In a recent opinion piece published by the Squamish Chief, “Black to the basics,” [Dec. 6] Paul Demers gives a fair but privileged critique of Black Friday. While I agree with his compelling critique of the day of consumer sales as fanning the flames of consumerism, I urge you and your readers to consider how damaging it is to shame the more vulnerable community it covertly caters to; it supports low-income families and individuals unable to afford basic necessities.
Yes, Black Friday occurs once a year, but you would be surprised how much that means for a family living paycheque to paycheque. Not all products sold on this day are luxuries, many are essentials. A phone may be viewed as a luxury, but at its most rudimentary level, it serves as a communication device.
As a student on a study permit earning the B.C. minimum wage ($12.65), it feels impossible for me to afford a phone plan and a phone. Yet, ironically, a phone number is a requirement for many job applications — especially if you live far away and rely on public transport. Even though I work every chance I get, this objective seems extraneous while trying to afford food, housing, and expensive books for my education. A day like Black Friday presents a rare opportunity to buy a basic phone (and I’m talking flip phone from the early 2000s) to meet this job requirement without stretching beyond my financial capacity.
Whether you live a minimalist lifestyle out of genuine concern for the earth, or for aesthetic reasons, there is one factor that plays into both situations that is not granted to those with low incomes: choice. The bourgeoisie is far more financially capable of opting out of discounts than those who would otherwise be homeless without them.
It is true that consumers rarely reflect or research the manufacturing process behind their newly purchased products, and in doing so, they unknowingly endorse global corporate malpractices. Whether their Black Friday purchase is a laptop built using coltan from mines that exploit child labour (many run by Canadian mining companies), or products from farms engaged in ecologically devastating practices, I agree with Demers that blind consumerism tacitly consents to neoliberalism.
However, those in financially stable situations are in a better position to engage in rigorous research on the product’s manufacturing process, as opposed to those grappling with long periods of unemployment, poor wages or the harsh, unwelcoming anti-homeless sentiments circulated within Squamish and beyond.
If you really want to create a more equitable world, then there are far more effective approaches to engross in, than shaming wide-spread discounts that allow the poor to finally afford products and services often reserved for those who can afford them.