Black Friday. Red Saturday.

‘The term “Black Friday” was coined in the 1960s to mark the start of the Christmas shopping season. “Black” refers to stores moving from the “red” to the “black,” back when accounting records were kept by hand, and red ink indicated a loss, and black a profit.’

As you know, my infrequent blogs are usually fuelled by anger. However, this one is not. As Black Friday continues to draw the crowds, all desperate for a bargain, I have been reading comments on social networking sites about how we in the UK do not need or want to follow this great post Thanksgiving Day shopping spree, which hails from the USA. We are fed up of hearing about Black Friday, fed up of being constantly emailed from companies all tempting us with bargains. When the world is at war, when sickness and death and really horrendous events should be central to our news, instead what we have are photos of crowds fighting over the last TV (one fell on a woman’s head) and police calming hysterical shoppers.

I was annoyed at first, at the greed around us, the squabbling and bickering and need to have more, to buy more, to fill our lives with more stuff, whether or not we need it or want it. Yes, Christmas is coming and what better time to buy presents for our loved ones than at a bargain price, 10%, 25%, 50% off a price we would never normally pay. And yes, there are items we all need and have waited for, because Black Friday offers it to us at the best price, but what has emerged for me, as an onlooker (and someone who loves to shop) is that it is mostly (and I might be wrong) the less well off members of society who have been queuing at some stores since midnight, waiting until we slipped from one day into the next before logging on to a host of websites, while the rest of the house slept, oblivious to the money changing hands.

A bargain is a bargain, no doubt about that. It’s tempting, isn’t it, to buy a Lulu Guinness bag for £250 instead of £350? (I looked but did not buy). You save £100. That’s a lot of money to save on something you don’t really need or want but can have. And why shouldn’t you have it if you can afford it? If you can’t, there’s always the credit card(s). And this is not just about the big items, it’s about everyday items. Goods are expensive, if you can get it cheaper, go for it.

Shopping makes us feel better, it lifts our mood, it’s Christmas, it’s addictive, it’s easy to be caught up in the excitement of it all, we want to feel good, happy, positive, and retail therapy works. Momentarily. And then we buy again, to lift our mood because it has taken a dip. And we are lifted. Momentarily. But I’ve been thinking about depression and shopping, quick fixes and spending, and how so many people are depressed, for so many reasons, and shopping can and does, momentarily, fix that low, shift that gear, make you feel good about yourself and the world. But it’s the people who this effects, the people in society who the rest of us should be responsible for, whose Black Friday could turn into Red Saturday. I’m not being patronising or looking down on anyone or saying I should have a say in someone else’s spending habits. Those less well off deserve to have what the rest of us have – except a lot of us can afford to buy whatever we want, whenever we want (within reason, scrap the solid gold taps this year), in a civilised way. When I look at the news and see people sitting on the floor of a shop, hugging a gigantic box which they refuse to let go of, I feel sad, sad that we as a society care so much about stuff, status, outdoing others (or just because we like stuff, and why shouldn’t we?). And then I look closer and realise that while the companies are making millions, which is what it’s really about, ‘we’ have been given the opportunity to mock others, while ‘we’ pride ourselves in our impeccable behaviour, in our, we don’t behave that way, behaviour. All it does is confirm for some people in society, what they already think about other people of society.

Having stuff does not make you a better person, but it does make you feel good about yourself and if you can feel good about yourself at the best price possible, why wouldn’t you? Surely we must strive to make people feel good about themselves for reasons other than a quick fix provides? Can we change Black Friday to Happy Friday? As of today?

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