Al Seymour

Materialism and greed

  • Materialism running wild: Black Friday shoppers have been known to lose their minds in the rush

In recent years there has been a heightened pace of urgency in holiday shopping that has reached levels where concern has been raised in the United States as to whether people focus more today on what they can get instead of what they can give.

Understandably, retail companies that rely on profits to survive, which is essential, make use of special holidays to promote various bargains in the biggest way possible. There is absolutely nothing wrong with promoting various products to boost sales. This keeps people employed and the economy active, and is required by most countries for sustainability.

With ever-increasing competition to reach customers, the introduction of Black Friday in the US — a day of super price reductions — has spread to other countries, Bermuda included. Each year, participation for this day of bargains in November causes shopping hearts to beat a little faster in the rush to purchase items at prices far lower than normal.

In the US, and perhaps in a few other countries, Black Friday, while producing huge sales, has been known to ignite physical clashes between customers in their quest to beat others to a particular item. Tension is high when shoppers, especially in the US, stand for hours in freezing temperatures for doors to open. Once the door latch is turned, and the doors swing open, people who would probably be civil under different circumstances turn quickly into a frenzy more reminiscent of a lion kill in the African jungle. While such incidents do not occur everywhere, and so far here in Bermuda we have not reached that stage — and I hope we never do. However, we should be mindful that something else may be happening in this shopping trend that may require close examination when it comes to what type of message we could be sending to our younger generation. The craving for items, which often reaches fever pitch, could be a symptom of a shift in our cultural structure where material items are increasingly seen as the ultimate goal in seeking the joys of life.

With a tidal wave of modern communication methods, there is a never-ending stream of items of every type being fed to potential buyers — both online and in what they describe as the bricks-and-mortar setting of various shopping malls.

Corporate giants in the US spend millions in promotion, knowing that a great public response could yield billions in revenue. There is even talk of public-holiday spending this year reaching the trillion-dollar mark.

This prompted a discussion by a number of leading public figures in that country who expressed grave concern that what retailers see as a goldmine in profits could be opening the door to materialistic greed, as customers stumble over each other as though they have been transformed into shopping zombies.

Another matter of concern was that while some people prepared for Black Friday, others were biting off more than they could chew, buying what they did not need or could afford.

During the discussion, speakers were in agreement that more and more people are relying on material items these days in their search for happiness.

One member of the panel discussion, which was on a major television network, said in his view that true happiness never comes in a box. He emphasised that lasting happiness is found in a strong family setting, where warmth and love are the main ingredients. In today’s highly materialistic climate, there is more enthusiasm about Black Friday sales than the Christmas festival, which is a reminder of values that have no price tag.

Bargain hunters will undoubtedly always welcome Black Friday, along with retailers. However, we all need to be careful that in the mad scramble for bargains, meaningful values are not tossed aside. Material items, no matter how attractive, will all eventually crumble or fade in time.

Every generation has a responsibility to pass values on to the next generation, such as honesty, truth and respect for others.

The greatest gift for Bermuda would be for people to use this festive season to build better relationships and strengthen love within families.

On Christmas Day, most Bermudian tables will be overflowing with a feast of traditional food delights. Amid the glitter, we should pause and be mindful of troublespots in the world where children lay dying of starvation.

Fortunately, we in Bermuda have much to be grateful for, but we must work closer together in solving our many problems to enhance life for all, especially our seniors.

Most of all, we must strive not to be overtaken by materialism and greed, which would diminish the true message of Christmas — a time of compassion, warmth and love.