucker. Turn around once and it’s in the eye of a predatory lender. Turn around again and it’s in the eye of the working-class lady who pepper-sprays her fellow Black Friday shoppers at a crappy discount superstore.


Greed.  So elusive, and yet as predictable as a frothy Walmart clusterfuck the day after Thanksgiving.

 
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.