ROME – As millions of Americans woke up the day after Thanksgiving ready to swamp stores and take advantage of the traditional sales, they probably don’t realize that “Black Friday” is now marked in countries around the world that don’t even celebrate the American holiday.
However, there is a growing resistance to this imposition of the American sales extravaganza, with one Spanish cardinal pointing out that for the poor, every day is “Black Friday, dark days.”
“Thousands of people go out to the streets with only one goal: To find the best sales,” write Cardinal Juan Jose Omella of Barcelona in his weekly Sunday reflection, which he published on Twitter. “The craziness is such, that there are even people who take the day off to be able to go buy, since they cannot resist the tempting offers. The race begins, an authentic adventure.”
The cardinal also called for Christians to reflect on consumerism, saying that he’s not advocating people stop buying stuff altogether, but they should be buying what is truly needed, for your own needs or that of someone else.
As Omella notes, Black Friday this year precedes the beginning of the Advent season, which starts on Sunday.
A few years ago, no one outside the United States even knew about “Black Friday,” but now all across Western Europe it inaugurates the Christmas shopping season.
The beginning of the liturgical season that leads up to Christmas, the cardinal said, is a good time to focus on a more sustainable life, with a more responsible and charitable consumerism.
Yet, Omella said, as some “live the craziness of consumerism,” others go out in the streets looking for “other kinds of opportunities,” and finding them too, will be “an authentic adventure.” These people, he said, will go out looking for what they need, not knowing where or if they will find it.
“It is probable that they won’t get anything,” he wrote. “These adventurers are the poor people in our society. For them, every day is Black Friday, dark days, because they have to struggle daily to make a life.”
As some “wait patiently” in line for hours to buy more than what they had anticipated buying, others stand stoically in long queues for a meal in a soup kitchen. “All to save a few euros and, if they are lucky, they can also find edible bargains: Yogurts about to expire, fruit with a bad appearance.”
“They arrive at their homes (those who have one) exhausted, but also satisfied that they have achieved something [survival],” he writes. “The next day, another adventure full of emotion awaits them.”
Initiatives such as Black Friday, according to Omella, contribute to normalizing “exaggerated consumerism, consuming for the sake of consuming, not due to need, and this is a general tendency.”
Pope Francis, he argued, has questioned the current economy, that is “faceless” and without a “truly human face, that promotes extreme consumerism.”
“He has denounced at different times what he calls the ‘throwaway culture’ that says that ‘human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded’,” the cardinal wrote, quoting Francis’s 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium.
“We are talking about the elderly, the poor, the disabled and the unemployed,” he wrote. “Are we going to allow for them to be treated as consumable goods, to use and discard?”
Omella closed his letter quoting St. Teresa of Calcutta, who said, “Poverty was not made by God, you and I do it when we do not share what we have.”
The Laudato Si’ generation, marches against Black Friday
Meanwhile, the Laudato Si’ Generation, the youth branch of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, an international network of over 800 Catholic organizations, is marching against Black Friday on Nov. 29 in Assisi, the home of St. Francis, who 40 years ago was declared the patron saint of ecology.
“In Assisi, Catholics will lead a climate strike around the green hills that St. Francis walked,” says a statement on their website. “And around the world, we’ll walk with them in spirit,” referring to the global School Strike for Climate movement.
According to Argentine layman Tomas Insua, the executive director of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, the event — which began with a prayer led by Franciscan friars — is to denounce Black Friday.
Pre-#ClimateStrike prayer in Assisi!
— Tomás Insua (@tomasinsua) November 29, 2019
Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma
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