Posts Tagged Karl Marx

Black Friday blogging

Today was Black Friday, and you know what I didn’t do? Go shopping.

I guess I’m a terrible person for not buying the people I love flatscreen televisions.

The beginning of the Christmas shopping season has become such an event that it’s overshadowing an actual holiday, Thanksgiving. While I’m sure there are many great bargains to be had, aren’t we going a little too far in pursuit of cheap goods?

The great threat to American values isn’t abortions, gay marriage, or people’s pesky desire not to get shot when they go to the mall. It’s that we’re expected to spend so much time in said mall.

You don’t have to be a curmudgeon to recognize that spending time with family and giving thanks for what one has are two things that are worth taking one day off a year for.

Yet those things seem to take a back seat to an unearthly cycle of production and consumption.

You often hear people saying that the holidays are an important time to consider the less-fortunate.

That’s an incredibly ironic statement considering that, while the Macy’s bigwigs were enjoying the Thanksgiving Day Parade yesterday, entry-level workers had to open the stores.

Of course, it’s sometimes hard to put oneself in the position of someone who is forced to choose between surviving, and celebrating a holiday that–as an American–they are supposedly entitled to enjoy.

So maybe those people should consider how much time they spend buying gifts, and compare it to how much time they actual spend celebrating the holidays.

Over a month of purchasing goes into what, for most people, is a single day of observance.

Gift giving is an integral part of the holiday season, but if it requires so much time and effort that people choose (or are forced) to cut their holidays short, what’s the point?

Consumerism can only take people so far. A holiday that is only distinguished from an ordinary day by a larger credit-card bill isn’t much of a holiday.


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The mental standard of living

If we are ever going to raise the actual standard of living, we need to start by raising the mental standard of living. Fox News commentators were outraged when they read a recent study that claimed 99.6% of poor people have a refrigerator. What luxury! They can preserve their food (assuming they can pay their electric bill)!

It’s not just welfare-hating conservatives, either. Before Hurricane Irene struck, the powers that be advised people to stock up on canned food, in case the power went out. Can you eat uncooked chicken noodle soup?

At the turn of the twentieth century, kitchen appliances were an unfathomable luxury for the average American. Halfway through the century, they were an attainable goal. As the standard of living rose, so did expectations. Logically, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, refrigerators and microwaves should be viewed as a necessity.

Instead, people seem to forget that being able to prepare food without a campfire or smokehouse is necessary in modern society. Many people can’t imagine living without their smart phone or computer, but not their refrigerator.

Karl Marx famously declared religion to be “the opiate of the masses,” but if he were alive today, he might revise that statement. Modern communication technology distracts the masses from the exploitative machinations of the bourgeoisie, and from their own terrible lives.

The Internet is essential to modern living, but some things are more essential. We need to view the standard of living in broader terms, like what it takes to physically live comfortably and in good health. A refrigerator may not be as sexy as an iPhone, but everyone should have one, no matter what their income is.

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