On Black Friday I find myself wandering aimlessly into the second biggest store of the country’s leading bookshop franchise.
Perilously wading through a humming crowd looking for some sign that books are still at the centre of the buying mobs’ heart, only to discover three quarters of this ‘bookshop’ is covered by candles, novelty cards and strange pencils. And that’s the part of the store where the mob is congregating, fighting over who gets the last of the twenty percent reduced Bibi Baskin calendars.
Back out on the high street (and they’re all starting to look the same), I’m accosted by a young fella who looks like he should be drinking three litre plastic bottles of cider behind the bike shed. Instead, he slips me a prayer sheet and gives me a cheeky wink. “How’s your prayer life buddy?”
“Ah, grand I suppose.”
All around people are running, dragging plastic penny’s bags and screaming for sales like bloodthirsty zombies and this lad is asking about my prayer life.
“Do you go to mass on a Sunday?”
“Well, I’m usually working like.”
He looks at me like I’ve just defecated on the street in front of him. “Working?”
A burly farmer, foaming from the mouth, suddenly grabs the street evangelist by the shoulders. “Oh lort Tony, there’s a Black Friday Sale in Screwfix. Twenty percent off everything.”
Tony dumps the prayer leaflets and jogs off down the road, hand in hand with the rabid farmer.
The intellect gurus argue that this is late-stage capitalism, that it is unsustainable and it inevitably will lead to total collapse. They’ve been arguing this since the 1920s however. Maybe Thomas Pynchon had one of his characters explain it better.... "Late capitalism is a pyramid racket on a global scale... getting the suckers to believe it's all gonna go on forever."
I run a business; some would say badly, but still. I believe in the sacrosanct shopkeeper mentality of product for trade – in this case a product so dear to my heart – the book. But a product for sale none the less. But the pure consumerist schizophrenia of Black Friday and Cyber Monday still sickens me nearly as much as a Jeff Bezos sex tape.
I was a socialist. I am a socialist. Am I?
“The best socialists were always ardent capitalists,” Ho Chi O’ Leary tells me, as he throws sealed paste board boxes of paperbacks from out of the back of his van at me.
“Engles. Tony Benn. Jeff Bezos.”
“Yeah, have you seen those Amazon fulfilment centres? Even Stalin couldn’t have built gulags like those!”
“I thought Marx argued they were at odds with each other.”
Ho Chi O’ Leary snorts. “Who? Karl Marx? He was a bloody capitalist himself. Used to go door to door selling a primitive form of Vaseline that was made out of beeswax. Didn’t invent it either. He bought it cheap off the maker and flogged it at three times the price to the consumer.”
“That’s not true.”
“Why? Because you didn’t read it on Wikipedia? He was a capitalist, like all good socialists. You’re problem is you’re neither. You’re a bad socialist and a shit capitalist. You’re a charlatan.”
Black Friday is an American import, as all-American as Hersey bars, napalm and destroying democratically elected governments for financial reward. The first Black Friday occurred when two financial speculators took advantage of one of their marriages to the Presidents younger sister to corner the gold market. Pure raw greed unleashed with almost apocalyptic effects upon the economy. Very similar to its current namesake.
The irony is that the very corporations who champion this crystal meth high of consumerism, and the very mob who roll around in the muck, shaking in their own filth and excitement, are those who wrap themselves in the flash multi-coloured overcoat of pop-socialism, complete with Che Guevara designer t-shirts, moral indignation and trendy advertising.
“I bought forty-three high quality rainbow coloured female urination devices on the Black Friday Sale,” Betty Batty cries at me from across the street. She stops traffic with a grand wave of her arms and a terrifying glass shattering shriek.
“They were on sale. Forty percent off if you bought them by the crate. Great Christmas presents. Sure you’d never know when you might get caught short out and about, and there’s no public toilets these days.”
Ho Chi O’ Leary shakes his head sadly. “Is this what Jeremy Corbyn died for?”
“He’s not dead.”
“Might as well be.”
“I also bought something for you,” Betty Batty says, handing me a print out with an order number. “A month’s membership to an anal bleaching centre in Kilkenny.”
“Why?” I cry.
“Because it was only eight euro for the month when you entered a five-year contract on Black Friday. I think its usually eighty euro a month. I’m not sure but you’ll find out once the bills start arriving after the first month.”
“Why would you order me this? Why would you think I’d be interested in anal bleaching?”
Betty Batty stares back at me blankly. “It was a special offer,” she mutters. “Black Friday.”
“Black Friday me arse.”
“That won’t be black after the anal bleaching,” Ho Chi O’ Leary sneers.
The truth is Black Friday is an abomination that feeds the megalomaniac super-entities online like Amazon while slowly squeezing their iron-fisted grip around the throats of small independent stores. Of course, some small independents embrace Black Friday, but some people like to have their oesophagus choked tight during sex until they pass out too.
Neither appeal to me.