This is a post I wrote last year about the Black Friday phenomenon:
Why do so many people get in line hours and hours before the stores open on Black Friday, as well as some other things like the recent crowd, a mob really, that rushed out of a football stadium, tearing down the goal post and hurting thirteen who could not get out of the way when they fell. The answer as to why people behave like this has little to do with the fact that there is a good deal to be had, or that their team just won.
That we have turned into a nation of voyeurs has! I understand that less than one percent of us serve in the military. Fewer yet play professional sports. Most of us do not drive race cars, race a horse, or act in a movie. What we do is watch, we watch others do these things. We are the great audience, we applaud, moan, grown, and cheer, but we do not act. I do not mean to suggest that our tendency for voyeurism is any greater today is any greater than it was in the past, just that our opportunity are much greater. In the past the carnivals and medicine shows were an opportunity to escape from the harshness of a world in which if you had to work from sunrise to sunset.
Today when those who go and camp out to get a good seat at a concert they are participating, being part of the show, but not escaping from drudgery. This can be said of those who get up early, or stay in front of the stores all night for Black Friday, they are not the audience. They are out among them, taking their chances, or, playing the game, if you will. This attitude had also led to the recent innovation of the flash mob as well.
They know that they may get hurt, that they will have to deal with the crazy, and some will go a little crazy themselves. Now consider the Oklahoma State fans that jumped, ran and pushed their way onto the field and pulled down the goal posts. Was it joy that led them to do it, or was it the chance to be part of the show? I maintain that it was the latter. Being part of the show though diverts into two paths: the differences between going to a public hanging as a spectator, and being the member of a lynch mob, as the people who pulled the goal post down transmogrified.
As a people we come from people who were doer not watchers. We abandoned safety and security to venture into the unknown. We fought England to be free, and we fought ourselves to free the slaves. We went to Europe twice to keep the world free. These all were events in which large numbers of us were involved, not just one percent.
And now what do we do? We work; we watch TV and go to movies and plays. We watch races and games. We have become the great audience, and pay dearly to be entertained. Why do you suspect that actors and sports stars get so much money? They feed our appetite that is why. But while they appease our craving for excitement their fare is unfulfilling to many of us, and out craving must be satisfied elsewhere.
Some of us take up extreme activities such as scuba diving, sky diving, Martial Arts, horsemanship, reenactments, or any of a multitude of other activities in which we are the actors instead of just the audience. But then some of us just go shopping or rush out on a football field pushing and shoving.
Now consider the Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Parties and how they have chosen to act out. Look at the flash mobs, some are formed to dance or to sing, others to raid a store and steal what they can. As in all things there are choices, but you reach a point in a mob where you have no choice and you lose your will to the mob’s will. Why some large groups never turn into mobs, as the Tea Party, while other groups like the OWL seems to embrace it?
I do not know the answer; I just know that we have choices.
The point is not the voyeurism, but the attempt to escape from it by being an actor instead of the audience. The people in the past who went to the public floggings, hangings, etc., we’re escaping from mind numbing labor, not a problem that many of us have today. No, I do not mean to suggest that the tendency for voyeurism is any greater today is any greater than it was in the past. In the past the carnivals and medicine shows were an opportunity to escape from the harshness of a world in which if you had to work from sunrise to sunset. And all through history you either were a warrior or your will was bent to their will which was the will of their Lord.
Entertainment was a rare thing through most of history for most of the people with the exception of the Greek theaters, the Roman Coliseums, and those were not for everyone, just the select few. The Roman citizens were placated with their entertainment and bread for their vote (now that does sound like some of what is going on now, minus the Gladiators, i.e., Bread and Circus. What I am talking about is the differences between going to a public hanging as a spectator, and being the member of a lynch mob, as the people who pulled the goal post down were.
Allegorically in the TV miniseries, The Pillars of the Earth, based on a novel by Ken Follett, at the end the Archbishop of Canterbury had his pet sheriff arrest Jack in order to stop the construction of Philip’s cathedral. He holds a show trial in which the people are invited as an audience to the dispensation of justice. But his duplicity in the sinking of the sinking of the White Ship is brought to light by the Witch, and the crowd turned from being an audience to being actors, and the Sheriff is hanged in his own noose. As well the Archbishop fulfills the Witch’s prophecy of climbing up high only to fall. And falls to his death seeking his escape from the audience that had turned into actors.
Now I am not trying to say that the people who push and shove, pepper spray, and walk over other people to get a good deal have the same high motives as did the people in Kingsbridge had when they go from being spectators to participant, what I am saying is that there is a strong drive in up to participate that is pent up, and every now and then something comes along that drives us from being spectators to being actors in the event playing out before us, that is why I ended the peace with the question about the OWL.
The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://carolinacowboy.wordpress.com/2013/11/29/escapes-from-voyeurism-or-black-friday-shopping/trackback/