Regardless of your religious beliefs (if any), almost all of us agree that the Christmas season is meant to be a time of personal reflection and of showing goodwill toward others. We think about the year that has passed and about plans for the year ahead. We reflect upon our priorities. We buy gifts for each other. We give to charity. We spend time with friends and family. Yet ironically, some in our society kick off the Christmas season by acting in the exact opposite manner.
Another Black Friday has passed, and along with it have come new videos of crazed consumers fighting over stuff as if their life depended on it. Here’s a lowlight reel I stumbled upon:
All this got me thinking about our love of stuff in America. Now, don’t jump to conclusions. Before that Jim Gaffigan “he’s anti-stuff!” voice pops into your head, allow me to immediately clarify that I am not opposed to stuff. Stuff can be fun. In fact, just this past week, I got some really cool stuff: a new iPhone 6 Plus and a custom-made, ten foot wide entertainment center to house stuff like the new TV my wife and I purchased a few months ago. I look forward to getting some additional stuff for Christmas, and I’m excited to give some stuff to people I care about as well.
So no, I am not anti-stuff.
I do propose, however, that we are in serious need of a reality check when it comes to our attitude toward stuff. Are we in charge of our stuff, or is our stuff in charge of us? I don’t know any “stars” from the lowlight reel personally, but my guess is that most of those people are actually pretty decent human beings most days. At the very least, I’m guessing that they don’t typically challenge fellow shoppers to wrestling matches in the aisles of Walmart. Yet these people’s attitute toward stuff turned them into ravenous animals on Black Friday. Their stuff was in charge of them. What happened?
It is said that the love of money is the root of all evil, and I think this principle is at play in the lowlight reel. (“Oh, he’s anti-money!” No, don’t get ahead of me, Jim.) I agree with the principle, but I am most definitely not anti-money. I pose a question: what kind of love is the principle talking about? In what way(s) might someone love money so as to bring evil to the world?
First things first: Money itself is not evil. Quite the contrary, money is an amazing blessing in our world. Money is a tool that allows us to trade efficiently with one another. Money allows us to easily store the wealth we create when we use our time productively. Money helps us feed our families, secure our futures, and pursue our dreams. Money empowers us to provide real help to others in need throughout the world, and we don’t even have to get up off the couch—all we have to do is click a “Donate” button.
To recognize and appreciate the true “value” of money (in these senses) and to love the concept of money as a result is anything but evil. As Ayn Rand said in her book Atlas Shrugged, “To love money is to know and love the fact that money is the creation of the best power within you, and your passkey to trade your effort for the effort of the best among men.”
I agree with Rand. I absolutely love money in this way. This type of love is “true love,” because—like any true love—it is a love filled with a deep understanding and appreciation for the object of our love: in this case, money. Clearly, the principle to which I refer is not talking about the true love of money.
Quite the opposite from true love is a type of love that is shallow, immature, controlling, and ultimately meaningless: we call it lust. To lust is to experience “a passionate or overmastering desire or craving” for something. It is this type of love which the principle talks about. In order to avoid misinterpretation of the word “love,” the principle should be clarified to say the lust for money is the root of all evil.
We see lust at work in the lowlight reel. In this case, the lust for stuff is directly related to the lust for money. Shoppers literally fight with one another because lust for money has taken over. These shoppers want to buy stuff right now at a huge discount, thus saving the money for which they lust, and damned be the man or woman who stands in their way!
Despite the sentiments we commonly attach to the Christmas season, these shoppers forget common sense, throw common courtesy out the window, and actively disregard respect for other human beings. “Merry freaking Christmas; now get your hands off my TV!”
If you want to get great deals on stuff on Black Friday, I don’t blame you. I personally love getting great deals on stuff, and I frequently buy stuff when it’s on sale. But I encourage you to be personally responsible enough to keep your emotions in check. To avoid acting in shameful, embarrassing, or even evil ways, don’t be overcome with lust for stuff during the Christmas season—or any other time, for that matter.
As a libertarian-leaning writer, I recognize that it is none of my business what choice you make in this regard. I likely won’t be affected either way. But keep in mind that your actions will have consequences. When adults act like children who fight with one another over toys in the sandbox, they should not be surprised when people see them as reprehensible. If you are overcome with a lust for stuff, don’t be surprised if others treat you like the immature child you are.