Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Why Black Friday Is Good For The Soul

In Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight we are confronted with the madness of the Joker. He is a character that deeply unsettles us because of his truthfulness. Take the following clip,

"I'm a man of my word."

The power of the scene is that we know the Joker is telling the truth. The Dark Knight is a film filled with lies where everyone except the Joker hides behind lies. The Joker is like a falling into an icy lake, shocking us into reality, recognising that things are bad, that we may not get out of this situation alive. Because the Joker tells us the truth he highlights our need for transformation, the stripping away of masks.

'This is how crazy Batman has made Gotham.'

A moment of madness exposes the reality.

We have become so embedded in the system of global capitalism that we become unconscious and numb to the destructive force it is upon our humanity.

Think for a moment about the standard advert that asks us for money to address disease and poverty somewhere in the world. The advert usually has a child in extreme poverty who, we are told, will die unless something drastically changes. We are then told that our money will bring about the kind of transformation that is needed to deal with the pain, poverty and trauma that many people are suffering. The advert changes to a child laughing, faces glowing in the sunshine, hope beaming into our homes through the television screen. Sometimes the end of the advert reverts back to the child in their suffering, the sunshine no longer reflecting off their eyes but a dullness and gloom to the scene evoking within us a loss of the hope we only just witnessed through the prospect of our giving.

Aside from the irony of the sunshine glowing invoking hope when famine and lack of rainfall in some parts of the world can cause extreme despair, it is the concept that our money is the means to transformation and the cure to the poverty that billions are suffering across the world. Such is the grip of capitalism upon us we cannot imagine another way to a better world. We believe that we can buy our way out of trouble. Money is the means to change we are told. Growth, we are told, is the cure.

Slavoj Žižek highlights this reality through the way that we can buy a cup of coffee and the supplier promising that 20p from the price of the coffee will go to a child in poverty somewhere in the world. So we can continue in our capitalistic lifestyle guilt free believing that we are making a difference by continuing to spend our money. 

The rise in de-caf, sugar free, alcohol free is symbolic of how we desire to sustain a certain way of life  without restraint yet guilt free; drink as much coffee as you want, eat as much chocolate as you want, drink as much beer as you want without the consequences.  Capitalism urges us to increase our spending, buy our way out of trouble, continue in our consumerism without restraint in order to save the planet. Yet what we are never told is that the child we see in poverty on our television screens is there because of a System of oppression that capitalism has imposed upon the world. My lifestyle directly creates and sustains poverty. So what we need is a transformation of the System itself not a continued increase in spending.

I'm not saying we shouldn't give money to charity, for until the System changes we are in a difficult situation, but what I am saying is that we cannot sit back with our cup of coffee and think this will cure the problem, because it won't. 

"Invest in a pension, invest in savings, save for a rainy day, have life insurance, pet insurance, home insurance, break-down cover!" Spend your money to build a life and future of safety and security.

So through this capitalistic propaganda we become afraid of tomorrow, panic stricken about what might be, hysteria setting into our souls and an almost uncontrollable desire to do something about it. So we spend our money believing that through it we will somehow be satisfied. 

Every single day we are urged to live as capitalistic consumers in a constant circle of fear and spending. What Black Friday does is expose us to the madness. Scenes of panic buying, mimetic rivalry, violence, endless crowds of people and queues highlight how afraid we have become. The truth finally gets revealed and we realise how crazy we have become. The madness of the Joker reveals what is really going on in Gotham, yet are we in any kind of position to change our ways?

Jesus told us not to store up treasures on earth, not to worry about tomorrow, to not love money or to trust in anything other than God. He told us that we can trust him, not in a 'self-help guru, path to freedom from suffering' kind of way, but in a 'take up your cross and follow me' kind of way. 

I fear that many of us Jesus followers and the institutions we are part of have bowed to Mammon, have sought after capitalism and not the Kingdom, have followed the way of Caesar not Jesus and so struggle now to live as a people of Today.

Black Friday reveals that something is wrong and the answer is not to be found through capitalism. We have become slaves to a System, to Principalities and Powers, that demand fear, that generate a selfishness, that create a desire within that strips us of our very humanity. But the System has overstretched itself, revealing itself for what it really is.

This is why Black Friday is good for the soul because the truth has been revealed through the madness.

Yet if we continue to contribute to the System then nothing changes. So we need to be brave and courageous in believing there is another way. 

Our very souls depend upon it.


Roger Akroyd said...

There is no god and you don't have a soul; neither do I.
So get a real job and stop pretending you have any more idea about what's going on or what's wrong or how to fix it than anyone else.
Because you don't.

Joe Haward said...

Thanks for the comment Roger, good to hear from you. Your comment 'get a real job' nearly made me spit my tea all over the computer! Made me laugh even though I'm pretty sure it wasn't meant to be funny... :)

I think you need to lighten up and smile more. :)

Anonymous said...

"Get a real job"?
Roger, you don't sound very qualified to talk about what is "real". Does your "real" job prevent you from commenting as Joe comments, or are you too busy/tired to care?
Zizek, who also doesn't have a "real" job would have a field day with you mate.
Joe was wrong on one thing, it was very funny, and you owe me a new computer coz my tea went everywhere.