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Shop 'til you drop

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Message Frank Pitz
It's the season; shop 'til you drop

Somewhere in the early times -- before "Black Friday" -- the extended family lingered the weekend, still "giving thanks" and reminiscing the hours away over leftovers and kitchen coffee klatches.

Cousins got to know each other (once again) and to squabble as each one vied for the top dog family know-it-all. Aunt Bess, forever childless, always grouchy, was once again voted harridan of the feast by the pre- and post-adolescents in attendance. And what child could not help but snicker -- behind a strategically placed hand, of course -- as "Pop-Pop's" false teeth slipped out into his mashed potatoes.

Depending on geography, it was either cold or frosty, or you were running around coatless playing those outdoor games that only kids can dream up. At some point during all this wild abandon of childhood, after stuffing ourselves and after the kitchen was "cleaned up," kids would be called inside to wash hands and faces. A proper attitudinal adjustment was the order of the day as adults and kids piled into the various coupes and sedans for the "cemetery trip."

For the younger kids this was a mysterious rite of passage as the family members placed flowers and muttered strange incantations in front of cold stones that seemed to stretch forever. The older ones though, tolerated this ritual for they remembered when great-grand mom or great grand pop "passed," and besides it gave them a chance to show off with great authority their memories of such things.

The weekend played out in a series of montages seemingly pre-ordained by time and ritual. After all, this was that period when "children should be seen, and not heard," the 11th Commandment, as it were. But as with any rule, there were always a couple of the more adventurous that paid little heed to such conventions.

Invariably, it was these risk takers who were seemingly always being admonished throughout the weekend. They also were the subjects of the whispers back and forth among the adults;" that boy (girl) will come to no good."

But throughout it all we survived, we covered our asses and "ducked" during the Cold War school drills, and we withstood the short-hair pulling and knuckle rapping of our respective teachers and/or nuns.

We hung around in "juke joints" and tore up the asphalt in "deuce-coupes. We "joined up" either voluntarily or with a not so friendly nudge from a judge, who glared down while reiterating our sins while saying: "Go learn a trade boy." Then we followed our dads and uncles into the factories, or mines, or whatever.

Some of us died before we should have, either through self-abusing stupidity or through the sins of those callous old men who send the young off to war. The survivors would lament and reminisce through the haze of pot smoke and the taste of cold beer slipping down their throats. Through it all, we survived.

We survived, and we're still surviving in spite of political, social, economic and police state obstacles being thrown at us.

I'm not sure, exactly, what the catalyst was for these thoughts today during the post-Thanksgiving weekend. There were two news 'blurbs' that stick in my mind, one about a Wal-Mart (where else for Christ's sake?) where the cops had to be called in to quell a mini-riot in the electronics department.
Another item had to do with a 76-year-old woman being "knocked down and trampled" at a mall in South Florida. Black Friday news from across America, on a slow news weekend like this we are treated to those "fillers." I can't help but think that somehow the overwhelming majority of these "Black Friday" aficionados should qualify for those ubiquitous "Darwin" awards.

Rampant consumerism is theological dictate this weekend, because the economy needs rescuing and Corporate Amerika knows that you have some space left on that credit card. In addition MNBA, and Bush -- along with the bought and paid for Congress -- have ensured that bankruptcy is no longer an option.

Some deluded folks among us are singing a chorus of "Happy days are here again" as they figure the suddenly (seemingly) resurgent Democrats will swiftly right the listing ship of state. But, as one watches the endless stream of ad chatter while watching the Thanksgiving football entertainment it simply appears to be "business as usual." So too the media with their pronouncements about the "heaviest travel days of the year," and "record crowds expected out for 'Black Friday,' as the faithful adhere to the corporate message; "shop 'til you drop," or at least until you are trampled upon.

An organization known as ADBUSTERS, is once again promoting their annual "Buy Nothing Day," and in this piece I include a small snippet of their message for this years' campaign.

Dear Jammers and Cultural Creatives,
"This year's Buy Nothing Day has a special poignancy. Never before have
our emerging environmental crises been planted so firmly on the lips of
the policymakers and the general public. Rather than screaming from the
fringes, high-profile economists and scientists are sounding the
warnings in respected journals and the halls of parliament -- warnings
that our oceans are dying, that the ice shelves are melting, and that we
are setting ourselves up for the most massive and widest-ranging market failure the world has ever seen.

"All of this points to a profound need for a shift in the way we see
things. Recycling, protecting our waterways, driving hybrid cars -- all
the old environmental imperatives -- are great, but it's becoming
obvious that they don't address the core problem: we have to change our
lifestyles, we have to change our culture, and we have to consume
smarter and consume less.

"This is the message of this year's Buy Nothing Day, and there are only a
few days left to get that message out onto the streets. From the quietly
sublime to the crazily anarchic, the ways in which you can mark BND are
only limited by the imperative not to spend. Strut your stuff as if the
fate of whole planet is resting in your hands, because even if each of
us only does one small things to contribute, 96, 847 small things sure
add up!"

For the millions among us -- the homeless, the poor and the forgotten -- who cannot participate in the orgiastic Black Friday rituals, it is but one more day in George Bush's Amerika. In spite of the "charitable routine" which manifests itself at this time of year, these are still the "out of sight, out of mind" casualties of a corporate economy run amok.

George Orwell would be proud to see his "doublespeak" become the order of the day coming from Washington and their sycophantic presstitutes masquerading as the media. No longer do we speak of "budget cuts," now the de rigueur phrase is "budget savings." During this charitable, holiday season those "savings" total almost $100 billion.

Medicaid, food stamps, student loan programs and other benefit subsidy programs that primarily help the aforementioned segment of our society, become fatalities in the "slash and burn" style of Washington's charitable package to the dispossessed.
Millions of jobs lost in the manufacturing sector since Bush took office, millions added to the rolls of the homeless and unemployed, while the obscene corporate subsidies and tax breaks never see the scrutiny of Washington's "budget savings."

Infants and children's nutritional programs find nothing in their threadbare Thanksgiving offerings or Christmas stockings this year, either. Senior citizens, as well, will feel the wrath of Scrooge Bush & Company as they shiver in their cold rooms. But, still we survive.

Many among us though will not survive. For many children, seniors and homeless, this will be the last winter of their discontent as their lifelines are cut. George Bush & Company have abandoned all pretense of any kind of "safety net" and, instead, has thrown such measures overboard. This is truly an administration whose overriding edict is to "throw the baby out with the bathwater."

So while Bush utters false platitudes, and poses for his smirky photo ops, many in this country will not see a new year. And as George and Laura fix their faces in artificial smiles as they 'pardon' the "first turkey," or light the nation's Christmas tree, our fighting men and women across the seas continue to die for oil and a corporate falsehood.

Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas, Amerika; shop 'til you drop.

(Author's note: this is a reprint with a few additions, of a piece I did last year at this time, I believe it is appropriate to put it out there again. I suppose it is one of those "seasonal" things that many writers hold onto that in spite of when it may have been written becomes topical again at the appropriate season.)
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Frank is a radical iconoclast of a certain age now living and writing from the urban enclave of Philadelphia.
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