Absolution at the Till



Life of St Benedict, Scene 33: Benedict Gives ...

Life of St Benedict, Scene 33: Benedict Gives Posthumous Absolution to Two Nuns (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Tomorrow is Small Business Saturday. The idea, of course, is to encourage folks to spend their holiday bucks in locally owned business to boost our local economies and to preserve a sense of community. As an employee in a local retail business (an independent book seller, I feel like a kid in a candy shop half the time) I am grateful for this. It will keep my employers’ heads above water and keep me, and my fellow booksellers, working. There is something in all of this that rubs me a bit the wrong way.

It is not the day itself. It is not the idea. More money does need to flow into smaller businesses if we are going to salvage our middle class in our capitalist economy (though whether we need to keep it capitalist is open to debate.) Aside from the sociopaths like the Walton family deliberately hoarding their money because they are incapable of seeing the world beyond themselves, corporations, as legal entities, are required to seek out the easy, short-term boost to their stock value, meaning the whole notion of trickle down is crap when it comes to them, since raising wages may hurt that value. So giving them your money only helps perpetuate a broken system. Therefor I am glad for anything that challenges them.

No, my malaise comes from my gut reaction to this entire weekend. It seems to me, and I hope I am wrong, that too many people take tomorrow not as a willful and considered act of changing the system, but as a means of penitence. They want so badly to go after those sales in the big box stores today. They need to outdo themselves and each other every Christmas, buying bigger, shinier toys to show how “successful” they are (scare quotes, because I have a very different definition of successful, I think, than many of my fellow Americans.)

So they go out today, because that is what they have been conditioned to do. They feed the pigs at the trough so that they can feel accomplished. Buying the latest gadget, the fanciest clothes, and the trendiest gift fills their role in that they have been programmed for in our consumerist nightmare culture. They know they have broken down, given in, and kept the horror going, so in an act of economic absolution, they will go out tomorrow and buy a few token gifts from the small music shop, the coffee shop, and the independent bookseller.

Do not get me wrong, I want you to do that. I want you to, not for me, because retail is a temp gig until I can get paid to stir up trouble again (it’s what I do, and will do it for three hots and a cot.) I want you to do it for you. Which is why I want you to do it with abandon, and for the right reasons. It is why next year (I know it is already too late this year) I want you to skip Black Friday and go right to Small Business Saturday.  You deserve a better economy and better community than you are getting, but you won’t get it if you still pray to Mammon before putting in the collection basket.  Reflect on this post all next year, tell your friends about the message (sharing it would not break my heart) and remind yourself, year round, that you are more than a cog in the consumer machine.




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