It's Black Friday. Two gaunt-looking women in white face paint with dark circles applied around their eyes stare blankly into their cell phones and shuffle past Lowe's on Reserve Street. They draw a curious glance from a woman toting a squirming child and sideways smirks from two teenage girls in tight jeans.
The zombie duo moves on to Starbucks, where one woman appears transfixed by a stuffed Rudolf emitting his namesake Christmas song.
University of Montana MFA acting student Rebecca Schaffer organized this walk of the living dead. Billed as "Zombie Flash Mob: Occupy Black Friday," she aimed to use the performance to combat the deadening effects of consumerism on the human spirit. It would appear to be a losing battle.
"We do lose ourselves," Schaffer says.
She's right. We crave big-screen televisions, Blu-Ray home theater systems, iPods, Blackberries and on and on. We don't need them, but then again, in a way, we do, because we're addicted to...stuff.
In fact, we did something the day after Black Friday—on Small Business Saturday, no less—that we're ashamed to admit.
We went shopping at the big box stores.
We weren't going to go. "They'll be playing Christmas music," we thought. We hate Christmas music. Plus, we know the stats. American consumerism is killing this planet. A child born in the U.S. will create 13 times the ecological damage over the course of her lifetime as a child born in Brazil. One American devours as many resources as 35 people from India. Yet we pocketed a credit card and drove our SUV to Target's post-Thanksgiving sale, feeling like an alcoholic relapsing.
To our astonishment, there was one Wii game console left. It was on sale for just $129.99! It's true, we felt a flush of excitement. "Mine, mine," we thought. We probably wouldn't have pepper-sprayed anyone to get our goods, like that woman did in LA last week. But if someone had tried to snatch that last console from us, we might have thrown some elbows.
Even now, days later, we're still unsettled by the shopping passion we felt. A piece of plastic meant more to us than the well-being of our neighbors, in a season that's supposed to be about giving, not taking, and we're ashamed.