Monday, November 26, 2012

Herd On The Street

Try this: walk among a large group of people at a busy outdoor event staring overhead for a prolonged period of time as if you were carefully studying some object in the sky.  If you sell it correctly, others will gaze skyward, curious to discover what has captured your attention. And the more who look up, the more who will continue to look up until the majority are participating (at least briefly) in the experiment.

This is a classic example of herd mentality, succinctly illustrating how people are influenced by the behavior of their peers. If you need a clearer example, look no further than the Black Friday shopping phenomenon that wonderfully demonstrates America's descent into the abyss year-after-year.

While the term originated to indicate the time when retailers began to turn a profit each year ("in the black"), it is clear that many would now associate it with something more sinister. Stampedes of aggressive shoppers pushing, shoving, and trampling fellow bargain-hunters are now all too common on the day after Thanksgiving. Although assaults, stabbings, and shootings are rare, even rarer are displays of courtesy and respect. Indeed, if all this lack of decorum revolves around a simple shopping experience, then God help us all when the next plague comes knocking.

"...the conch exploded into a thousand white fragments and ceased to exist."
                                                                                    ~Lord Of The Flies

Intolerant anti-shoppers like me watch from our TV screens in awe and guffaw, but that voice deep inside is really wondering, "WTF?" or at least, "When will this be a pay-per-view event?" This year's defining sound bite featured a man clearly agitated as the mob pressed forward loudly warning those around him, "Push one of my kids and I will stab one of you motherfuckers!" Happy Holidays.

I won't argue that they aren't deals to be had on Black Friday. I'm just not convinced that driving for hours or waiting in line for longer to save a hundred bucks would place you in an enviable spot in the gene pool. Even more dubious was the guy who camped out for four days and four nights boasting about the $400 he was going to save on a flat screen TV, smiling like he knew something the rest of us didn't. The last time I checked, time did have some value, but apparently not to those with a thick brainpan. As for the mobs (in flu season, no less), unless you're an opportunistic frotteur, I doubt the benefit is worth the risk. Too many palm-coughers and freestyle sneezers for my liking.

If consumers are using Black Friday to get a early start on their Christmas shopping, it's a shame that their civility towards each other can't also start as early.

Oh, the humanity!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Beats The Daylight(s) Outta Me

I no longer bother trying to understand the reasons why we still observe Daylight Saving Time. Is it for the farmers, sporting events, retailers, to save energy? Not sure. And I think the pointy-heads are still undecided on whether the practice is formally expressed as daylight saving time, daylights saving time, daylight savings time, daylights savings time, or one of the many other variations; hence I will go with the acronym, DST.

I do know this, though: you send the wrong message to fastidious types like me (and we are many) if you're a business owner and the clock where you conduct your business is wrong days or weeks after DST. Like an empty soap dispenser in a restaurant men's room, a retailer who closes five minutes before a posted time, or an unshovelled winter walkway outside of a bakery, a business that is well past due on DST begs the question: "What else is being ignored?"

Is this really such an onerous task?

The last gym I belonged to (many years ago) had one of those huge ostentatious wall clocks in the foyer. Sure, changing it would have required a stepladder or broom stick, but the time was typically off by an hour over a month after it had officially changed. Very telling and I wasn't surprised when the place went belly up before its third anniversary. If small details are being overlooked it's not a stretch to conclude that many larger issues are being mishandled and some of these may be important.

I don't have a formal list, but I can recall several occasions over the years where clocks displayed the incorrect time long after etiquette would dictate that they should've been changed. While this type of mismanagement is questionable for a small business, it's absolutely unfathomable for a government office that deals with the public, yet I've noticed the lapse there too. Then again, I guess that should come as no surprise as it's likely not in any civil servant's job description.

No, it isn't the greatest issue of this era, but the little things can be your pleasure or your undoing, especially in a hyper competitive marketplace.

Time's up.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Europeanization of America

Can I ask you something? If all your food was purchased and prepared for you, would you bother to learn to cook? Would you feel the need to learn to drive if you were chauffeured around town? Would you still make getting a job a priority if many of life's needs (not wants) were handed to you? At one time, the overwhelming majority would answer these questions with a resounding "Yes", but I'm not so sure anymore.

Maybe this phenomenon can help explain how a leader who presided over the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression without introducing a plausible "fix" found himself re-elected as President of the United States. Despite spending $800 billion on stimulus only to find the unemployment rate stuck around 8% while adding $5 trillion in new debt, Barack Hussein Obama somehow retained his office for another four years, rather handily, some may assert.

How can this be? If ever there were a string of calamitous policies that begged for revocation, it would be those of the Obama administration. Or so it would appear, but if you're one of the subsidized many in America, why would you vote for anything but the status quo?

America changed on November 6th. With nearly half the population receiving some form of government entitlement, it's not hard to fathom why anyone with a new plan was met with so much resistance and received so few of the electorate's votes. Unless America gets back to making instead of taking, her destiny is clear.

Do you want a peak at what America may look like in another ten years? Take a look at where some European democracies are today. Social welfare states that are well on their way to totalitarianism and financial insolvency.

Hold your breath.  The day of reckoning is coming. Four more years...many more tears!

Monday, November 05, 2012

Hallowe'en Witch Hunt

If you grew up in the 70's or 80's in North America, you've probably observed and enjoyed All Hallows' Eve each year. While not officially a religious observance (for most), carving pumpkins, treat-or-treating, haunted attractions, and attending costume parties were all pillars of the Hallowe'en season for us as children and young adults.

We still do our best to participate and pass on the traditions associated with October 31st, but lately I've been getting that sinking feeling that we are part of a dwindling minority of Hallowe'en celebrants. Should it surprise anyone that in our hypersensitive, politically correct world that the customs associated with Hallowe'en have become offensive and unwanted to many?

Hallowe'en's endangered species list:

Haunting your house or making your yard into a spooky cemetery? You're apt to be branded a heretic by at least a few of your neighbors.  As our population ages, I guess we should expect this. The elderly with one foot in the grave certainly don't relish the reminders and that's a shame because they would indeed make the best ghouls.

Trick-or-Treating? Well, the tricks died out years ago, but I'll wager that the treats aren't far behind. Back in the day, a young treat-seeker would be hard pressed to happen upon a darkened house with occupants unwilling to dole out any goodies. Last week, it certainly appeared as though the pendulum has swung to the other extreme with long stretches of homes in our neighborhood not participating at all. And is there anything more depraved than locking your door, turning off the lights, but yet sending your own brood out to collect an (un)fair share of loot?

Costume parties? Some of my fondest memories as a young adult were forged during college Hallowe'en parties. Now, however, it would seem that there aren't too many costumes that would pass the inoffensive sniff test. This is due in part to the We're a Culture, Not a Costume campaign that has gained traction over the last few years whereby any costume depicting a racial or ethic stereotype is viewed with considerable contempt. Most respectful adults would know that masquerading as say Adolf Hitler would be taboo, but we shouldn't have to feel the need to think twice about dressing up as a cowboy, a geisha, or a pimp because we're offending someone's entire culture.  The fact that many now do reconsider their choice of garb is yet another nail in Hallowe'en's coffin (excuse the pun). Stop it, already!

Hallowe'en has always been a time for silly secular traditions and the revelry associated with them. These are not the issues; those who think otherwise certainly are.