November 25, 2011
Black Friday is upon us. And as we've come to expect with the arrival of our favorite American holiday, there have been huge sales, massive crowds, and the trampling of workers and pregnant women. Actually, those tramplings occurred three years ago. This year, the American public has moved on to a more popular method of violence: pepper spray. An unidentified woman at a Wal-Mart in Porter Ranch, California, pepper sprayed other customers in an attempt to keep them away from the merchandise she wanted. One wonders if she had been inspired by the UC Davis cop.
Stories like these make me want to throw my hands up in despair. I mean, is a widescreen TV really worth more than the upholding of basic humanity? Come on, guys. Can't we do better than this? And how did it get so bad in the first place?
Nathan Thompson from Dangerous Harvests has some further thoughts:
What I see in the folks buying cheap flat screen TVs, ugly sweaters, ties, useless plastic nick-nacs is a failure to experience love. They love their friends, family, and lovers, but what they are mostly expressing is a need to keep the relationships, to be a "good person" who gives to their loved ones. Sometimes, there is guilt there. Sometimes, there is a sense of duty there. Sometimes, there's a hope that whatever they give will appease their loved one for awhile. But all of it goes back to staving off that feeling of inadequacy, of not "being good enough," for awhile.
Those who actually allow themselves to experience love know how to respond to their loved ones. They override what the dominant culture is telling them to do, and listen for the opportunity to give wise gifts, and then do so. And if they give during this time of year, they do so having reflected upon their loved one first.
Perhaps I'm romanticizing the findings, but I've never seen a better example of wise and loving giving than this: an article in Discover magazine called "Helpful Mouse Fetuses Naturally Send Stem Cells to Mom to Fix Her Damaged Heart." Apparently, when a mother mouse has a heart attack, her mouse fetus naturally and spontaneously sends her some of its cells to help rebuild her damaged heart. The findings seem to hold true for humans as well; stem cells frequently appear in a pregnant woman's damaged organs. What do you think this means? Do we have a natural capacity for generosity and compassion that weakens the more we are exposed to consumerist culture?
This band, for one, thinks our culture is a "destitute hell" (from their lyrics). White Wives, a Pittsburgh-based band that I found out about via Worst Horse, just released a music video for their song "Hungry Ghosts." Their album, "Happeners," is named for a mid-60s Provo movement that championed nonviolence. I'm not sure if these guys are Buddhist—does anyone know?—but they're certainly familiar with Hungry Ghost Syndrome. Text like "I'll do anything to get what I want" and "I want this, I need this, I have to have this," runs over their video. Watch it below.