The Gifts We Buy With His Blood

In Uncategorized on December 12, 2008 at 4:43 am
A couple of weeks ago, on Black Friday,  a 34-year-old Wal-Mart employee named Jdimytai Damour was trampled to death at a New York Wal-Mart by an angry mob of consumers, lured in by store ads offering deep discounts.  I can’t get this guy out of my mind, and it’s appalling that this story is already dead.  But Jennifer Aniston is naked on the cover of GQ, and she’s talking about Brad and Angelina again, so I guess it’s understandable.  I’m not pointing fingers because I, too, read that icky bit of journalism, but that doesn’t stop me from thinking about Jimbo, as he was called by his friends, and what his death means to me.
 At first I was just pissed at the ignorant fools who did this.   I am not a chronic shopper.  I don’t buy Christmas gifts, and I don’t understand what the big deal is to get a flat screen television or whatever other things the mob was after.  The television in my house is a hand me down, not a flat screen, and I am just fine with it. But I guess if you’re broke, you might be more desperate to acquire things that you think moneyed people have, and if there’s a sale at Wal-Mart that will get you one step closer to feeling rich, then hot damn!  In a culture that fosters the beast of greed and excess, it’s not surprising that every member of society feels entitled to get their ‘stuff’.  This man, who was 6’5 and 270 pounds, was crushed by the onrush of 2,000 people because he stood in the way of their acquisition of things.  Even after Jimbo died, there were those callous enough to keep shopping, that is, until the store closed for a few hours.  Wal-Mart is to blame, too.  They know what ‘deep discounts’ do to people’s psyches; to claim otherwise would be mendacious.  They knowingly flaunted fresh meat in front of hungry lions.  What did they expect was going to happen?  It’s all so ugly.
I know the allure of these mega stores.  They bring out desires in me that I didn’t know I had.  Look, there’s a thingy you can attach to your comforter, so it doesn’t get all bunched up inside the duvet cover!  A scrap book with butterflies on it, how did Target know I love butterflies and that I want to make a scrapbook?  Not cartoony butterflies, either.  And then there are the toiletries.  What woman doesn’t love toiletries?  But despite all the things I want at the mega store, I am always filled with this weird, sick feeling when I go there.  After a certain point, I feel like I’m in a movie.  The camera is on me and I’m standing still, but the external world is moving, whizzing by me in a circular, blurry fashion.  It’s as if my eyes tire of darting from thing to thing, and my brain goes into lockdown, resisting the constant comparing, contrasting, and evaluating.  All I can hear are the cash registers in the distance making the beep beep beep beep sound, hangers rustling, kids screaming, and then I have to get out of there.  Fast.    I have to get away from the huge giant shopping complex and the huge giant cars and the huge giant asses….aaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh!
In simpler times people made gifts.  Now a quick and thoughtless impulse grab at a mega store will do.   Making a gift requires time and patience.  Not to mention the fact that the person is at the forefront of your mind when you are making the gift, or at least in your heart.  Your love is being transferred into the thing, making it infinitely more valuable and beautiful than anything that can be thrown into a cart.  I don’t believe mega store gifts are really gifts.  Bought gifts in general, really, reek of inauthenticity unless one spends a great deal of time and a part of themselves on the purchase, à la The Gift of the Magi.
I’d rather frame a photograph, make a card with human handwriting, or buy a thoughtfully selected used book than buy something at a mega store.  Then, not only would I enjoy the process of giving, but I wouldn’t be feeding the beast that killed Jdimytai Damour.  The beast is the collective, uncontrollable mad rush to consume, and each of us is a part of it.  It’s easy to dismiss his death as something ‘those people over there’ did.  On one level that’s true.  But there is another factor to consider.   This beast has millions of hands, feet, mouths, noses, eyes, and ears, and it didn’t come from nowhere.  We, Americans more than anyone else,  have birthed and nurtured it over many years by making ‘stuff’ extremely important in our lives, many times more important than simple, object-less happiness.  Every time we buy useless crap, we feed the beast.  We’ve all done it.   With every cash register beep, we send a signal to the folks at Wal-Mart and other mega stores that there’s a need to be filled, and they, in turn, get their Chinese factories rolling and spewing, to produce all the stuff we ask for.  
How many times do we get fooled into ‘feeling better’ after we buy something?  There is a pleasure there, no doubt, but it wears away quickly.  I think of a cute dress I purchased a few months ago and how exciting it was to have it.  But where is my excitement today?  It evaporated because things can never sustain us the way we imagine they can.  It still happens to me, and I guess it will continue, but I can get a handle on it.  We can all get a handle on the amount we consume.  
Christmas has come to this.  Celebrating the life of a man who preached only love and taking a big shit on that message by making it about buying stuff, not to mention killing a young and vibrant human being in the process.  What a joke of a holiday.  Why buy gifts this year, or ever?  I don’t get it.  For me, honoring the life of Jdimytai Damour means stopping the mad, murderous rush for things in myself, and doing my part to make the beast less deadly.  I understand that people have bought gifts already this close to Christmas, and if so,  I hope they’re given without expectation of anything in return, even a thank you.  Just given humbly, the way Jesus would have, you know, if he had some wrapping paper and Cuisinart.
© V.S. Pillay 2012

  1. There’s a thingy you can attach to your comforter, so it doesn’t get all bunched up inside the duvet cover??? Hot Damn! I gotta get me one ‘a them!

    Well, done…;)

  2. Arundhati Roy would be proud!!! I, myself, am a little ashamed.
    This year it’s feats of strength around the Festivus Pole!!! You have a beautiful spirit…please continue to share.
    Vice is a creature of so frightful mein
    to be hated, needs but to be seen
    yet seen to oft, familiar with her face
    first we pity
    then endure
    then embrace
    ~Alexander Pope

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