Friday, November 23, 2012

BethRant7: When is Enough Enough? On Begging, Biographies & Black Fridays

On Begging Every year, without fail, I receive a phone call from a student worker at an educational institution I attended, asking for alumni support (translate: money).  And every year, I have the same question: when is enough enough?

When will the school have reached enough money in hand to not ask for more?  When will its substantial (and I do mean substantial) endowments, investments, and assets be enough?  Really what I am asking is why isn’t what you have already enough?

I am usually misunderstood – while owning that the school does have a very handsome portfolio, there is always another project, a new vision, that requires more – always more.

Don’t get me wrong: I treasure my time spent there; I value the education I received; and I earnestly desire that others may have the same experience as I.  But truly, I want to know: is there a goal of money on hand that will suffice?  That will say we do not have to ask for more, because we have enough and more than enough?

On Biographies Reading my current issue of Smithsonian magazine, I run into a book review of yet another biography on General Custer.

Guidon lists 846 books dedicated in whole or in part to Custer, including McMurtry’s latest entry, the book treated in the Smithsonian review.

I am sure Custer is interesting.  But 846 books’ worth?  Really?  Hasn’t everything to be said about Custer and his ignominious place in the history of the United States been given its well-more-than obligatory 15 minutes of fame?

Aren’t 846 books more than enough to satisfy even Custer’s reputed vainglorious desire for even posthumous fame?

Can’t we move on?

Isn’t enough enough?

On Black Friday If you are ever tempted to doubt the efficacy of marketing (translate propaganda), of advertising’s impact on human behavior, behold Black Friday – best done from a distance, I have to say.

Photo from Doug's Foggiest Ideas
Watch on your television screen the melee at your local Wal-Mart.  Observe shopping turned into a competitive, full-body-contact sport.

My blog profile warned you: I am a curmudgeon.  So, in all my curmudgeonliness, here goes:

(1) It’s propaganda to say that you will find great bargains on Black Friday.  Samplings of goods on offer show that often the price is actually higher than at other times.

(2) It is one short step from a crowd to a mob.  People have actually been killed in the crush to buy.  While it would be sad if these were food lines for the hungry, at least it would be understandable.  But not this.  I keep a list in my head of stupid ways to die: ways I do not want to be the final word about me – ways that make people laugh at my idiocy, greed, or just plain foolishness.  Dying in a rush to buy the next new thing has to be in the top 10.

(3) Black Friday brings out the worst rather than the best in us.  It is as if we believe that we’re engaged in a holy battle when all we’re really doing is indulging our basest selves when we find we’re clinging to one end of a toy while another mother or father clings to the opposite end.  I wonder what Solomon would do with this one?

(4) Time is a divine gift.  I waste mine as much as the next person.  But we each must draw a line somewhere.  Here is one of mine: I will not meet my Maker and have to explain that I spent the gift given me wrestling other divine creations over something as insipid as a computer game, especially one whose content makes my Maker weep.

(5) Black Friday in the United States is the commercial kick-off to the Christmas season, what Christians refer to as Advent.  So I really (and I do mean really) want to know why my friends at Fox News, who can be counted on each and every year to claim that Christmas is being stolen by the government, make absolutely no noise at all about Christmas being stolen by capitalism.  Where is your outrage that your fellow entrepreneurs have taken the time set aside in the Christian calendar for the joyful reflection on the coming of Peace itself to earth and substituted that joy with the frenzy of acquisition?  Why aren’t you more frightened by this than by the removal of a creche from the local court house square?  Why don’t you see the X-Box sellers at Christmas as more dangerous than the ACLU?  I know I do.