By Eddie Ruvalcaba

The idea of being left behind is haunting. One needs to be up with the latest and greatest everything –otherwise, how can one compete to be the kid with the coolest swag?

America, in the year 2015, has become a prime example of what the ideal consumer society is all about. People camping out in front of stores for new products like the iPhone 6s, PS4 or Xbox One and the next generation Michael Jordans, just to be the first to have that item. Camping and cramping for up to weeks ahead of time just to be the first, but why?

The Consumer Society of America is the buying and consuming of products to such an extreme extent that some are willing to kill for whatever the hot item is at the time. It has become a necessary evil in America in order to sustain a healthy economy.

In the 1930s, Coca-Cola’s marketing team came up with the brightest ad campaign when it hired illustrator Haddon Sundblom to create the madness now known as “Christmas.” Sundblom’s iconic images of Santa having a Coke while on breaks from delivering toys were posted in major department stores all over the country. Coca-Cola’s Christmas 1930’s campaign far surpassed its wildest expectations, eventually creating the Christmas as we know it in 2015.

The original purpose of Christmas was to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, who Christians believe is the Son of God, who was born and died for the salvation of mankind. Traditional celebrations still include a midnight church service on Christmas Eve, a special meal on Christmas day, and gift giving like the three great kings did when they visited Joseph and Mary in the manger where Christ was born.

Thanks to mass commercialism, Christmas is now Xmas, excluding Jesus Christ almost completely, even phonetically. Xmas is now a mad, gluttonous shark frenzy of shoppers who may even kill (as has happened) in order to fulfill their children’s Xmas wish list while other shoppers bite, claw and scratch for extra products. They grab more than they need just so they can sell later at ten times higher prices when the demand exceeds the supply.

Black Friday use to be the unofficial kick off day of the Xmas Shopping Season, the day after Thanksgiving. This Xmas shopping season has been ongoing in America since the 1960s. This is how weeklong store camping started. As retailers began to realize they could draw big crowds by discounting prices, Black Friday became the day to shop, even better than those last minute Christmas sales.

Storefront campers are becoming more and more sophisticated. They’re using solar power battery chargers for the very electronic devices they are waiting to upgrade, along with all the regular camping gear one might find in the woods like barbecue pits, tents and sleeping. Extreme shoppers wear big man pampers, in case they have to go to the restroom but can’t for fear of losing their place in line.

Smart campers do it in teams. At the moment of truth, when store doors are finally blown open, all hell breaks loose. On November 28, 2008, a Wal-Mart temporary employee was trampled to death while trying to hold back the mob of a line. Some people feel they don’t have to wait in line for their ultimate swag, they would rather just rob, steal and kill.

In 1989, 15-year-old Michael Eugene Thomas paid $115.50 for a pair of Air Jordan Gama Blue shoes. His grandmother warned him not to wear his shoes to school because someone might like them, but Michael told her “Granny, before I let anyone take those shoes, they’ll have to kill me.”   Shortly thereafter Michael was found strangled in the woods near his school, barefoot. His killer was 17-year-old James David Martin, a basketball buddy.

On December 21, 2012, as the newest Air Jordans were being released, 22-year-old Joshua Woods got a rare voucher to buy a pair of the latest shoes for himself and his 6-year-old son. After buying them, he sent his mother a text message saying, “Mom, I am okay. We are already headed home.” But he never made it home. Three young men were charged with murdering Woods in an attempt to get those shoes from him.

Michael Jordan is the iconic symbol of the National Basketball Association, who every kid dreams to be like. But one can’t be like Mike if one doesn’t have his shoes. Even after kids were killing other kids for his shoes, the marketing conglomerate kept growing as a brand. In 1991 Gatorade signed Jordan to a $13 million five-year contract to produce the “Be Like Mike” campaign. Twenty-two years later, Michael Jordan’s annual advertising earnings average over $90 million and, more than ever, people still wants to be like Mike, even if, in some extreme cases, it means you needs to murder for it.

What was America like before the greed for money and material? I can’t imagine what it would be like to grow my own crops and hunt for my own meals like a farmer might do, or to learn to hunt and gather like the nomadic natives did before them, before this land was called America. Progress is supposed to advance society but in actuality it is only making slaves out of the poor as the rich get richer, slaves entrapped by the brainwashing marketing schemes of this consumer society.

Photo above: Powhusku/Flickr Creative Commons

Boyle Heights Beat is a bilingual community newspaper produced by its youth "por y para la comunidad". The newspaper and its sister website serve an immigrant neighborhood in East Los Angeles of just under...

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