What sacrilege. It has the traditionalists seeing red while the retailers see the ever-dwindling green of the American consumer. Of course, this uniquely American holiday has long been devolving from that whole mythical over the river and through the woods scene. Because let's face it. Grandma either lives in a condo (Charlie Brown's), a nursing home owned by a lawsuit-immune consortium of Wall Street investors, or in your basement because Wall Street wiped out her retirement account. Thanksgiving.... er, Gray Thursday, is more about the getting over on the traffic jams and through the parking lots in search of the latest piece of cheap Chinese electronics. With underpaid workers and equally desperate consumers congregating en masse in Big Box Empire, a few purists are noticing that besides the War on Christmas so long bemoaned by Sarah Palin and the rest of the Fox gang, there's now a War on Thanksgiving too!
Remember that religious campaign to "Put Christ Back in Christmas" and stop the heresy of calling it Xmas? Well, we need to put the "Thanks" back in Giving, too. Because tragically, Thanksgiving has turned into Yanksgrabbing. Oh come all ye faithful descendants of the Mayflower and let us restore the true meaning of the holiday!
It goes without saying that we should boycott Walmart in solidarity with the striking workers, who seem to be finally getting under the skin of the loathsome Walton billionaires. Because they just got rid of their $11,000-an-hour CEO, and the National Labor Relations Board is bringing them to court for illegally retaliating against last year's Yanksgrabbing walkout. And have you seen their recent spate of greed-washing TV commercials, using associates to tell you how much they love working in Walmartisan? Apparently, you can get $40-a-month health insurance to supplement your Medicaid. I would hazard a guess that this junk insurance is good only for discounts on Walmart pharmacy purchases, or to partially pay for eye exams and glasses in Walmart's in-house optometry booth, or for flu shots and blood pressure checks from a moonlighting paramedic in one of those SuperCenter walk-in clinics. This is just a cynical guess on my part, mind you. Tell me if I'm wrong, and I will personally apologize to Sam Walton's ghost.
Meanwhile, the ThinkProgress War Room has put together a handy War on Thanksgiving guide for your hating and boycotting pleasure. I am not hopeful, though, that the American masses will Just Say No to Gray Thursday, Black Friday, Shoddy Saturday or even Cyber Monday. We can look forward to injuries or even death by Doorbuster. There will be at least one pepper-spraying incident over the last half-price Xbox. The scenes of desperate shoppers will be indistinguishable from scenes of desperate refugees in far-flung lands.
Winston Smith, hero of George Orwell's 1984, mused that "if there is hope, it lies in the proles."
But in a scene that presages the Yanksgrabbing holiday extravaganza, he is quickly disabused of the notion that scarcity and poverty translate into social activism. If only the oppressed masses "would rise up and shake themselves like a horse shaking off flies," the Party might be defeated from without.
Instead, one day when Smith is walking around the neighborhood and he hears a group of people wailing, it turns out to be a mob of hundreds, in despair not because of want and repression, but because there are only one or two cheap saucepans left in a bargain bin. Their faces are "as tragic as if they had been doomed passengers on a sinking ship."
What would happen, he asks, if all that raw human power translated into fighting over something that really mattered? "Until they become conscious they will never rebel," Smith writes in his journal. " And until they have rebelled they cannot become conscious."
Fast forward to 2013, and the crowds are still fighting for the wrong things. And it's even more Orwellian than Orwell, because those coveted "smart TVs" will be spying on the lucky consumers who out-stampeded their fellow shoppers to own one just in time for Xmas. (h/t Fred Drumlevitch.) As Yves Smith over at Naked Capitalism puts it in her regular Links feature, Big Brother Is Watching You Watch. Even if you turn off the TV's digital collection mechanism, it will continue transmitting information and data on your viewing habits. So watch what you watch. (Or do what I do with Netflix, which does share your viewing habits. Tune in to stuff you hate, mute the sound, and go to sleep while Big Brother confusedly calculates all your hopes and dreams. In my case, it's a marathon of Deadly Women interspersed with a binge of Extreme Couponing and a few old episodes of My Little Pony.)
On that cheery note.... Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! And joyful Hanukkah too.