Muppets and Mammon

Black FridayI must admit I felt pretty good about myself yesterday as I schlepped back from Asda, not with a flat-screen telly under each arm, but instead with bags full of cabbage, broccoli, carrots, okra, lemons and other cancer and diabetes busting items. Yes, they were still trying to peddle the whole greed-is-good-on-Black-Friday thing so my little corner of the store away from the electrical goods was deserted. I did have a sneaky peek at what once-in-a-lifetime deals they were offering up and saw they had knocked forty quid off a flat-screen which meant you only had to shell out a mere three hundred. Wow! Sale of the Century indeed! People, on average, were snapping up two at a time. I guess that means they would have £80 to spend instead on multipacks of fizzy drinks, cheap burgers and oven chips to be consumed as they watch ‘I’m a Celebrity… ‘ in vomit-inducing HD, maybe avoiding the local food bank for a day or two – well, they try and palm you off with ‘healthy’ food these days, don’t they?

A bit harsh? A bit Andrew Mitchell / Emily Thornberry / David Mellor? The thing is though – I can slag off the feckless working-class because while I am the latter I refuse to be the former.

Meanwhile on the other side of the pond, on actual Black Friday just there, groups of African-Americans made a brave stand to dissuade other African-Americans from worshiping at the altar of Mammon on the holiest of consumer days, in some way hopefully highlighting the inequality of the US judicial system if you have non-white face. Maybe not surprisingly they didn’t have much luck. Most of the people they targeted failed – or refused – to see the connection between consumerism and basic human rights. And while it’s a particularly potent subject for black Americans – with the whole pimped up bling cultcha of ‘replacing the chains of slavery with 24 carat ones’ representing some kind of freedom – it’s a similar thing for working-class Brits. However instead of Beverly Hills Bling it’s more Aldi Aspiration with us over here exercising our inalienable right to purchase cheap(er) electronic goods that give us potential to access a world of knowledge but you just know will be used to watch cat videos and Jeremy Kyle.

But whatever colour you are or whichever side of the pond you find yourself – if you weren’t born ‘to the purple’ or with a silver spoon in your gob – things will be tough and not fair, rest assured. However if you think splurging on overpriced tat and getting into debt will improve your life in the long term – think again. Who was ever inspired or spiritually fulfilled by a trip to the shops? So don’t be a consumer muppet – read a book, write a book, speak to friends, make some new friends, cook yourself a decent meal, go for a run – there are a million things that are cheap or free and will make you feel so much better about yourself. For inspiration follow this link to find out about the brilliant Karen Washington and her Garden of Happiness in the Bronx.

Karen speaks movingly about being considered ‘trash’ before she started her garden because she was judged by her urban environment – a dumping ground for rubbish. She’s a marvelous example of having the courage to transcend her surroundings – no tat or flat screen tellies involved!


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