As I unravel this situation in New York with the trampling death of Jdimytai Damour at the Green Acres Mall Wal-Mart in Valley Stream, NY, some other things trouble me. Before I get to that, an update from yesterday‘s post about the accountability of Wal-Mart. As of now, Wal-Mart has said they will provide someone to talk to us before the week is out. As soon as I get more from them, I will share it with you.
Now back to other concerns I have. Many people have commented on the “herd mentality“ of the shoppers that created the surge that crashed through the doors that Mr. Damour was pushing against on Friday morning. This herd was motivated by the “great deals“ that had been advertised.
Based upon numerous reports, many of the 2000, who waited impatiently outside Wal-Mart, were almost desperate for the stuff they wanted. In fact, several accounts state that shoppers would not leave the store when it was closed due to the trampling of Jdimytai and others. There were several shoppers quoted as saying, “I‘m not leaving until I got what I came for.“
When I think about this, it is easy for me to talk about “those people“. It is easy to have this be about fanatical folks who were brazen and uncaring. You know though, that is too easy. I have found that when there is some public outrage, one of the missing elements is a good self-examination by those who make the loudest protests.
Don‘t get me wrong. I am not saying that the behavior of the shoppers was OK. I am saying that this behavior is not acceptable. What I am also saying is that I have some accountability for this situation. No, I was not part of the crowd that was in Valley Stream. So my accountability is indirect, but no less important.
It is my sense that the energy that fueled this tragedy comes from the almost insatiable appetite for stuff. I find that I am living in a world where our success is measured by the amount and kind of stuff we have. Whether it is the car I drive or the TV I own or how manicured my lawn is or the set of threads I am wearing, I am measured by criteria that have nothing to do with who I am.
This desire for stuff has grown over the past thirty years. I remember Christmas in my home in California. It was a great experience. The kids got train sets that were made to last and the presents from the grandparents were not excessive. Things began changing as more and more consumer products infiltrated the market.
I also began to see changes in how we thought of the goods and services we offered. This included their durability, quality and “real“ value. Marketing of consumer products changed. A focus moved to creating desire in the buyer to have the latest, coolest product. This change has been documented in places like Naomi Klein‘s book, No Logo.
The impact has been both obvious and subtle. The obvious part is that we acquire so much for which we are not clear of the long term value. We believe we must have products so that we will be happy. We all know how fleetingly satisfying this desire is, and yet we go down to the mall and participate.
I can see how unconscious I become when I am in a well-laid out store. Merchandise is almost calling to me like the long ago sirens of Homer’s Odyssey. I have to practice intense self-control to leave certain stores with only what I intended. My participation in this system is the beginning of my accountability for the death of Jdimytai Damour.
It continues with my not speaking up now that I know how the system works. I am not a persuasive advocate for buyers to be deliberate. I know there is so much more that I can do to help change the system that not only leads to consumer insanity like Mr. Damour‘s death, but to the depletion of some of the most precious resources on the planet.
The subtle part of the impact is how we act in other arenas. This mindset of ‘more’ and ‘want’ drives most of our corporate leaders. They feel that they must grow at almost any cost to be successful. I am accountable for Jdimytai‘s death because I gladly took consulting fees from companies that are fueling rampant consumerism.
I also see the subtle impact at home. My children get obsessed with things. They must have stuff or they are not happy. Then they get it and they quickly discard it for some other stuff. In the past I have silently sat by and let this unfold without questioning the acceptability of this behavior. At times, it seems daunting to make a stand when so many around me seem to believe that the way of stuff is the way that it’s supposed to be.
As you can see, I have been deeply impacted by Jdimytai Damour death. It inspires me to action and strengthens my resolve.