Saturday, November 26, 2011

Black Friday Violence and Buddhism

Friday after Thanksgiving is rarely a big news day, so shopper violence got big headlines. In Arizona a grandfather was bloodied and knocked unconscious by police when he tried to rescue his grandson from being trampled; they thought grandpa might be stealing an X-Box game. Elsewhere, a woman used pepper spray on a dozen other shoppers so she could get first dibs on some sale items. One  confrontation with a family of bargain hunters led to a shooting. I understand about pitching tents in front of K-Mart to get in first. It's fun and it's free and it's harmless

What I don't get is the rage and sense of entitlement that leads shoppers to want to hurt each other so they can get more stuff.  All branches of Buddhism teach some form of detachment. They say suffering results from craving and desire. Letting go of things, or better yet, of wanting things, can bring peace. Getting more and more stuff will lead only to a lack of storage space and ultimately to boredom.

Black Friday originally referred to a market crash in 1864 when greed led to great suffering for investors in gold.  Now it designates a day of institutionalized greed: retailers hoping to get our money and shopper who long for more stuff.

Black indeed.