The Perversion of the American Dream: Black Friday, Getting Darker Every Year

November 26, 2011 § 35 Comments

By T’ai Carmen

“It is advertising and the logic of consumerism that governs the depiction of reality in the mass media.” ~ Christopher Lasch

“Who covets more, is evermore a slave.” ~ Robert Herrick

There’s a term for it now. Police are calling the consumer frenzy that broke out today across America’s Black Friday sales “shopper’s rage.”

So named to imply the state of profit for retailers known as being “in the black,” Black Friday, which should perhaps be renamed Bloody Friday, is getting darker every year.

in 2008 a 34-year-old Long Island Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death by a crowd of product-and-savings-crazed customers who pushed the door off its hinges before the store was open, chanting, “Push the doors in.”

This year a woman in a Los Angeles Wal-Mart pepper sprayed a crowd of people in the store – including children –to get at the Xbox 360 she was apparently ready to do bodily harm to obtain.

“She was competitive shopping,” quipped Los Angeles Fire Captain, James Carson. But it has apparently become a bloody sport.

In San Leandro, California, a family was accosted by two men demanding their recently purchased products in a park. In what could be called misguided attachment, the family refused to fork over the loot, and the assailant opened gunfire. The victim was rushed to the hospital in critical condition.

In a less bloody but equally poignant example of the madness, a grandpa in Phoenix, Arizona, was slammed to the ground by amped up police for putting a game in his waistband to lift his grandson up over the crowd.

People are blaming the economy, but in this author’s opinion that’s a flimsy excuse. We’re not talking about food here. We’re talking about stuff. Gadgets, games, flat screen TVs. These are luxury items. And yet the madness is being framed increasingly in the light of class.

A conspiracy theorist might point out how much more convenient it is for us to turn on each other than to recognize the problem of our blatant overconsumption.

Yesterday, The New York Times, for instance, commented that,”Budget-minded shoppers will be racing for bargains at ever-earlier hours while the rich mostly will not be bothering to leave home.”

The rich, and also the wise, not willing to suffer the bloody sport of “competitive shopping” in the name of material acquisition.

In an article for Business Week elaborating on the class angle, Dan Beucke discusses the subject with Marshal Cohen, the chief industry analyst of The NPD Group, which studies consumers and retailing:

“Time and again, Cohen saw consumers whose shopping reach had exceeded their spending grasp. A credit card maxes out and a member of the shopping party is sent outside to collect another card from the waiting car. Or the cashier offers up a sub-total and the shopper starts striking items until the bill fits the cash on hand.”

The story is supposed to illustrate the budget-strained struggles of a pressured working class. But is there a deeper story going on?

It seems more symptomatic of a mentality that people are willing to spend their last dollar on, go into debt for, “stuff.”

Again, these are luxury items people are buying. They are not necessities. The perversion of the American dream  has resulted in a bloated, yet ever-hungry consumeristic monster.

The only difference between the Black Friday people pinning sales clerks against the wall in their rush to snatch their plastic prize and the consumers who stay home and buy their shiny toys another day is spectacle.

To call this simply an issue of recession is to read the situation on a very superficial level. Rather, we must assume it is indicative of a gross misplacement of priority. What else can we call it when people become so crazed for things that a fellow human being becomes just one more obstacle between themselves and an XBox?

As economist Paul Heyne notes, “The gap in our economy is between what we have and what we think we ought to have – and that is a moral problem, not an economic one.”

Chuck Palahniuk of Fight Club fame muses:

“Experts in ancient Greek culture say that people back then didn’t see their thoughts as belonging to them. When ancient Greeks had a thought, it occurred to them as a god or goddess giving an order. Apollo was telling them to be brave. Athena was telling them to fall in love. Now people hear a commercial for sour cream potato chips and rush out to buy, but now they call this free will. At least the ancient Greeks were being honest.”

And so we, as conscientious dreamers, must ask ourselves, as the crazed shoppers of Black Friday do not, what are we really hungry for? And what should we truly be feeding that hunger inside?

I say feed it experience, feed it human relationship, feed it books (you don’t have to buy them, go to the library!) feed it art (every museum has a free admission day!) feed it good music (in the city weekly papers, there are always free music events!) Feed it the sound of the wind in the trees, and rivers running. Feed it campfire stories, the sky and the stars. Feed it significance through reading, thinking, dreaming. Feed it love. Feed it beauty. Feed it knowledge.

We are hungry, but as a nation we are stuffing ourselves with metaphorical and literal junk food. If you’re reading this, you already know this. So what can we do?

In the bracing and vitalizing words of fellow journeyer Terrence McKenna:

“We have to create culture, don’t watch TV, don’t read magazines, don’t even listen to NPR. Create your own roadshow. The nexus of space and time where you are now is the most immediate sector of your universe, and if you’re worrying about Michael Jackson or Bill Clinton or somebody else, then you are disempowered, you’re giving it all away to icons, icons which are maintained by an electronic media so that you want to dress like X or have lips like Y.

This is shit-brained, this kind of thinking. That is all cultural diversion, and what is real is you and your friends and your associations, your highs, your orgasms, your hopes, your plans, your fears. And we are told ‘no’, we’re unimportant, we’re peripheral. ‘Get a degree, get a job, get a this, get a that.’ And then you’re a player, you don’t want to even play in that game. You want to reclaim your mind and get it out of the hands of the cultural engineers who want to turn you into a half-baked moron consuming all this trash that’s being manufactured out of the bones of a dying world.” 

What form does this take? You decide.

For me it takes the form of writing this blog and informs the direction of my work. It takes the form of conversations with fellow journeyers and conscious decisions to identify, and sometimes curtail, the buying urge that’s been implanted in my brain via psychological programming. Of recognizing and celebrating my difference from mainstream consumer-based culture and its distorted value system, and in further investigating how I can be part of creating something better.

For George Carlin, it took the form of fantastically searing philosophical comedic diatribes:

Related articles: Invisible Architects & The Engineering of Human Desire.

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§ 35 Responses to The Perversion of the American Dream: Black Friday, Getting Darker Every Year

  • Abdelwahab elSadek Salem says:

    We should know that the human kind started in the beginning like animals. They started with instincts. Then the consciousness evolved with time. Among the fundamental instincts there is some which are like in dogs or beasts. When you throw a piece of meat to a group of them they fight to catch it. Your country is better. Here they fight to get the daily bread. If the people here knew what you said they would laugh as if they heard a joke. However the people of advanced consciousness don’t do that. They are the advanced. Years ago a director from here told us about a cruel real event happened to him in an African country. Two tribes from the wood fought each other to eat him. For his luck an officer was passing by chance and rescued him. The wolves do the same with each others. So all kinds of moral teachings are necessary every where.

    • taicarmen says:

      I suppose you are right, it all comes from the same inner animalism. But fighting over food seems much more understandable. Fighting over luxury items is laughable. I am ashamed for the world to see this aspect of my country. But I’m glad there is awareness, as you say, that we are not all of us in America fighting so grotesquely. Some of us are trying to spread awareness of a higher consciousness. Thanks for being part of the conversation, and be well! TC

      • @iramey says:

        First off, another good read, Tai. Thank you. I really appreciate the slightly more editorial effort here. I ‘follow’ you because it’s my access to your particular aesthetic – which I respect and enjoy. Getting more colour and texture to the skeleton, if you will, adds to its value; for me, at least. So thanks.
        Now, this likely requires a larger exploration and explanation than a reply to a reply to a comment but I am not so sure that it is a “higher consciousness” that we’re working to spread (and I think you and I are not to dissimilar in our values and aims).
        Of course, I acknowledge that I am only speaking for myself but, if I understand you correctly, it isn’t a “higher” standard we need to “evolve” to, it’s that we need to allow ourselves to integrate into our awareness something that we all know and see to be true. We need to fully use and acknowledge the current level of consciousness we DO have.
        It’s not a secret, the absurdity of pepper spraying fellow shoppers or of trampling people to death over a teevee deal. And all this by folks who know they can’t afford what they are there to buy. They all know that; we all know that. The battered woman knows she’s being abused. But how many just simply can’t allow themselves to accept the truth of their condition? It’s not another or different level of consciousness that she needs. She needs the space and support, the advocate, to encourage her to see her own truth and value. She doesn’t need her condition described to her. She needs to know she’s allowed to take in the truth of her condition and she needs the support that allows her to know that there are other ways; that it doesn’t have to be this way. (By using the example I have here, I do NOT mean to make light of domestic abuse. Not at all. It’s a regrettably well known condition that we have become grotesquely conditioned to accept – the frequency of which has allowed it to be as well known and understood as it is!)

        “The global economy is running out of steam,…” is a headline being broadcast right this second on CBC Radio.
        “The UN warms 25% of planet’s land is highly degraded.”
        “Europe scrambles to save euro from collapse.”
        Climate change…Kyoto didn’t work. Copenhagen didn’t work. There’s a conference in South Africa happening right now and no one is really expecting it to work. Yet, things are shifting. Conditions are changing. We all know it. Our bodies know it. Our hearts know it. Things are out of whack.
        New data suggests that the Arctic could be ice free in 30 years – 40 years earlier than previously thought. The last time the Arctic was ice free? 125,000 years ago.
        I don’t know that it’s a lack of education or a suffering from the level of consciousness or awareness that’s our challenge. I think it’s something far more obvious…and easier to achieve!
        What you mean when you say that we need to work for a higher consciousness to turn this tide of madness, a madness that is so obvious to us – I do think I understand what you mean. I’m simply trying to suggest that, perhaps, if instead of trying to change something as fundamental and ginormous as another’s consciousness level – maybe we just need to allow people the support and space to accept the whole truth of what they, themselves, know to be true.
        I fear there’s a nuance to all of this that might not come through the words here.
        Many women – face bruised, bones broken – will swear that they fell in the bath when the police or a friend appears at the door.
        I am not advocating for some prescriptive blue print to be legislated or for new policy changes. I’m not suggesting that all people should believe me and do things the way my perspective dictates. Not at all. I barely know enough of what I need to know to understand the work that is before me, much less my thinking I know the “one right way”. What I have found and believe is that, in effect, for many, the work they’re doing won’t necessarily change much, were we/they to understand the difference/dynamic I’m trying to speak to. The shift in approach and understanding of why the work is being done – what we expect to accomplish in/with our work – might offer a greater sense of possibility and likelihood of success. I mean, if I approach someone with the idea that I need to change their mind; woof. That seems like a tough job ahead of me. Whereas, if I approach someone who is obviously suffering and confused, frustrated and discouraged; offering them the space and understanding that it’s time to accept the realities they face, and the realities we share, – that it doesn’t actually have to be this way -THAT seems a more manageable task.
        Certainly, I value my time and work and want to be as efficient as possible…when I set to a task I generally expect my work to lead towards the completion of said goal. I’ve never had success, nor have I seen anyone else succeed, at “fixing” someone. Isn’t that, in a way, what we say when we say we’re trying to get people to recognise “a higher consciousness”?
        Frankly, I think the level of consciousness that Homo sapiens have had for some 200,000 years, has served us quite well – for a very long time. We certainly haven’t spent anywhere near the majority of those 200,000 years in this condition. Something, however, has gotten us to our current state and circumstance, right? When did it change? How did we get here? When? It seems to me, when you loose your keys, you start by backtracking to find the time and spot when they were lost. Right?
        There’s no question that we’re going to have to find some new ways of dealing with one another and our environs. Whether we want it or not, it seems like some changes are coming. I like our odds better, our odds of dealing with what is and will be pretty uncomfortable for lots of people in this country, if we (as I believe you are doing Tai), work to create the opportunities and permissions for folks to incorporate the realities of their conditions into their daily lives. We’re going to have to come to terms with the way we’re spending our hours, our hearts, our lives.
        I don’t think we have to go as far as comparing Friday’s (insane) hijinks to animals fighting over a kill. (And who are we kidding? That one Friday each year is the least of our problems – though not for those that are trampled, eh?) There may be some circumstantial comparisons but it’s not some fundamental survival cue that supports and manipulates the absurd ‘quality of life’ that N.America and the First World have. It’s the marketing. It’s the stories we’re told. It’s the histories we’re taught to be “The Truth” – all the while, the vast majority of us don’t really believe that all this nonsense is working. Keep them distracted, keep them fighting each other, maintain the Bread and Circus – just don’t allow them the reality of their conditions!
        “I love you honey.” “I really do love you!”
        And so it’s gone.

        Forgive me if I’ve run on here a little bit. I spend every moment of my days working through all of this stuff – there’s certainly nothing better and more important to which my energies and creativity could be spent. My security, my future, my comfort and survival depends on it.
        Thanks again for your work and energy, Tai. And thank you to everyone else for everything you do…there’s certainly a lot of work to be done! M’best…

      • taicarmen says:

        Good food for thought! Thanks for joining in the conversation. :) I don’t know that I myself would have used that word if it wasn’t a response…Abdelwahab elSadek Salem had used the phrase “the people of advanced consciousness,” so I used the same language he had introduced because it made sense to me. To me what you are saying is primarily a difference in semantics, though I understand why you feel it’s important to draw a distinction between the phrase “higher consciousness” and the idea of “accepting reality,” which is indeed something I think we can all agree we need to do, if by reality we mean the current reality of our world and its systems and mentalities. But I would argue that — while I agree that the approach of “hey, we all know this is absurd, let’s accept it and do something about it,” is going to be way more successful than, “Hey, let me take you to a higher consciousness by telling you all about your absurd reality” — by accepting reality one ceases to use, or exist in, ones current state or level of consciousness (which, in this case, I assume would be one of denial of circumstance)and moves into a more “in touch” state. Which I would call a higher level of consciousness. But the word ‘consciousness’ again wouldn’t have necessarily been my own choice of words. It’s vagueness does invoke this kind of semantic murk. ‘What is consciousness?’being one of the age old questions that it is. ;)

        Glad the extra push of some extra color in the writing was appreciated.
        On on,

        TC

      • @iramey says:

        “Your comment is awaiting moderation.”
        I LOVE it!
        :)

      • taicarmen says:

        That’s all wordpress. ;)

        After I’ve approved one comment by a person, it goes in automatically after that. Just wordpress’ little system. Works well enough!

      • @iramey says:

        Indeed, Tai, I know that’s wordpress. I wouldn’t imagine you using a phrase like that.
        But isn’t it precious? I mean, really!
        Classic.
        :)

        I ‘get it’ – the reason and meaning it’s employed to send – but forest-for-the-trees perspective,…it’s classic!
        Something along the lines of “Operation Enduring Freedom”.
        LOVE it!
        :)

      • taicarmen says:

        What? No reply button for a reply to a reply? :)

        Iramey:

        Ha! Cool. Just figured, you know, there’s a first time for everything and maybe that was your first time commenting on a wordpress blog. Who knows! Just wanted to distance myself from the stuffy phrasing I guess. ;-)

        I’ve been thinking about your comment that we all already know what to do, we just need to do it. I think its a very good point and it’s certainly true for my social circle… I may not be giving the general populace enough credit.

        I wonder, though, if some things are so ingrained into us that a lot of us don’t see the forest-for-the-trees…even the most thoughtful of us, may and probably do have enormous blind spots because of our conditioning.

        But I guess you’re saying, despite that, we still have our gut wisdom? I agree, we all (perhaps with some exceptions) have that inner compass, but do the majority of people even listen to this gut feeling anymore? Or does it just register as so much peripheral un-ease and anxiety, a kind of white noise we have learned to block out?

        Musings only.

        Be well!

        TC

      • @iramey says:

        In response, TC, as a matter of fact, that was my first comment posted on a wordpress blog. How ’bout them apples?

        I had just cleared some time to respond to the semantics point when I received notice of your latest offering here.
        Whew,…lots of points from which we might launch into some conversations! I don’t trust my ability to eloquently tackle those all in this response but I do want to offer a few reactions.
        It’s not so much, or so simply described, as a “gut feeling” as much as we, as Humans first, have a knowledge that has deeper roots than our culture commands (An assumption of mine, let me make clear, is that there are much larger forces at work; that Nature, in all her expression and dynamic, has been at this game much longer than the U.S., any Church, philosophy, diet trend, political philosophy, ad campaign – and I must defer to how She understands and engages evolution and history – that maybe Her history isn’t one that only the victors have authored. But I digress….a little.).
        Consider what we basically do consider to be “our” history – that history of Civilisation. Some 10,000 years ago, we’ve been taught, a bunch of savages ‘invented’ agriculture and then, and only then, did humans, ‘real’ humans, come into existence. That’s false. Homo sapiens, just like us, spotted nearly every landmass on the planet and had a successful (because they were still living!) existence for some 200,000 years…some 95% of the actual history of Humans…that history that is OURS…is often labled as pre-history.
        Well, similarly, perhaps you only came into existence when you started the blog, right? It makes just as much sense.
        Try this yourself,…give a listen to how often people refer to ‘human nature’, as in, “Well, that behaviour,…that’s ‘human nature’ – to fight for food, to fight for KitchenAids, to,….whatever.” Well are those statements accurate? I don’t presume to know, frankly. But if you listen enough it begs the question, what history are they referring to? What set of evidence are they pulling from to make a statement that blankets the whole of our species existence? I believe you’ll find that there are projections, prescriptions, constraints and expectations that we are conditioned to expect as simply a part of “how we are” and are, thus, inescapable. That’s hogwash. It’s purely false.
        This isn’t a case of “romanticising the Savage” – which is the oft response when this stuff comes up. It’s absurd to think that we can go back or that “things were better back in the day” – this is expressly about understanding where we are now, today, where we want and expect ourselves to go and how do we expect to get there.
        I do not presume to know how all people should live. That, also, is not the point. But I know that the vast majority of what I, a tall white man of 39, born in Boulder, Colorado, was asked to learn, to adopt and to believe was ‘the right way to live’ – it doesn’t work. Going to school, getting jobs, having children, marriage, padding the retirement fund and, then, at some point, to stop working, buy an RV and,…..whatever. The model doesn’t work (do I need to point out what supports that judgement? Let me know and I’ll begin the litany of evidence – oh! And pick the topic or field from which you’d like to have the evidence pulled from. There is certainly no shortage of symptoms out there.). That model, not only doesn’t work, it’s brought some rather traumatic consequence; the tab of which, looks like we’re beginning to have to pay.
        My point with this is, for example,…if you loose your keys, you don’t just tilt your head to the ground and if they’re not there, give up and start walking. No. There’s a process of backtracking, if you will, to explore all the places you might have been, the things you might have done, until you find that point, that moment and place, which separated you and your keys.
        I do not believe it’s quite as simple as ‘doing what we know what to do’. Then again, it is precisely that simple. I suppose the key is how we understand what we know. N.America has had a level of privilege that hasn’t exactly given this population (and we can include all First World living, I suppose) a fair or accurate view of the cost of our standards. We’ve been conditioned, intentionally and as a by-product of our excess, to think that we can live this way forever. It’s bollocks. Sure, I know a lot of people wish and want it to be true….heck, wouldn’t it be kind of fun to trash your neighbours as you dive for the latest game box in the morning, supper on food that you have no idea from where it’s come and then spend the evening on a flight to Vegas where,….well, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, right? I’m taking a bit of a piss out of the whole thing with that example but, yea, to have had that model work would have meant that my 70 year-old mother wouldn’t have to be working 14-16 hours/day to get by. And the list goes on.
        The model doesn’t work. One way or another, all of us, ALL OF US, are going to have to come to terms with that. Think of just this one point. We don’t know what kind of political, economic and environmental changes we’ll see in the next 20 years. It doesn’t seem like it’ll be all rainbows and unicorns but even if it’s a relatively stable change,…we have 77 million people in the US, the Baby Boom generation, beginning to turn 65 this year. We don’t know the other stuff but we know that for the next 20 years, there will be 10,000 people each day turning 65. That means – assuming conservative and accepted demographic statistical models – that in 20 years, we’ll have some 8,000+ people turning 85 each day. Ask the folks in the field (I happen to be one of them), we’re not ready for them. We don’t have the facilities, the doctors and professionals in training, … much less an idea on where we’re going to get the resources to deal with all of the stress our aging population will put on our communities, families, etc.
        Folks are going to be stressed. *Things* aren’t going to go the way we were told they would. We were told that as long as we kept going along with how they told us our lives were and needed to be, and that we worked hard, that everything would be OK. That illusion will crumble. The wizard will have the curtain pulled back. What then? If people believe the rhetoric then it’s very likely that some “super natural” force or entity will have to swoop down and deliver us to a ‘higher level of consciousness’. When my child is hungry, however, hoping for that ‘super natural’ *something* to solve the problem can only go so far. At some point, I’m going to get my bum out there and try to ease the hunger…or else let my loved one die. I understand there are SO many different ways to understand that … I understand that some would and do, indeed, “pray” (used for ease not as an indictment) for the sustenance – until there’s death. For myself, that’s not a reasonable response to the situation and I just can’t ‘expect to find my keys’ where I want them to be – no matter how badly I want them to be there.

        There is so much more to this….more detail, more to explore, much nuance.

        I ask myself all the time about how much credit to give the general populace. Today, I’m of the mind that it’s an awfully good question to explore daily. I tend to believe that we do have roots that go WAY, WAY deeper than the current HBO special or high school curriculum. Dance with who brung ya, right? You tell me,…are ya going to consider what DID work for 95% of the time or what’s not working for 5%? I happen to believe that my best chance for a level of security and comfort in, say, 30 years, will be to begin to find where we left our set of keys. I believe we are a pretty cool and capable species and I believe we’d better get to using our creativity, intelligence and Human-ness (Humanity), to figure out how to actually live on this one planet we have.
        I get that saying something like that can be written off, as many have and do do, as some ‘hippy drivel’ or some such. Those folks who have said similar things about our future in years past,…I can’t say they were wrong – even though “the crash” hasn’t happened (yet). But I’m not a dummy and when planning for my future (aren’t we berated with that mantra all the time? “Plan for your future!” “Think of your future!”), I have to take an honest assessment of our assets and constraints. In so doing,….well, you tell me? Do we not have an immense amount of work to do?
        Not all folks will think like me. Not all folks are going to see it this way. That’s fine. No worries. I wish them all the best. However, I happen to believe and respect all the forces and stories at play here and I believe the sooner we tap in and begin to listen to what we know and value – as Humans, not as Civilised humans (again, we’ve given Civilisation the ol’ college try and,…well, how has it worked?). That, in all it’s complex, multi-faceted and diverse glory, will give us the best shot. The bonus of which,…it’s information that we already know. It’s a part of us (in body but through story, other cultures, art, language, etc.)…we don’t have to reinvent any wheels. We simply (“simply”) need to listen and apply.

        I don’t think people have been given the honest permission and freedom to listen to their gut. Our governments and economies, schools and communities, wouldn’t likely exist in any of today’s forms were people allowed to listen to their own compass. Over-all, I do think that people will register with their Humanity before they pledge to “pepperspray-or-death!” Some will, of course,…and we’ll have to deal with it. But I’ll tell you, my best shot for that security and future is for as many people to have the space and freedom to give their conscience an honest and legitimate ear. It seems like an awfully good place to start, at least.

        Many interruptions this afternoon have delayed my finishing this but I suppose I’m at a good place to stop. I know there are a ton of words here – and that it’s obvious that I’m still working out the best ways to ‘package’ the information and concepts so that they translate as smoothly as possible – - but, hopefully, this gives you some more to chew on.
        Just remember, 5% does not a Human make! :)
        Onwards!

      • taicarmen says:

        Great points, all. I love the key analogy and the idea of backtracking. As Joni Mitchell sang in “Woodstock”:

        We’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden

        It’s also fascinating to think about the implications that we do consider much of humanity’s past “pre-history,” when in fact this was millennia worth of experience which helped form who we are today, no matter how divorced we feel from that existence. We still crave those so-called tribal things: community, dance, magic, connection, nature.

        I know what you mean about needing to find some way to more succinctly package the material. It’s a lot to get in. For me, having this blog has been incredibly helpful in the crystallization of my ideas, so I do suggest writing for that one!

        Thanks again for being part of the conversation.

        On on!
        TC

      • @iramey says:

        The original post asked me what I was hungry for. I’m hungry more and better options than those we’ve been given. I’m hungry for more engagement between people and with the communities in and with which we live – the water, trees, plants, insects; the bacteria in our digestive track, the wild salmon in the rivers, the older person living next door in the room down the hall. I’m hungry to have more comfort and security on my 80th birthday than those we collectively support and extend to those in their 80s today.
        Everything I’m sharing here is a part of that effort for me.

        I don’t mean to flog the dead horse but I wanted to offer a few resources in case folks are a bit interested in what’s been written.
        These don’t align, specifically, with my own findings and opinions but they are certainly good fodder on the topics.

        An hour interview with Chris Hedges: “Empire of Illusion” -
        http://www.cbc.ca/ideas/episodes/2011/11/30/empire-of-illusion/

        A five hour series, in one hour sections, from Wade Davis: “The Wayfinders” -
        http://www.cbc.ca/ideas/episodes/massey-lectures/2009/11/02/massey-lectures-2009-the-wayfinders-why-ancient-wisdom-matters-in-the-modern-world/

        Another five hour series in one hour blocks, from Ronald Wright: “A Short History of Progress” -
        http://www.cbc.ca/ideas/massey-archives/2004/11/07/massey-lectures-2004-a-short-history-of-progress/

        Certainly, the work of Daniel Quinn, Derrick Jensen, Wes Jackson and many others would also fit the category.

        Cheers…happy December and I look forward to the next post!

      • taicarmen says:

        What a wealth of resources, Iramey, thank you! I look forward to digging into these and thanks for sharing them with the group! :)

        I think you’ve hit it on the nose with the idea that we are hungry for connection and community. Not digital community (though that has its place) but in-the-flesh, face-to-face humanity.

        I was recently lucky enough to be invited to spend a few days at a lake house a couple of friends had rented on Lake Tahoe and for four days we just existed in this wonderful communal, tribal environment. No one went online, we had nowhere to go except down to the lake, or on some little exploration of the landscape.

        I found by the last day we were existing on a way deeper, calmer, more harmoniously connected wavelength. One of my favorite memories was on the very last day when about seven of us were all sitting around sharing stories. It amazed me to watch! No one interrupted anyone, except in the most synchronized offering kind of way. There were no competing conversations. Everyone was involved in the same story, the same moment, and it was magical.

        I read a fascinating article about how people’s brainwaves sync up when they are engaged in a story that someone else is telling. I want to write a post about it, but in the meantime, here’s the article documenting the research that discovered it.

        http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/you-illuminated/201106/why-sharing-stories-brings-people-together

        Anyway, I think it’s this kind of humanity we are hungry for. We may see friends and have a sense of community, if we’re lucky, but it’s usually just a few hours with this friend, a few hours with that small group. What really brought us to another level was taking so much time out of our daily lives to come together for several days in nature. It made me realize how important it was for me, and I believe for others, to create that kind of experience in our lives, and not just once or twice but routinely, perhaps every few months. That fed my spirit deeply; a feast! :)

        On on!

        Tai

      • @iramey says:

        (her space holiday is my soundtrack for this response – at least the beginning of it. ‘the young machines’ happened to be the album that was next in the random queue. it’s just begun to play as i’ve begun to type.)

        Yes. Great link you’ve shared there. There are lots of very good (scientific; no, let me correct that, – “Scientific”) reasons to support what, really, so many of us know. It’s almost like we need to do the science so we can give ourselves permission to believe what we really already know. (How much more science will be needed before folks start to act on it, eh? I hope it’s not much more…we need more “do-ing” than justifying and rationalising right now, eh?.)
        It’s like your time on Tahoe, Tai. Just as you say, we *know* time like that is valuable and important. Yet, how much actual Value do we give it? I mean, of all the people doing all the different things all over,…”TGIF”, right? People are wishing their lives away. People are doing things, willingly, that they know aren’t serving them. They know it. They might struggle through trying to articulate it but they know; we KNOW. There are heaps of conditioning, distractions and *stories* we’re asked to make our own (they call TeeVee “programming” right? And what’s High School in the States? University? The basis of our economy?). Yet, for the most part,…stripped down, in our heart-of-hearts, we know it’s all bullshit. Plain and simple.
        Ka-ka.
        Crap.
        And then it’s asked, “Well if everyone knows it’s bollocks, why don’t more people *do* something about it?”.
        What legitimate and even remotely fair opportunity do people have to live ‘outside’ it all? It’s friggin’ exhausting, intimidating, isolating, etc. for someone to strike that position against “the System”…against their families, their friends,…against all the pressures to not be ‘too radical’, to get a good job, to not be engaged too much, to ‘put our time in’, etc. That’s a really scary choice for people to make. It’s easier for them to believe that it really is all just something that’s wrong with them, individually, and if they just buy the newest car, wear the newest perfume, look the newest way, and so on – it’ll all be OK.
        Well it isn’t.
        What’s difficult for people to understand and accept is that things are structured this way. This culture requires that people DO feel the deep wrongness of the whole thing – and that they go through the self-controlling denial of the things that ARE quite obvious to them. Otherwise, what motivates them to stay in the game? Why stay on the stage? If there weren’t enough people helping people feel better about the whole mess,…people helping people “get by”, people self-correcting their own behaviours and actions…then who would support it all? If, for example, a number of people (you pick the number. It doesn’t matter. 10 or 10 million) decide to ‘check out’; if that number of people decide to make real (“to realise”) that the times they spend together, like what you and your friends just got to experience,….what if they began to make that time the priority in their lives? What if more people, as you might indeed be suggesting, committed to having their days reflect, more wholly, more completely, what they value. What if people’s days – the hours and minutes of their days today – what if those days reflected, respectfully, what they really value? What if people committed to spending more than the few hours in that small group but, instead, committed to spending those days and weeks doing what they think is best for themselves? Would the malls and box stores have the traffic they do today? Would professional sports or lunch room cafeterias or cubicles, elevators, ‘expresways’, satellite TeeVee, and political offices – get anywhere near the traffic and attention they get today were folks to listen to their own compass and act on that motive?
        I don’t mean to come back to all that but it’s, really, what we’re trying to peel apart here. Some things feed our spirits. Other things consume them. When we consider ‘the state of the world’, it seems we need a whole lot of spirit feeding rather than spirits consumed and *that* is what I’m very interested in.
        Consider that we don’t question that whales organise themselves in pods, fish in schools, ravens in storytellings, etc. I have never heard the argument made that it’s absurd that lions organise themselves in prides and that they should be collected in a different way. Have you? It’s unlikely. But what about us? Humans? We’re a species among all the rest, right? Well how are we organised? How did we learn to collect and live? Considering our history, the full history, it’s very clear that Humans *have*, overwhelmingly, existed and thrived in tribes. There’s no question about it. Is there any question, then, why our brainwaves might sync when we’re in settings that reflect some kind of tribal relationship? Is there any question, then, why you are not alone to feel your spirit fed when you get to spend time like you recently did, Tai?
        (I keep saying “get to” because people, overwhelmingly, feel like it’s a luxury to spend time, real time, with people that matter to them. People are made to feel like it’s a luxury. Folks *need* to feel guilty as though they’re not being productive, like there’s work to be done, like there’s something *wrong* with committing significant periods of time like that. Again, if that programming didn’t kick in and more folks spent more time organising themselves to make it possible for them to feed the spirit of one another – well, again, what would our political structure, our economy, or society look like? Nothing like it does today!)
        Notice, Tai, even you,…one who obviously commits a significant amount of time and energy to ‘all this’…you even phrased it as being “lucky enough”….it’s an incredible brain-f@#% that’s been done to us.
        What to do about it all? Well, until we start to be aware of it and ourselves in relation to how we act, how our days reflect our values, and so on,…until we begin to feed that awareness,…the actions won’t matter. Pay attention and the actions will follow. Again, it’s not that simple, yet, it really is. At least to begin, me thinks.

        It may seem like I’m a bit of a CBC promoter or some kind of plant or something, with these links I’m sharing here – but I assure you, I’m not. :) Nevertheless, speaking of stories and storytelling,…here are a couple of lectures that might be of interest:

        http://www.cbc.ca/ideas/massey-archives/2003/11/07/massey-lectures-2003-the-truth-about-stories-a-native-narrative/
        http://www.cbc.ca/ideas/massey-archives/1999/11/08/massey-lectures-1999-the-triumph-of-narrative—storytelling-in-an-age-of-mass-culture/

        As I don’t have the luxury of being able to individually reply to a specific reply, in order, I wanted to touch on your earlier response here. Thank you for the “keys” compliment. I’m not sure how complete one can follow the analogy but thank you. :)
        “We’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.” I don’t disagree but there is, I think, something very key (forgive any pun) to understanding that. What if we are, still, in the garden? I mean, we’ve never left, have we?. How could we have? We haven’t switched planets. We’re still in and on the field from which we were sown. Not to mention, “going back” is never really an option. It is in theory,…but how do we go back to the horse and buggy, for instance? We may end up using a horse and buggy (for, say, primary transportation0, at some point in the future, but it’s an important thing to understand that it will still have to be something we go towards. Using technologies that we’ve used in the past won’t happen in the climate and conditions of the past. The use of whatever technology and tools we end up using – be it the web, flying machines, GMOs, or sticks and stones (recall what Einstein said, “I cannot tell you with which weapons WW3 with be fought with but I guarantee you that WW4 with be fought with sticks and stones.”) – will have to be in consideration of not only the ‘life and times’ of that future moment but in consideration of the conditions under which we live today – those that got us to wherever we are.
        Anyway, I do understand what Joni, and so many others, suggest. But, as you say, Tai, we *feel* divorced from it…that doesn’t mean we *are* divorced from it. I happen to think we’re not. I don’t think we ever could be, frankly. We’re not divorced from our need of potable water, the effect of toxins on our bodies and minds, the help bacteria give us in digesting our food, and so on. We crave those “tribal” – I would say Human – things because we need them, they are *us*. Our eventual success, health and survival is, exclusively, wrapped up into how well we reintegrate and incorporate those into our waking life.
        Which brings us, full circle, yet again,…to where these replies started. For me, my shorthand to express that is this -”What do you want and what are you willing to do to get it.”. Commit everything you have and are to that process – both aspects of that process/question – and I believe you’ll be better off.
        Again, there’s so much more to all of this. It’s a conversation that’s more suited to a live and active dialogue (what isn’t?!). With each line I can hear the arguments, “But, what if….”, or “Yeah, ok, but …”. Writing as we are here,…as I am here,…it’s difficult for me to cover and ‘respond’ to it all. :)

        (for continuity, ‘blue lines’ by massive attack and, then, woody guthrie’s ‘my dusty road’ – “i ain’t gonna be treated this-a-way…” – cycled through on album random. felt it was only fair to share…to fully disclose the influence of the setting in which these particular words were written. :) )

        I want to finish by saying that I appreciate your effort to thank all of us for our participation in the conversation. I’m not sure how obvious it is but in and with and through everything I do, I’m engaged in this conversation. It’s my business. It’s my life. Frankly, I think it is, or will be, all of our lives – our health, wellness, well-being, comfort and survival will depend on how well we engage ourselves and one another in this conversation. (or, conversations along these lines). So thank you for recognising us and thanking us and THANK YOU for your efforts and willingness to engage.

        Onwards!

      • Tai Carmen says:

        My reply to this wealth of wonderful insight must have fallen through the cracks!

        “TGIF”, right? People are wishing their lives away.” ~ such a great point.

        And noting that TV is actually, right there, telling us what it is: programming. (“Your nightly program!”) I can’t believe I never noticed this before. Amazing!

        “And then it’s asked, “Well if everyone knows it’s bollocks, why don’t more people *do* something about it?” What legitimate and even remotely fair opportunity do people have to live ‘outside’ it all? It’s friggin’ exhausting, intimidating, isolating, etc. for someone to strike that position against “the System”…against their families, their friends,…against all the pressures to not be ‘too radical’, to get a good job, to not be engaged too much, to ‘put our time in’, etc. That’s a really scary choice for people to make.” ~ YES! The pressure to conform. We are programmed with it, fear-based. And our tribal roots make the fear of going against the “herd” especially strong.

        “If, for example, a number of people (you pick the number. It doesn’t matter. 10 or 10 million) decide to ‘check out’; if that number of people decide to make real (“to realise”) that the times they spend together, like what you and your friends just got to experience,….what if they began to make that time the priority in their lives? What if more people, as you might indeed be suggesting, committed to having their days reflect, more wholly, more completely, what they value. What if people’s days – the hours and minutes of their days today – what if those days reflected, respectfully, what they really value? What if people committed to spending more than the few hours in that small group but, instead, committed to spending those days and weeks doing what they think is best for themselves? Would the malls and box stores have the traffic they do today? Would professional sports or lunch room cafeterias or cubicles, elevators, ‘expresways’, satellite TeeVee, and political offices – get anywhere near the traffic and attention they get today were folks to listen to their own compass and act on that motive?”

        ~ Of course the system would collapse. And that’s why it’s structured, as you say, to give us just enough of our own longing to be “hungry” for more, to play the game…but pressure — enough pressure — to feel that to be too radical will incur pariah status, social rejection…

        Yet I believe collectively those among us who are thinking about these things (and there are many, increasingly many) are certainly pushing the boundaries and social comfort zone towards living lives which reflect their true values, seeking and questing to find out who THEY are…what THEIR SOUL (dare I use the word soul?) wants, needs, longs for…indeed, loves.

        Paying attention. Awareness followed by action…really is the key.

        And I love your point that, as far as “getting back to the garden,” the garden is still here. As Alan Watts said we are not from nature we ARE nature. We just need to wake up and see it. Enjoy it. Cultivate it. (Isn’t that what Joni meant by “get back?” though? Get back within ourselves…re-open that awareness.)

        I loved your phrasing, “some things feed our spirits while others consume them.” No accident it’s call “consumerism.” Double meanings abound.

        As always, a pleasure to engage in this vital (and vitalizing) discourse ~ I’m actually posting a portion of this comment on Parallax’s Facebook page, because I think what you say is so inspiring and wanted to share it.

        On on!

        Here’s to feeding the spirit!!!!
        T’ai

        P.S. These links look great. Thanks!

        Thanks for turning me on to Chris Hedges! Have you read Guy Debord’s “Society of the Spectacle?” He may have been the first to coin this term.

  • Svend says:

    inspiring…thanks

  • Apeiron says:

    Competitive shopping?! lol

    I totally recommend reading. You might feel like you don’t have time but its not true. You are a part of this evolution and you better know where you came from.

    Consumerism is thriving over at my place too, its the sheer volume of cars on our Lilliputian roads that I hate…

  • This past Wednesday I was talking with my therapist about the holidays and how I was doing. I explained that Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. are no long “sacred”in the humbled sense they once were; we’ve displaced their meaning and significance. Not so much the idea of a virgin birth, etc. but the actual MEANING behind the over-all season as it has been observed for far longer than the Christian nativity and its adoption of said symbols. Regardless, these things are lost to “US” — a herd of well trained animals who gladly waste their earnings on “things” that feed the ego vs. investing themselves on “the thing”, the idea as to what this season actually represents. Gratitude is just a word, a thing nearly as fantasiful as Unicorns and Dragons.

    All in all we have lost humility and gratitude on the whole, but most especially within the middle-class and it’s upper strata where relationships are generally sealed by way of gifting; whether child or adult, price actually matters now days as well. Children insisting on electronic gadgets that start at $75.00 and quickly go up from there, with young adults (especially) expecting items costing anywhere from $200.00 to well over $2,000.00 (and more than just one of each). These are people who typically never knew what life was like not getting “their way” and not living in an environment that was “with out”; individuals who’ve no idea why this time of year stands on the seemingly out-dated theme of “Gratitude” and “Counting Your Blessings”. Instead, it is viewed as a time of celebration for manufacturers and merchants alike — 25-35% + of their annual net earnings happen between Black Friday and Yule which is certainly a thing to celebrate when you’re a business. When you’re the suckers throwing money as these same institutions that aren’t paying their own way in the world, there is not cause of celebration in that debt frequently becomes a key aspect of the present day festivities; debt created during a time that negative personal cash flow can’t be justified no matter how you try to do so in your head. . . when you haven’t the guts to tell your kids “NO” and your so-called friends, “sorry” etc.

    I can only pray that the present economic angst swells enough to imprint on this nation what it means to be humble and grateful once again vs. the facade and delusion “Black Friday” allows us to blatantly lie to ourselves over.

    • taicarmen says:

      Thanks for being part of the conversation, Craig. I completely agree. You’ve made some excellent points, the spirit of the holidays has absolutely been shackled by materialism. I don’t have any kids in my life really, except some very young ones in the family who are still asking for simple things. But I’ve heard stories from older friends about their teenagers essentially demanding iphones and even laptops. They are not even asking, they are expecting. It isn’t even a question of surprise, or anticipation. They have asked and they expect to receive. “All my friends have iphones” and that kind of reasoning. I’ve talked to grandparents who feel overwhelmed but cornered: they gave them something expensive last year and the year before, when the greed seemed more innocent and tame, and now they’ve helped create a monster.

      Truly a state of emergency.

      I thought you also made a great point about how gifts are used to “seal” relationships. A very astute and interesting word to use. I suppose we can only fight the insanity by making different decisions for ourselves. And if we make our presents or can be especially creative with an inexpensive but meaningful gift, to try and shine as beacons of an out-dated, but desperately important ethic.

      Be well! And good luck staying sane in the madness.

      TC

  • LILIANA.ALAM says:

    Brilliantly written. This is my favourite paragraph: “I say feed it experience, feed it human relationship, feed it books (you don’t have to buy them, go to the library!) feed it art (every museum has a free admission day!) feed it good music (in the city weekly papers, there are always free music events!) Feed it the sound of the wind in the trees, and rivers running. Feed it campfire stories, the sky and the stars. Feed it significance through reading, thinking, dreaming. Feed it love. Feed it beauty. Feed it knowledge.”

    You’re a river in a world of muck. Thank you for being true to your perspective and having the inner grace and responsibility to keep propelling it forward. I’m a regular reader of your blog which I only recently discovered, and it’s great to read the words of another soul-seeker. This is how change happens, free minds around the world making a solid stance and refusing to settle for anything less than the aforementioned paragraph you wrote.

    • taicarmen says:

      Your comment really touched me, Liliana. Beautifully, thoughtfully composed (“river in a world of muck! Pure poetry! And thank you…)I’m so happy to have readers like you enjoying the work and taking it in the spirit it is meant, a spirit you describe so well:

      “This is how change happens, free minds around the world making a solid stance and refusing to settle…”

      I could not agree more, and that is exactly my aim, so thank you for taking the time to so thoughtfully articulate your response, fellow soul-seeker (love that description, I find the word ‘seeker’ perhaps best describes the type of person I’m addressing on this site — dreamers, questers, journeyers…)

      Seekers unite! :)

      TC

  • Kim says:

    People are looking for happiness in their stuff. That is not where it is found.

  • Hunter says:

    Beautifully written! I always enjoy reading your writings; I learn something new every time!

  • Marie Hegeman says:

    This was brilliant! I’m going to save it to read each year. As I age, I’ve been getting progressively more disgusted with Christmas consumerism. Thank you for saying this so intelligently and clearly.

  • Chuck Porter says:

    So often when I’m at a store (even the book store) I think, “I don’t want more stuff. I want more time to enjoy the stuff I have. And yet, here I am, looking at stuff while I could be at home, reading, spinning records, watching a classic film I haven’t even cracked the cellophane on.”

    Thanks for your post.

    It’s on point.

    • taicarmen says:

      Thanks! I think you bring up an excellent point about time; it’s all we really have of value, and there never seems to be quite enough of it in the current scheme of things. Noteworthy!

  • batgurrl says:

    You have made my Monday evening. I agree the best part is where you speak to the feeding of the beast. “I say feed it experience, feed it human relationship, feed it books …..” we don’t need to seal our relationships with “stuff” we need to seal it with time for each other. The video of George C was funny and sad at the same time.

    Several things come to my mind:

    one- the best vacations we ever had was on a motorcyle. You can’t bring any stuff in a saddlebag. It’s one change of underwear and that’s it. OH and my camera to take a million pictures of the world without a cage around it.

    second – our friends make fun of us (my husband & I) that we never give each other gifts at Xmas. We go on a nice trip and shop together the week after. We might be gettins a little more stuff but at least we spent time picking it together and went to lunch or dinner. The quality time spent is worth a million bucks!!

    Keep sparking our brains. Batgirl

    • taicarmen says:

      Batgirl, what a fantastic idea! I mentioned it to my husband last night and he loved the idea! He thought it was a brilliant way to de-isolate what has become a kind of weirdly methodical process of checking off items on ones loved ones wish lists.

      I’m surprised your friends would make fun of you, however lightly, for such an awesome and liberated move! They should be applauding you, inspired by you! I think you may have sparked a new tradition in our household.

      And the point about the motorcycle is excellent and very interesting. I’m sure there is a connection between the lack of stuff and the stand-out status of that trip in your memory. Nothing to take your attention away from connecting with one another. :)

      Thanks for the kind words of encouragement, they mean a lot. :)

      On on!

      TC

  • themahdiblog says:

    George carling was right on point, saving a bunch of money on things that are luxuries is beyond me. As stated by you, food is a necessity, not xbox. And food is an actual luxury for an increasing number of people under the current economic climate. Our society is engaging in Collective narcissism but thinks it’s doing the economy a favor!!! I’m shopping so the economy gets better, what the chinese economy? Because they make most of our stuff.

    • Tai Carmen says:

      You’re absolutely right. A good point about the collective narcissism. I’ve been thinking about doing a post about it…how one of the main symptoms of narcissism is the creation of the false self, losing track of the core self…It appears on a collective level this would apply as well. Thanks for weighing in!

      On on,

      T’ai

  • [...] also saw this blog post on Black Friday and how the desire for “stuff” is crushing our humanity.  Well worth a read. Thanks for my brother-in-law Jason Rodgers (Twitter: @jarodger) for tweeting [...]

  • Archer Woodd says:

    Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied on the video to make your point. You definitely know what youre talking about, why throw away your intelligence on just posting videos to your site when you could be giving us something enlightening to read?Palm Harbor Roofing, 1334 Tampa Rd., #189, Palm Harbor, FL 34683 – (727) 233-7338

    • Tai Carmen says:

      Not sure why you feel so conned by my ending a post with a relevant and enriching George Carlin clip — but thanks for your expression of faith in my writing.

      TC

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