Xmas Creep 2012

Capitalism is extremely predictable, at least at the level of the managerial actions that drive its mundane operations. Thus, as we TCTers know, the great junk-pushing rite known as Christmas grows a bit every year. Hence, this unsurprising news from today’s edition of The New York Times:

Some of the nation’s biggest retailers — Sears, Target and Toys “R” Us among them — announced this month that they would be moving up their predawn Black Friday door-buster sales to Thanksgiving Day or moving up their existing Thanksgiving sales even earlier on Thursday. Walmart, which has already been open on Thanksgiving for many years, is advancing its bargain specials to 8 p.m. Thursday from 10 p.m.

But in Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, the stores will sit dark until the wee hours of Friday. Even Walmart will not open in Maine until just after midnight Friday or in Massachusetts or Rhode Island until 1 a.m.

New England’s blue laws were put down by early settlers to enforce proper behavior on Sundays. (The origin of the term is unclear. Some have said the laws were printed on blue paper, while others have said the word “blue” was meant to disparage those like the “blue noses” who imposed rigid moral codes on others.)

Over decades, many of those laws — which banned commerce, entertainment and the sale of alcohol, among other things — were tossed aside or ignored, or exemptions were granted. In some cases, the statutes were extended to holidays and barred retailers specifically from operating on Thanksgiving or Christmas.

All quite boring, except for this: If you go look at the story on the NYT site, you’ll notice its html title and the words that appear in your browser’s tab are this: “Blue Laws Curb Consumerism.”

So the inexorable march of Xmas marketing toward the Fourth of July is caused by consumerism — whatever that is, not capitalism?

Here you see the conceptual violence inherent in the system.

If you doubt such linguistic shifts matter, consider this lament from a local quoted by The Times:

“Thanksgiving is supposed to be about giving thanks for all you have,” said Mr. Brewster, 47, who runs a computer repair business. “I cringe to think what society is doing to itself,” he said of the mercantile mania that threatens one of the least commercial holidays.

“What society is doing to itself.”

Stalin and Hitler would be purple with envy at this amazing mental elision of a runaway ruling class.

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Martin
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Martin

Great illustrations of social reality – this kind of world-class discernment must take massive amounts of patience to go along with practiced talent. “What society is doing to itself” captures the basic ignorance about sociology that rules the species. Human beings are run by a supersystem, yet they seem to have no way to fit this into their worldview, and so repeat completely false statements: “We” the people, “We” did this,”we” did some historical wrong. The economy is fully screwed up, so where does the focus go: not against its loathsome arhcitects, but for more from the same overlords, and… Read more »

Mark Lovas
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Forgive me an out-of-thread (not wholly relevant) comment: As I’m now outside of the USA, I rely upon blogs such as yours to keep me informed. (Even though I don’t have so much time available to read your blog.) So, I just want to make the general remark that I’m glad you are there.

Marla Singer
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Marla Singer

I’m with you Mark. I usually come here after seeing a particularly obnoxious article in the media (which is often; so many to choose, today for example, CNN explained how things are really great and we are truly living the dream but not realizing it, alongside with a tidbit about retaliation against protesting workers “aleged” in “a handful” of locations). And then I remember that the ratio of people who read CNN vs. those who seek or are aware of the sense-making blogosphere is abouz a bazillion to one, and get truly truly depressed. So, freedom of the press is… Read more »

High Arka
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Just stay away from the infotainment entirely…even if you approach it only in a spirit of total mistrust and confrontation, its design is effective enough to implant subconscious assumptions you might take years to catch. If CNN isn’t getting you, then their movies will.

Marla Singer
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Marla Singer

True… I’ve caught myself multiple times staring at the TV, and just after a few minutes of this (sic!), I already begin to catch myself nodding and “thinking” (?), “um, yeah, that sounds about right…”. I no longer watch TV, but it doesn’t matter – when 99% of public discource, formal and informal, is prepackaged in fairly narrow boundaries, even if you have a glimplse of some right/true ideas, when there is nobody to discuss them with on an ongoing basis, might as well not try. That said, I read and like your blog too. At this point, more than… Read more »

Martin
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Martin

I saw a reference, some damn place, to the reason that most people do not publish a blog: too much “psychic overhead.” I find blogs to be indispensable to my intellectual life – political opposition to the dominant order is best conducted through this omni-directional, multi-talented viewfinders. Yet blogs, at least for me, have died. There was a heyday, heavily tied to the comments section free-for-all, yet the comments became their undoing. Either the comments free-for-all revealed the proprietor’s querlous truculence through censorship or petulant in-group beat-downs, or crickets took up residence in the 1’s and 2’s of responses. Like… Read more »

High Arka
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That’s an excellent point, Martin, and a good comparison. What we’re seeing now is, essentially, the failure of the anarchists to establish any kind of viable society. Whenever a certain level of popularity is reached, the blog–like the salon, the commune, or a reformist movement in local politics–has shown itself to be governed, still, by humans. The desire for order sets in, and we find even staunch anarchists establishing rules of thoughtcrime in order to avoid upsetting the social order. In the context of 1960s-era African American civil rights, growing blogs often reach a point where they’ve “got theirs,” and… Read more »

Marla Singer
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Marla Singer

The last passage (“freedom […] worth the starving outside those walls”) made my day.

You can’t win though – “fascism with a smiling face” has an indisputable and – as it seems for now – growing appeal. I don’t approve, but I surely understand why the Frankfurt school “sold out” so quickly (if my reading of them is correct…).

Martin
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Martin

Well said, Arkie, bringing some probity and chataqua uplift to this subject, but the “garage band” metaphor may be too close to the opposite truth. Numerous Netflix documentaries testify to the pathetic nature of superannuated “garage band” heroes, like the power pop king Chris Von Sneidern, or the 70’s never-been heavy metal crack fiend, or the stalwart Anvil van driver, or the record store proprietors of “I need that Record,” or the Dandy Warhols, all holding on that rock ‘n roll mythos, when time and the pull of obscurity has all but extinguished the rockstar mythos for these guitar heroes,… Read more »

High Arka
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Marla, <3, and this one would also like to hear your version of the Frankfurt School. Arguments about Marx are often like arguments about the meaning of Shakespeare or abstract art, revealing more about the speaker than the subject, with only coincidental, if any, connections to what the creator might actually have been thinking or trying to express. Martin, perhaps so. Of course, the "garage band" image is itself an illusion; the actual garage bands didn't make it enough even to get known as "garage bands." It's like calling Puff Daddy a fighter from the ghetto, or Obama a socialist:… Read more »

Marla Singer
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Marla Singer

Love the Gramsci quote… As for anarchists vs Chomsky, I don’t think anybody “wins” here… Clearly an overnight anarchy would be an unimaginable disaster (Arka, I live in the South, and I can verify that people who crave a breakdown so they can bust out their guns do exist; although I think they really overestimate their abilities and/or commitment to “rough it”). Also, not coming to a collective agreement on how to solve the property issue, guarantees a Mad Max situation – in the unlikely case the state power disintegrates. But Chomsky too is (very uncharacteristically) not particularly convinsing when… Read more »

Marla Singer
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Marla Singer

Arka, as for Marx, clearly this is not the medium to engage in extended discussion, but in short, I personally see him as above all, as probably the greatest humanist who ever lived (that I know of). Which seems to be a point that can sometimes lost amidst his more detailed and technical writing on the intricacies of our historical predicaments, and the attndant existential and material imitations

Marla Singer
Guest
Marla Singer

Awesome link, and I personally really don’t think anarchy that also preserves some semblance of advanced civilization is plausible (even as a thought experiment) – without governing institutions (some of them necessarily large and strong), in which case the whole concept of anarchism becomse too fuzzy. As for the democratic revolution, I must be missing something – it seems the oligarchy is stronger than ever, and the neoliberal f*** everybody mindset is alive and healthy even in places that should know better by now (e.g. in my native Eastern Europe). Asia, Africa and Latin america may be promising laboratories hypothetically… Read more »

Marla Singer
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Marla Singer

Thanks for the links, promising books, just ordered. I have to concede that my memories from EE socialism are from the early 1980s, i.e. after the greatest misery and opression was inflicted (besides, I suppose my family was the commie equivalent to middle class – to this day, it totally beats me how my grandpa was able to seamlessly transition from a businessman before and after the revolution, into an ambivalent, but succesful bureaucrat), so understandably I am inclined to view it through rose tinted glasses, even as my parents were bitching day and night and prepping me (apparently succesfully…)… Read more »

Marla Singer
Guest
Marla Singer

PS: btw, all that said, don’t forget that the former communist parties won multiple electoral victories in many EE countries in the early 1990s. Then, (already in high school and college) I was terrified by how people can be so stupid as to vote in precisely the party ‘they’ supposedly just overthrew, but 20 years later I may be begining to understand. I was watching archival footage from 1989 a few weeks ago and was shocked to see the ex-commies running for office and making perfectly sensible and forceful points about addressing environmental problems – in 1989! Right now, the… Read more »