Three Paragraphs of Black Friday

Consumer aggression is an American tradition. The ghost of H.L. Mencken was in sardonic ecstasies this past weekend over video clips of Black Friday berserkers punching, pepper-spraying and shooting their way through crowds of competing shoppers to win deep discounts on unnecessary purchases. Everyone loves a good slugfest.

Watching it all from my father’s recliner, I recalled that Homeric scene in Tom Jones when Molly Seagrim, taunted by the crowd in the churchyard, took up a thigh bone from an open grave, “fell in among the flying ranks, and dealing her blows with great liberality on either side, overthrew the carcasse of many a mighty heroe and heroine.” Rather than a thigh bone, today’s Molly Seagrim swings an iPhone or a Blue Ray player.

Of course, it’s equally traditional to be shocked – simply shocked – by such behavior. Like court-appointed advocates for the defense, journalists and economists speculated in the aftermath that The American Consumer had been suffering from “austerity fatigue” and was possessed by the demon of “pent up demand.” This kind of insanity, they mean to say, is just what we need.

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One response to “Three Paragraphs of Black Friday

  1. “Austerity fatigue”? Let’s medicalize that & lobby for its inclusion in the DSM-V.

    Ensconced here in Kyoto, and with no TV in the household, and reading only the NYRB, I’d not come across this latest incarnation of the formula “{X}-fatigue” (as in “compassion fatigue”).

    Up went my eye-brows.

    So I googled “austerity fatigue” (within quotation marks). As of 10:30 AM EST, I get 16,900 results. Among them, alongside “austerity fatigue,” I find also “bailout fatigue.” That’s a going concern, too, it seems: googling the phrase yields 130,000 instances. Doubtless both phrases have already, now, been called “memes.”

    I wonder if anyone ever suffers from “profligacy fatigue.” A quick google tells me that only one person (available to Google) has deployed the term.

    I must be suffering from “‘{X}-fatigue’ fatigue,” and herewith put that “meme” into circulation. (Perhaps googling that phrase tomorrow will bring me back here.)

    In closing, I add only that I’ll be reading Rochester with my students today. What was Restoration literature but “pent-up demand” madly expressing itself after the 11-year Cromwellian Interregnum?

    So, that’s it. The Earl of Rochester was “in recovery” from “austerity fatigue.”

    Then bring my bath and strew my bed,
    As each kind night returns:
    I’ll change a mistress till I’m dead,
    And fate change me for worms.

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