Black Friday symptom of dark times 

Credit card house has been knocked over — welcome to the result

Illustration by Sarah Ferguson | The Rebel Yell

For most of us, this holiday weekend was full of wonderful family gatherings and special moments with the people we care about. It was also tarnished by some of the most idiotic behavior people can think of.

Two incidents at California Wal-Marts highlight the epic decline of the values that used to form the foundation of our society. A man was shot while defending his family from a group of would-be robbers, and a woman thought it would be appropriate to pepper spray a group of shoppers to get a better position in line to buy a discounted Xbox.

Just let that sink in for a moment. What kind of person has such a depraved sense of purpose that they feel comfortable robbing a family in the parking lot of a store, and then shooting the father when he tries to protect his own family? Or better yet, who knowingly packs a pepper spray bottle with the intention of using it on other people to create a panic and get a better spot in line to buy a video game system?

These pathetic examples of humanity are a microcosm of the problems infecting our society. We live in a place where everything has a price, including people. We are conditioned to believe that worth is directly correlated with having products, and people without the best and newest crap are inherently worthless.

Human beings aren’t treated with respect for who they are; we unconsciously ascribe value to them based on what they can do for us, and discard them accordingly. It explains why someone would attack others with pepper spray or try to steal gifts from a family.

The past two decades made this kind of rationale acceptable. Times were good and people had enough cheap credit to keep up the facade of worth and success, even if they were living beyond their means. But now the cheap credit binge is over, and reality’s sobering presence is back. The veneer has evaporated and people can see each other for what they really are.

Times have gotten tough for a lot of us, and I suppose people feel that accepting reduced circumstances and getting back to what matters is an unacceptable proposition. It’s easier to sink to new lows of debasement in a vain attempt to keep up the consumer lifestyle.

The fact of the matter is that for a long time we were living a lie. The fine folks on Wall Street have been kind enough to implode that lie to bring us back to reality, for a small fee. We have no choice but to accept the inevitable and live within our means — our real means.

The 21st century is going to test us in more ways than we can imagine, and it’ll be very easy to turn on one another in an attempt to save our own skin. As these incidents have shown us, nobody wins when we selfishly try to use violence to keep things for ourselves.

This holiday season should serve as a lesson for things to come. We’re not running the world anymore, and we don’t influence the flow of power in the ways we used to. It’s time to accept the harsh reality of shared sacrifice and learn to get along with each other.

If we don’t — if we let the perverted advertisements selling the fraudulent ideas of power and wealth corrupt our view of the world — we’re doomed to play out the mistakes of every other declining empire that came before us.

Yes, America is an empire. We have become an empire of consumption, importing almost everything we need from somewhere else. Our economic and military prowess have sustained us until now, but the misuse of both has seriously compromised our position of global preeminence.

If we aren’t willing to learn from history and scale back our expectations, the lies that are bankrolling us will lead this country directly off a cliff. Then we have nothing to expect from ourselves but shooting and pepper spraying each other into oblivion.