Amazon is coming, but Black Friday is the last thing we need

Thursday, 23 November 2017, 09:33:41 AM. There are many things to admire about America, but Black Friday is not one. Bringing it here without the benefit of Thanksgiving is unjustified, writes Ben Pobjie.

Amazon boxes are seen stacked for delivery Photo: Amazon is launching its Australian operation, but will that mean it loses its point of difference? (Reuters: Mike Segar)

There are many things to admire about America: the majestic bison; the raw, passionate sound of the Delta Blues; the moon landing; just to name a few. It is a vast land of myriad wonders, many of which have made the trip to our own country, to the benefit of all.

But there are also some less impressive elements of that great nation, and one has to ask: given all the beauty that the US of A has to offer, why is it that we so often choose the worst of it to import? And to get specific, why at this stage of history have we decided that the next American tradition we need to embrace is that known as "Black Friday"?

Black Friday is a nightmarish annual event in the States which occurs the day after Thanksgiving, when everyone needs to get all the familial love and generosity out of their systems, and so they rush to the shops to participate in a blood-soaked orgy of capitalism.

Crowds stampede and trample each other in sweaty heaving masses nationwide to grab the best bargains and amass as many consumer goods as possible in preparation for Christmas, when their purchases will be needed to stand in for human feeling.

It's a brutal reminder of the seeds of its own destruction that civilisation bears within itself, but for many years the small mercy had been that it was quarantined to America the Beautiful. Alas, that can no longer be said.

Enter, Amazon

The entry of Amazon into Australia has turbocharged the push to make Black Friday an Antipodean institution, albeit mainly online, with the e-commerce behemoth announcing that its launch of Amazon Marketplace in Australia will begin this week, in time for the Black Friday sales.

But Black Friday was already on its way, with numerous Australian retailers getting on board, from Kogan — "50 per cent off Komodo hammock chairs!" — to Dan Murphy's — "six highly-rated cellared reds plus a bonus shiraz for $250!".

Sadly, the assimilation of our nation's consumers into the Black Friday omniverse seems inevitable. Finder.com.au, the nation's number one website for … finding things, I suppose, carries details of more than 300 deals for Australians on Black Friday and "Cyber Monday", the mutant child of Black Friday, designed so everyone gets to bankrupt themselves in the comfort of their own homes.

It'll be worse here

Horrible as it is to conceive of, Australian Black Friday may turn out to be even worse than the original.

After all, in America the day is inextricably tied to Thanksgiving, a real holiday dedicated to goodwill and togetherness.

In Australia, we've somehow decided to adopt the customs of the post-Thanksgiving rampage while bypassing Thanksgiving itself. That means that for us, we don't get the compensatory day of mutual gratitude and delicious poultry before the hollow worship of materialism begins.

All we're giving ourselves is Black Friday itself, squatting on the calendar like a toad on a birthday cake: ugly and with no justification.

And the fact it's named "Black Friday" makes it worse. It should be the name of a spooky day, it sounds so dramatic — but it's just a more violent version of the Boxing Day sales. It lies to us even as it empties our pockets and crushes our humanity.

Losing its appeal

It's only going to get worse. Amazon will see to that. It's not that I dislike Amazon: I've long been a loyal customer. But the great attraction of it was that it was, you know … a long way away. Every Australian spends a lifetime building up a ferocious antipathy to local shops. That's why Amazon was a breath of fresh air: clean, efficient and slightly exotic, it was a delight to buy from because it had nothing in common with what we were used to.

But soon, Amazon will be just the same. Soon, everything is going to be just like everything else. Buying our stuff online will lose all its appeal because all the online stores will have opened outlets in Australia, and all the Australian stores will have gone online, and all our retail streams will be crossed.

When a company like Amazon makes a domestic incursion, it stops seeming like a shining city across the water beckoning us with beautiful promises, and more like a racketeer barging into our homes and smashing our furniture until we agree to buy their snuggies.

But that's the way of the world now: nothing is local, and nothing is global, and everything is both at once.

It's all terribly sad, because once upon a time the Americanisation of our culture was a glorious thing. Americanisation meant Seinfeld and The Simpsons and delicious hamburgers and fashionable children with stylish hats wearing their pants in interesting new ways. Americanisation meant gratuitous nudity, fun explosions and massive piles of delicious sugar.

But now, Americanisation means Black Friday, the day that will live in infamy. The day that shopping in Australia went to the next level, and that level was eternal suffering.

Ben Pobjie is a writer and comedian.

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