A Black Friday For A Nation of Spectators

Submitted by Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

America’s newest national holy day is upon us — Black Friday. It seems we’re all co-opted into getting multinational retailers like Wal-Mart out of the red and into the black just in time for Christmas bonuses to their execs.  Quite the achievement. The blog has chronicled the holiday spirit on display with one  pepper spray assault by an exuberant shopper getting the best bargain available. All this despite the New York Times telling us that our friendly, apron-clad senior citizen’s employer might be holding back on the deals.

Now a report from South Charleston, West Virginia, that a male shopper collapsed at a local Target Store only to be ignored by his fellow bargain hunters. Walter Vance of Logan, West Virginia, was at the store at around midnight taking in the sights and buying some decorations for his family business. He collapsed in the aisle from an apparent heart attack. His fellow revelers saw no need for concern and, according to published reports, walked around and even OVER the dying man’s body. Only when an off-duty ER nurse arrived did someone try to administer CPR. Another off-duty paramedic offered help as well, but, in another sad “Time Is Tissue” case, it was too little and too late. Desperately ill, Vance was transported to a local hospital where he later died.

Had anyone looked up from the bargain bin they might have found out Walter was an American success story. He started part-time  after school in a local drug store  at age 16, and worked his way up to owning the store.  Even got a pharmacy degree along the way at West Virginia University. He was, by all accounts, a tireless worker and good man. An “angel” is how one employee described him.

But no one took the time to find that out. No one took the time or expended the effort to aid the fallen man. No one cared for anything in this season of giving except getting the best deal you could get on the Xbox 360 or this year’s version of Call of Duty. And if that took walking over a dying man, so be it.

“Where is the good Samaritan side of people?” Vance’s co-worker and friend Sue Compton said. “How could you not notice someone was in trouble? I just don’t understand if people didn’t help what their reason was, other than greed because of a sale.”

Sue should know that Walter was done in by Spectator’s Disease. It’s loosely defined as the modern person’s  “justified” response to any crisis or confict by surmising that someone else will handle it no matter how emergent the crisis or urgent the need to act. It removes any burden from the viewer who is, after-all, “not adequately trained” to help, or who “might get sued” if they kneel down to find out just what is going on with another human in obvious distress.  Maybe it’s due to watching all those sporting events on TV and participating in none of them. Or maybe it’s TV itself which asserts and then solves all of its problems in 26 minutes or so, all without the response from those legions on the couch taking it all in.

For the late Walter Vance, age 61, life-long resident of the state, successful businessman, pillar of the community, and pilgrim to the Black Friday temples, it must have been quite the shock that almost no one came to his aid. As he lay there crumpled in pain, he must have wondered how bargains trumped beneficence, how deals mattered more than death, and how those earnestly preparing for a holiday dedicated to Peace on Earth and Good Will to Man, could have let this one man die without even a second thought.

Target had no comment on the tragic episode nor the behavior of most of their customers. They didn’t mention why a store with constant video monitoring did nothing to aid their customer either. Target is the biggest spectator of all, but they are quite willing to act if their interests are affected. You see, so long as those patrons slide their plastic in the slot, it doesn’t  matter and their interests are quite well protected.  Besides they are busy;  they’re preparing for the greatest orgiastic expression of true capitalist piety — Christmas.

Source: msnbc

~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

13 thoughts on “A Black Friday For A Nation of Spectators”

  1. I was using a cane and wearing a neck brace a few years back. I was in an elevator in Gimbels in NYC. I was not getting off quickly enough, apparently, and was shoved, quite forcefully, by a woman trying to get off I was afraid she was going to hit me again and screamed “Get a security guard, I have been assaulted.” a number of times. No one came, not a salesperson, security, or another shopper. I thought maybe the other post about the elderly man being attacked was a function of too much spectatorship and violence in TV, video games, etc; and reality TV where fake is real, real is fake but this again reminds me of how callous we have become, in general. There is no rationalizing it away.
    As for this being getting ready for Christmas, I doubt Jesus would be very proud.

  2. Also, it would be interesting to examine the psychological impact of personnel training by retailers. Many people work for stores who train their employees not to help a person in trouble. No matter what, the employee on the sales floor should get the manager to deal with the problem. I wonder how many people who were there work such jobs. It’d be interesting to study whether they automatically just assumed a manager was taking care of the situation.

  3. In a college English class I was in, we studied the Kitty Genovese murder. Because of how the apartment complex was lade out, people could only see little snippets of the incidence. Those snippets just looked like a couple fighting. The final rape and murder took place in a location where there were no witnesses. And no one could hear her scream, because one of her lungs was punctured. So, she couldn’t breath properly. A sad case, yes. But the newspapers sensationalized the sad incident to sell papers.

    The above incident is sad. But condemning an entire species because of this one incident is plain old stupid.

  4. I agree with Tim in SF,
    We are a sad species, with the hubris to believe we rank so high on either the religion/moral, or the evolutionary scale. Thank you Mark, well said.

  5. Otteray Scribe: I was thinking of Genovese when reading this post. When has this callousness in people never not been the usual response?

    Maybe this is why people go apeshit over heroes, like the guy who dived down onto the tracks to help another person. People say they run into a burning building or jump off the bridge to help someone drowning because that’s what anyone would do. But clearly, most anyone does is turn a blind eye.

    How very sad we are, as a species.

  6. ’twas ever thus. Going back two thousand years, this phenomenon is found in the Bible, with the story of the Good Samaritan. Many pass by, ignoring the suffering of a fellow human, before someone with empathy and willingness to help stops to provide aid.

    Remember the murder of Kitty Genovese back in 1964? More than three dozen of her neighbors watched her being murdered over the time span of approximately an hour and no one did anything to help, not even calling the police as they watched her being stabbed repeatedly and then robbed.

  7. Black Friday Worker Rescued From Canal After Losing Control Of Car Due To Exhaustion
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/26/black-friday-worker-rescued_n_1114350.html

    A 36-year-old Target employee drove her car into a 20-foot deep canal after working the night shift on Black Friday.

    Florida police said the woman lost control of her vehicle due to exhaustion, reports Miami New Times.

    The woman is unable to swim, but managed to call police from her cell phone and explain the situation as she and the car began to sink, notes NBC Miami.

    Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy Frank Mayo dove into the canal to save the unidentified woman, reports The Palm Beach Post.

    “Our thoughts are with the team member and her family for a speedy recovery,” Jessica Carlson, a Target spokeswoman told the Palm Beach Post.

    The car accident comes after a slew of retailers, including Target, made the decision to open at 12 a.m. on November 25 to accomodate Black Friday shoppers. This required employees to arrive at 11 p.m. on Thanksgiving to prepare the store for an influx of shoppers.

    Target said the decision to open earlier on Black Friday was popular with both employees and customers.

    But at least one Target employee wasn’t enthusiastic. Anthony Hardwick started up a petition on Change.org asking for reasonable working hours over Thanksgiving, reports The New York Times.

    Though Target never changed its opening hours, the petition went viral and received over 100,000 comments from across the country.

  8. Equally sad and appalling, although I must confess I’m not sure whether I should be appalled at humans in general or just Americans so conditioned to consume that they have become callous and indifferent to human life and suffering.

  9. Ok, well said.

    I keep thinking it is all those factors you mentioned, but also the rise of the homeless population in America. i see them in every city, more and more.

    I was in South Beach, Fl. and a man with a wheelchair was sleeping on the ground in a store entrance downtown. He obviously needed to be in a nursing home. He could not get back in his chair, but someone helped that time.

    I see the homeless in Houston riding the light rail all night since there are no conductors. They ride until a cop boards and throws them off. I saw some people there, too, who should have been in a nursing home.

    The homeless are everywhere now, people see them sleeping on the streets like dogs. The spectators become callous because we feel there is nothing to be done about a person lying on the ground. They are either drunk or homeless or both.

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