Once upon a time, several retailers decided to put on the biggest sale of the year on the day after Thanksgiving. “It just makes sense,” they said, “the holiday is over and many people have school and work off and will be free to shop for holiday gifts.” And the sales were successful, so successful in fact, that soon, every store joined in the giant sales event, and the day was deemed “Black Friday”.
After many years, the stores were becoming more and more competitive, and the customers got greedier and greedier. Then some select retailers started opening their stores early on Black Friday. Some opened at 6:00 AM. Others, wanting the competitive advantage, opened at 5:00 AM, and still there were customers camping outside the doors waiting for the sales to begin.
Then a few decided to experiment with starting their Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving evening, first at midnight, then 10:00, then 8:00, etc. until the holiday was blotted out- forcing hundreds of thousands of retail workers, distribution center workers, truck drivers, and even police to give up their family holiday to serve the multitudinous greedy shoppers.
How did this happen?
The people voted for it.
They didn’t vote on paper or at a voting machine. They voted with their feet and with their credit cards. Each year, the retailers collect the sales data and reassess how profitable their sale was. When these crazy holiday sales are successful, it encourages the retailers to make the sale even more extreme the next year. We, the rabid shoppers, are responsible for Thanksgiving becoming a shopping day instead of a family holiday.
Our culture is a fluid thing, and it adapts to the way we vote in many ways. We will be supplied with what we demand. We vote with our purchases, we vote with our clothing, we vote with our social interactions. Every choice me make is a vote, and it impacts the world in subtle ways that add up to change on a large scale.
Take for example, food. From the 1950’s and on, a major cultural shift caused prepackaged foods to replace much of American families’ weekly grocery list. The people voted with their checkbooks, and even now, when we shop, most of the food in stock is “instant” or “frozen prepared” meals. Nevermind if this food is actually healthy for us, we voted and we got what we wanted. If we want a better variety of fresh produce and meats and dairy, what can we do? Vote for it! We can change our shopping and cooking habits, get our friends on board, make it “cool” to eat veggies and hummus, vote with our checkbooks. When the stores see demand for fresh food rising, they’ll stock more of it.
But besides voting for the products we buy, we also vote on cultural norms. It is considered normal to wear high heeled shoes. Is it healthy? No- it’s actually very dangerous. But the masses voted, many women wear high heels to work, to church, and even action heroins on TV wear them while they’re ninja-kicking bad guys. High heeled shoes have become so popular that now, it’s really difficult to find formal women’s footwear that’s flat. How could we make moderate women’s shoes come back into style? By wearing them! We vote with our actions, and when all the other women at the formal employee Christmas party are complaining about how bad their feet hurt in their very stylish heels, maybe they’ll see us in our very stylish flats and see how comfortable we are, and think that maybe next year, they’ll try wearing flats to the four-hour-long party. We can make it normal to act, and dress, with common sense.
We also vote for social personality. You may have noticed that when you’re with certain friends, you act one way, but when you’re with other friends, you act a different way. You have the power to steer the social climate by the social activities you engage in, the topics of conversation you carry, and the humor you encourage. The collective social personality of today is much more sarcastic and sceptical than it was even 20 years ago. I think a lot of it has to do with the humor we’re exposed to through the media we consume. Sitcoms like Friends and How I Met Your Mother, which I love, by the way, have a very sarcastic slant to their jokes, and we’ve been conditioned to like that style of humor. But even on a small scale, I’ve noticed that if I laugh at certain types of jokes, those types of jokes become more frequent because I’m encouraging it. Or if I let a string of conversation flow about a certain topic, that will become a favored topic with that group of friends and we’ll return to it over and over again. If my goal is to help steer society to a collective personality that is more educated, more healthy, more empathetic, what can I do? Vote for it! I can engage in conversation at a higher intellectual level, I can bring healthy snacks to social gatherings, I can be a good listener to a friend who needs to vent. Everything I do will be noticed by others and will help make it seem normal, which will encourage others to develop the traits I’m trying to spread.
Lets change the world.
We have all the power we need. We don’t need to make petitions and collect signatures, and we don’t need to donate money to political groups (though those things are important). We change the world by our VOTES. We vote with every action we take, every action we abstain from, and every connection we have with other human beings. We make things normal, and the world will supply what we demand. Lets demand a better world by making better choices.
We can make Gray Thursday go away and bring back Thanksgiving!