“Black Friday,” traditionally known as such as a ledger reference for retailers making profits on pre-Christmas sales the day after Thanksgiving, has now acquired another meaning as well: “black” as in death. At a Valley Stream, N.Y.,Wal-Mart, “A temporary Wal-Mart worker died after a throng of unruly shoppers broke down the doors and trampled him moments after the store opened early Friday, police said,” according to the Associated Press.
There are times when a concrete, real-world event can serve as a focus, a highlight in microcosm, of the greater cultural milieu in which it is embedded, and this tragic occurrence – as well as some of the “explanations” being offered in the wake of it – is a textbook example.
“Only in New York” opined the Kansas City Star – as if the total disregard for individual life exhibited by this stampeding herd is limited to that geographical location only.
The Times Leader of Pennsylvania, in addition, questions our “culture of consumption” – as if inanimate objects sitting on superstore shelves have suddenly gained the power to program the thoughts of what would otherwise be normal and rational human beings.
The police and the local New York chapter of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, on the other hand, are blaming inadequate security on Wal-Mart’s part – as if security forces and barriers that didn’t even exist at that time and place were capable of grinding this man’s life out of existence.
In any culture or society, there will always be a percentage of the population who hold the rights of the rest of us to be of no value and who view our property as something to be looted or exploited as they see fit. In an honest, moral, free society based upon sound principles of social organization, these people are known as criminals. When the criminals come to clog the shopping aisles of our stores by the hundreds, however, a wider, deeper explanation is in order.
As a clue to that explanation, observe the element, the common theme that is missing from all of these pitiful excuses: personal choice and responsibility for one’s own actions. Yes, it is probably true that this man’s death could have been prevented by better security and barriers, but the lack thereof is not the causal agent at work here. That would be the mindless morons who chose to place more value on a new stereo or TV than they did on the sanctity of this man’s life.
Values, choices, personal responsibility: all of these things are the province of the field of ethics. And if our country is being taken over by people with skewed values who make poor choices and escape personal responsibility for them, it is only our ethical standards that can be blamed.
Are you surprised that a group of people can be so quickly transformed into a mindless herd? Don’t be. Haven’t we been teaching our young for decades that “no man is an island,” that the self is evil, and that the masses of society are all that matters?
Are you dismayed that human beings can attach such little value to the lives and property of others? Don’t be. Haven’t we been teaching our young for decades that society’s needs come first, that property is best held in common, and that individual rights are a fiction?
Are you enraged that personal responsibility has all but disappeared? Don’t be. Haven’t we been teaching our young for decades that accountability for one’s actions is outmoded, that big daddy government will pick up the slack for our bad decisions, and that ethics is nothing more than an arbitrary social construct?
And now – when hordes of savages literally crush down the doors of our stores and murder other human beings underfoot – we profess to be shocked and amazed, and search for the reasons. To find those reasons, we need only look to the nearest school, and to examine the “educational” curriculum we find therein.
But those are only ideas, you say? And you don’t believe that ideas matter, or that they have consequences? Then I would suggest that you check out that Wal-Mart video, for it just proved you wrong – dead wrong.
Bradley Harrington is a former United States Marine and a freelance writer who lives in Cheyenne, Wyo.
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