Holidays and Work

Shopping and Such

Gray Thursday, economic justice, and building a new consumer class.

This Gray Thursday business that Matthew Zeitlin reports on for the Beast doesn't categorically offend me. That's America for you. One of these days, they are indeed going to start opening stores on Christmas night. Who'll be the first to take this tawdry step, I wonder? Accepting nominations.

The implications of this that most people don't think about have only to do with the workers who have to give up their holidays. Naturally, these tend to be the lowest on the totem pole. I was in a Nordstrom's last weekend, and they had these signs boasting that they don't put their Christmas things up until after Thanksgiving because they believe in only one holiday at a time.

That's nice and tasteful of them. But on the assumption that they have all the Christmas finery up Friday, I wonder how many shoppers think about the workers who have to go in on Thanksgiving, probably taking extremely long bus rides to the mall, and spend hours putting all that stuff up.

Meanwhile, you've probably heard about the Wal Mart actions planned for Friday. I wish them luck, while doubting they'll have much impact on people. I think the message that needs to be communicated here is not that WalMart wages are unjust, which no more than about a quarter of the population at most will ever care about, but that people paid higher wages can spend more money and become better and more active consumers.

Now that's an argument that would have resonance in this country. You can't persuade Americans to give a crap about economic justice. But an argument that everyone ought to be able to run up more credit card debt might get Americas' attention.

Anyway. I like this time of year. I'm a sentimentalist. And I've got a little kid. But I do remind myself every few days about the nature of the economy that provides all this stuff, and that doesn't know what to do about the landfills where it will all end up. Which reminds me of what may be my all-time favorite Onion headline, which I remember whenever, for example, I find myself looking at Christmas-related gewgaws: "Guy in China Can't Believe Weird Shit He Makes for Americans."