The Thin Line Between Decency and Desperation

As I read about this year’s “Black Friday” aftermath I was sadly reminded of just how short the distance is between decency and desperation. For those of you who missed the blemished moment of mankind, allow me to sum it up for you. You have one scenario in which a group of shoppers suddenly felt entitled to not only enter a store at a certain time, but to also flee with armfuls of goods.  This occurred in Manhattan in which a crowd of  “shoppers” stood in line in front of a moderately upscale store, Hollister. It was the opinion of these shoppers that if they were to stand in line, ready to purchase the Black Friday deals which Hollister advertised, that the store should open at midnight on Thursday and allow them to do so—after all, several other Hollister stores were opening at that time. When Hollister’s did not open these shoppers transformed into criminals, forcing their way through the doors and security  of Hollister’s.

I shook my head in dismay when I read the Hollister story. I couldn’t help but wonder what it was that transformed this group of people from raving fans and shoppers into common criminals?

Apparently the zombie sightings were not exclusive to Manhattan. Allow me to summarize for you the mass of other shining examples of humanity which took place across our nation this past Friday. We have nearly two dozen Wal-Mart shoppers, including children, who suffered injuries from being pepper-sprayed by a female shopper—a proud mother of three children which she had in tow at the time—just so that she could get better access to the deals on the X-box 360. This was in Los Angeles, CA. I’m kind of out of the loop on these techno things nowadays. Does the X-box 360 suck 100 extra pounds off of a person overnight or is it some kind of a miracle permanent hair color that truly does cover the grey hair and lasts through 360 shampoos?

Apparently someone got a great deal on something fabulous at a Wal-Mart in San Leandro, CA, because what he bought was a big enough deal that he was shot at 1:45 a.m. in the parking lot by a couple of armed men. Really? I had no idea that Wal-Mart was now selling items that were worthy of homicide! Apparently the big-box discount retailer has really kicked up their game because two of their female shoppers in South Carolina were also held up at gun point in the parking lot as they were loading their goodies in their car. Well, it was Hilton Head, SC, so maybe it’s possible that these shoppers got some kind of a doorbuster-worthy deal on Percocet or Ritilan—you know, something actually worthy of a holdup at gunpoint? Then of course there’s the 61 year-old man who collapsed on the floor of a Target in West Virginia and was completely ignored by shoppers who were devoutly focused on the Christmas Spirit and spreading good cheer. He died in the electronics department; I doubt that was his dream exit.  Then of course we have the story of the multiple gunshots fired near the food court entrance at a shopping mall in Fayetteville, NC, which caused many of the stores to close their doors.

Apparently pepper-spray was the preferred sample of the day at Wal-Marts all across the country because in Kinston, NC I read of a group of trained law enforcement officers--off-duty and acting as Wal-Mart security—who elected to shoot pepper spray at a “rowdy” crowd—not a criminal crowd—outside of the store when the pallets of $200 cell phones that were marked down to $35 came into view.

The absolute worst affront to me was the story of a 54 year-old Grandpa who was slammed to the ground by a gung-ho police officer in front of his wife and 5 year-old grandson because they thought he was trying to steal two video games when all he was really doing was trying to carry it AND protect his grandson who had already been nearly trampled on their way to the Wal-Mart register. This LEO bloodied the man’s face with the body slam—over a couple of $20 items! (I would post a link to the video footage, but the customers were so outraged by the police brutality that there are some serious expletives repeatedly uttered).

Continuing on, a teenager was trampled during the rush of wacked out Wal-Mart shoppers in the electronics department, resulting in a trip to the local ER; a man was arrested for scuffling with another man over a piece of jewelry at a Wal-Mart jewelry counter—a fist fight over some of the worst cubic zirconia ever sold! Two other grown men were punching each other over a Barbie Doll—does anyone else find that ironic? And oh yeah, let’s not forget the three Wal-Mart stores across the country that had bomb threats called in. A 55 year-old woman was shot at 2:00 a.m. in the parking lot of a Myrtle Beach, SC Wal-Mart as two men stole her purse (she remains in critical condition). There were three separate instances of fisticuffs at an Oregon Wal-Mart, one of which was over some $1.88 bath towels—these were grown men fighting over the towels, mind you—apparently one of them was desperate for new ones because he didn’t want to have to pay the $2 required to clean his old ones at the laundry mat.  O.K. Yeah. I made up that last bit. But look at this. These types of instances are so common that we’ve even got a high-powered Boston law firm that’s specifically advertising for clients who are willing to sue the stores where such crowding and mayhem occured due to supposed OSHA violations of crowd control!

Is it just me or does this read like some kind of  melodramatic dime-store novel with a setting in a third-world nation? So, other than “STOP SHOPPING on BLACK Friday—ESPECIALLY AT WAL-MART” what am I anxious that you learn from all of this? Clearly, there’s a thin line between desperation and decency on both sides of the law, even in a nation of privilege, abundance, and freedom.

Actually, I’m motivated to write this story because of a particular comment that was made several weeks ago when I wrote an article entitled “What Desperation Looks Like”. In this article I provided some present day scenarios in the financial world and then showed how those situations could very likely lead to sad acts of desperation in our future. I then attempted to educate on the merits of being prepared in various areas of our lives so that we don’t have to subject ourselves to such acts of desperation which are the unfortunate companions in trying times.

While there were passionate comments made on that article covering a wide range of opinions, I found myself stunned by a comment from one of my readers who felt that my suggestions of potential acts of desperation were unfathomable, unprofessional, and lacking veracity. So upset was this person with my portrayal of what desperation looks like, even among us prosperous nations, that he went so far as to attempt to unveil me as a fraudulent preparedness persona. My first reaction to his comments was nothing short of being stunned by his ardent unbelief that such desperate acts were truly possible among our neighbors. Clearly the behavior of our neighbors this past Friday serve as a perfect “Exhibit A”, showing that mankind has an itchy trigger finger, so to speak.

More and more we’re seeing nowadays that it takes very few set of circumstances to create the “perfect storm” of horrible behavior.  Keep in mind that all of these stories took place among crowds of people who were ostensibly trying to give more at Christmas.  Can’t you just hear the story around the crackling fire on Christmas morning? “Yes children, Mommy even used pepper spray and injured 20 adults and children just because she loves you so much and wanted you to be able to enjoy the true meaning of Christmas.” These violent, desperate acts were taking place solely because people wanted to save a few dollars on stuff—non-essential stuff. We’re not talking about fighting over the last vial of insulin, gallon of gasoline, or the last bag of rice. In most of these instances we’re actually talking about the cheap stuff from Wal-Mart for crying out loud—you know, the same stuff that probably makes up 90% of all of the items at every garage sale in the nation each year before it passes on to the landfills. (Yes, I made up that statistic, but wouldn't it seem to be likely?) Unfortunately, this kind of irrational behavior isn’t limited to just one day a year. Our headlines are full of regular folks being transforming from Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde, fueled by their unfounded sense of entitlement, a dearth of any real life coping skills, and nothing more than a black hole where common courtesy and decency used to dwell.

Unfortunately, the news of this year’s Black Friday events only strengthen my position—that there is a very short distance between desperate acts and decency. More importantly, when I witness the thin line that separates so many from unrecognizable acts of criminality, hurtful mischief, and deception, I more firmly believe that the best way to insure against you or I ever becoming one of those desperate headlines is that we do all we can to live more self-reliant lives now. The greater extent of our self-reliance translates into the greater the distance we have between decent and desperate.  Last Friday the whole world witnessed 152 million people who are living so close to the line between decency and desperation that they were willing to sacrifice time away from their families on the most family-oriented holiday of the year. The extent that some people went to just so that they could surrender their safety, comfort, and ultimately their decency just to save a few bucks is very telling of just how rough things WILL be if something more serious were to happen to our daily routine such as an earthquake, unemployment skyrocketing to 30%, a famine, or a financial collapse.

Ironically, the reader who took such great exception to my article on desperation actually provided evidence of the very theory I submitted to my readers. It only took a couple of e-mail exchanges with me before he transformed his identity from being a reader of this blog and a proactive “prepper” into showing his Mr. Hyde fangs as he literally swore an oath to put a stop to my preparedness nonsense. Among those crowds of people who trampled, robbed, fought, bloodied, shot, and demeaned their neighbor last week, I doubt that any of them left their homes on Thanksgiving with the intent to become a criminal by the end of the day. I don’t believe that many people in this world fantasize about changing their behavior from law-abiding, paying and productive citizens, to becoming another statistic in an over-crowded prison somewhere—especially for the sake of acquiring an insignificant piece of STUFF. But ultimately, the difference between you and those people who find themselves with a whole new set of problems is that YOU are willing to pay the price now in order to create a vast canyon in your life between decency and desperation. I believe firmly that diligent efforts of preparedness now will protect each of us from easily transforming into desperate people.  The more self-reliant and ready we are for any possible circumstances, the more peace we are armed with. It's that peace that takes us far away from that thin line. Preparedness doesn’t just escort peace into our lives amidst great trials; in many instances it actually protects us from ever having to face the trials—and even better—it protects us from ever becoming one of those ugly trials in someone else’s life.

 

 


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Comments

Kellene: well said! I was following the news stories with horror and sadness, but I can't believe now that I hadn't made the obvious leap -- that last Friday was possibly a messenger of things to come.

Thank you!

I'm in total agreement...a preview of scenarios that are many times worse when there is no milk, bread, eggs on the store shelves or they are so hyper inflated that obtaining them is out of the question. So sad when a Barbie doll becomes more important than your integrity....or life. Great thought provoking post (as usual).

Thank you!! This was a fantastic read. I did go shopping on black friday after work. I got brown sugar, wheat, oat groats, cortisone cream, children's motrin and flax seed. We did pop into walmart and pick up a pair of jeans each for my boys, but it was all unplanned.

I forgot it was black friday until we walked into walmart and so we were in and out fast. And no we did not feel safe there.

Lisa I agree. I did not feel safe(6ft 220lbs) either on thursday night at walmart. My wife wanted to go by herself(5ft 115lbs). I told her it was for her safety before I left but at the begining it was to make sure we stuck to our budget. There was no way she was going to load a 220lb tramploine into her cart let alone the van. She would have been a bad news story just wating to happen

Wow, nothing says "I celebrate the birth of Baby Jesus" like pepper-spraying another shopper in the face.

If people are this aggressive about the purchase of a ailly video game system, it's pretty scary to think what they will do when there is a shortage of food and little Johnny is hungry.

I fully agree with your entire post. Crowd mentality has always been scary, but we have passed scary and we are into the unbelievable. My daughter witnessed several arrests at a Walmart, in the video games area, during the Black Friday melee, and I shudder to think that next year she will be right back at Walmart.

My sister and I were just discussing this today. We were wondering if people even stop to think about the fact that if violence like this occurs over saving dollars on presents - then imagine the violence that would be occurring in stores where the unprepared would be searching for food in an emergency/disaster/financial collapse.
We thank you for bringing this to the attention of those of us preparedness-minded people who have been dragging our feet in the belief that violence couldn't/wouldn't happen over food. Come on people....wake up.

Thank you for the informative and well thought out post. Even though we are within 40 minutes by car of several small towns and cities (including four Wal-Marts), it is by choice that we do not have commercial TV. We had heard about two of the incidents from internet news, plus a local one during a short trip in the car with the radio on, but they were without the deep insight that you have provided.

I have shared your blog with my husband (who refuses to go into one of the Wal-Marts at any time of the year) and our grown daughter who has been helped me to prep. She and I did shop on Friday at Goodwill, Costco and Joann Fabrics, but it was after 5pm and although the stores were still somewhat busy, it was relaxing; we figured all the crazies would have already pretty much exhausted themselves and gone home by then. Everyone in our household had already purchased most of their gift items throughout the year – more fun that way - and supplemented by online shopping only this fall.

Thank you again for providing such a valuable service.

One thing I have thought of is that if we have plenty and are willing to share, that we can help people from this frenzy of desperation so that they don't have to commit an act that they will regret later. I am not saying we have to feed the whole neighborhood, but have what you need and more.

If you think that this is bad, just wait until things get really really ugly right after a bank holiday take effect, after nukes start flying, after a major regional or national scale disaster, or when the real run on tangibles begins just as a hyperinflation starts. The masses will panic and you will see behavior 10X or even 1000X worse. This is a good reason to be fully prepped so you can avoid the last minute supply runs.

Thanks for another great article. I do believe that those who are ignoring all the signs of our economy will be much worse than Wal-Mart shoppers on Black Friday. I don't understand how anyone has an issue with your information on preparedness. If they don't agree, move on and don't prepare. The unprepared will be the first people to lose all sense of decency for whatever they can steal, loot, or beg. Does it really hurt to have extra so you can ride out a bad situation the way you want to rather than the way you will be forced to? Scary times and getting worse.

Thanks for a great article I will share with several people. For my family, several years ago while my kids were still in college we stopped giving gifts for Christmas, other than a few truly needed items that were mostly unaffected by holiday deal shopping. In several years there was no gifts at all.

Instead we choose to spend Christmas Day together, first cooking breakfast and then we go caroling to our friends and coworkers in the morning (it throws off people that it's not at night) and throughout the hole day. Ending with watching movies or playing games together.

Since the change and focus our Christmas Day is much more pleasurable, the kids comment only about these past Christmas's and no one is stressed out, disappointed, or over spent. Our checking accounts all look better than most afterwards, we enjoy each other more, and no one is focused on themselves or selfish desires.

Watching the mayhem on TV is both alarming and dumbfounding, we are glad we have never taken part in it.

PS - Why those who do need to shop cannot stay home and do it safely online is beyond me as well. But many people seem to love the battle and look for the danger like they hope for at car wreck or sporting event, only they get more excited at being a part of it. It is crazy and stupid.

My family and I were SO excited to see that this year was the year that some retailers up here in Canada were jumping on the "Black Friday bandwagon".

After reading the news and reading this post....Ummmm.....not so excited anymore. What a CRAZY world we live in. Where is all the decency gone? Yikes! So sad.

I pray gratitude for your preparedness blog. It keeps me on my toes. As a society we are already well on the road to desperation and illustrations like Black Friday mayhem are a 24 hour glimpse to what exactly is right on the other side of decency. That thin line IS eroding. I recommend for you and fans of all of your activities... Preparedness and Fire Arm related, to read or re-read. "Alas Babylon" the 1959 novel by Pat Frank. It is evident to me that although there is desperation/mayhem depicted in that book, any event that happens in today's society that would not be near as apocalyptic, would yield even greater desperation/mayhem. Just another tool I use to keep me from becoming complacent; keep me on my toes.

I have read those two books, and another that might be appropriate for younger readers is called Z is for Zachariah. I think that being prepared was drilled into me by my parents and by being a Girl Scout. I, along with enthusiastic husband, continue to work on our family preparedness. I have not figured out how to arrange to have a preparedness quantity of medications that we take. Insurance prohibits buying too far ahead. Got any suggestions?

You can't possibly get the medications you need thus in order to be more medically prepared, I suggest that you begin to explore quality alternatives for care and well being. As a side-effect, the body actually responds better to them in many, many cases. It's why I have nearly 1,000 bottles of premium quality essential oils that have an infinite shelf-life. But more importantly, I have spent over a decade mastering the skills necessary to use them properly and to select only quality oils. If you're going to rely your life on it, it's got to be sound alternative medicine. Fortunately, 80% of the world regularly practices alternative medicine so there's plenty of viable education available.

By the way, I LOVE getting new book recommendations. I just bought the one you suggested on Amazon and will have it in 2 days! yay!

Marty,I have two suggestions for you. 1)you can systmatically stock up on your medicine by finding out when you can get a refill. In my case I get a 90 day supply. My CVS pharmacy lets me refill my prescription something like a week or 10 days before the 90 days are out. 2)On survivalblog.com there is a "Dr. Bob" who James Wesley Rawles says can provide medicine. I have never used him but I completely trust Mr. Rawles. I wish you luck with your preps. I wish my wife were enthusiastic. She looks at my stuff and says "that's stupid".

I trust Rawles a great deal too, but keep in mind that any synthetic creation has an unusually short shelf-life. That's why I'm a proponent of finding alternative and natural options. Just my two cents. You may have no choice though if it's something as serious as Type I Diabetes, post dialysis meds, etc. But nearly everyone I speak with does not fall into that category and there are certainly other options for us. I hope you don't mind me saying that I'm firm in this conviction because I believe that God has promised us that He has blessed the earth with all that we need to have joy and prosper. Sometimes we run out of time, in spite of those supplies, but I"m convinced that if we can give the body enough time to heal, and provide it with the proper tools, that the body can indeed heal any issue. Here's hoping that we all have enough time.

Love your site, peace be with you, and thank you for the info.

Delurking to voice my surprise at your castigation of the police. I'm not an advocate, but considering the looter mentality Black Friday brings about, and the overall entitlement climate of the last several years, these stores are within their rights (and would be fools if they didn't) to protect their private property. Grandpa may well have been unknowingly committing a crime, but he was committing one all the same, and ignorance of the law is not a defense. Couple that with what on earth was he doing there, a situation that has proven dangerous year after year, only escalating, with a small child? This signals the larger crisis: few of us regard our personal safety as our personal responsibility -we expect the police to uphold civil order, and then are offended by their attempts (which are far too often extreme, but we've gotten what we've asked for).

Just a couple of years ago we wondered "where was security?" when a man was trampled to death by "shoppers", and I suspect the family of the woman who was attacked and robbed in the WM parking lot will receive a hefty settlement for the "lack of protection" in said lot. Yet when our wishes are granted, and property is protected by civil authorities, we want to sue them, too. We cannot have it both ways.

Rachael, Actually, a keen understanding of the law will show that your assumption is a bit flawed. But that's standard for most persons, including law enforcement, attorneys, etc. The fact of the matter is, a crime is not a crime unless and UNTIL an injury, loss, or harm has occurred. The LEOs would have NO reasonable cause to tackle the grandfather until the merchandise left the front doors. So in this instance it's actually the officer who attacked him who committed a crime. This position has long been supported by U.S. Supreme Court law and actually has a great many ramifications in our lives if we knew it better. It's called Corpus Delecti and it is indeed the rule of law. I'm opposed to ANYONE who commits a crime, and perhaps more so when such a person is someone that is supposed to be protecting and upholding the law.

I also wanted to thank you all for the insightful remarks about medication preparedness (or alternatives). As well as updating you about the situation with the sixty-one year old pharmacist who died while shopping in the electronics department of a West Virginia Target store on Black Friday. His wife was on the local news explaining that she was upset more over the portrayal of his body being stepped over by shoppers (not true) than the immediate sense of loss. She described how some shoppers moved aside to make room for two nurses and an EMT (fellow shoppers) who attended to her husband until the paramedics arrived. She was not at the store but got personal accounts from several who were at the scene, and then was embarrassed by the stereotypical portrayal. I am not meaning to disagree with your post, Kellene, as I think it is "spot-on" and a real eye-opener. I just wanted to clarify this one little scenario and stick up for West Virginia and its people. Thank you for allowing me a tiny soapbox for a tiny moment!

Thanks for reminding me Marty that though I used news sources as a basis of my information, I simply cannot afford to forget that our media is anything but reliable nowadays for providing factual or positive information.

Hi, Kellene, thanks for your reply. I'm fairly cozy with the law, though admittedly not in AZ. It is not true in every state that security and or police are not permitted to intervene until after an attempt has been made to leave the store with the merch.

Under Arizona law, concealment can be used as a basis for arrest -- officers aren't required to wait for a suspect to leave the store, Hall explains.

http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/valleyfever/2011/11/buckeye_grandpa_was...

(I'm a poor link-er, sorry, hope that worked)

I'm not necessarily disagreeing on the absolute (un)constitutionality, but my point was more to the fact that we've abdicated our responsibility to protect ourselves, and in return we've essentially gotten what we've asked for. We beg for intervention, this is what "security" looks like. The article that would have been written had the police not intervened would have read something like "Police fail to protect shoppers and merchants from throngs of crazed Black Friday Zombies".

Furthermore, stuffing a video game in one's pants rather than putting it down and high-tailing out of a dangerous situation is a dubious defense, at best. His reaction to being discovered, based on eyewitness accounts, makes it seem even less plausible.

Rachel, understand that what happens in a ruling is not always indicative of what the laws are, unfortunately. Corpus Delecti criteria must be met in EVERY criminal case. An LEO has no authority to use physical force without the threat of physical injury loss or harm or AFTER the material injury loss or harm has been manifested. Your blogger is 100% incorrect in his assumption on several basis. On this topic of Corpus Delecti I am very well-versed. Also, keep in mind that the media's phrase of "stuffing a video down his pants" is very subjective.
Unfortunately, according the U.S. Supreme court, LEO's are not required to PREVENT crimes nor even assist a victim who's in the process of having a crime committed against him/her (as I've sadly had to address in several articles here.) So in that respect I wholeheartedly agree that we are in a great need to take responsibility for our own protection. http://kellenebishop.wordpress.com/2009/04/10/apparently-rape-is-a-spect... As such the police are NOT responsible to protect shoppers or stores against potential crimes.
Welcome to our world today. :-(

Kellene, I truly enjoyed the article. When did Christmas get so crazy? Why can't we just fill stockings for the kids and sit back and enjoy food and family like we do at Thanksgiving? Sometimes I wish my kids were still little and I could start over again establishing traditions like giving gits of the heart instead of material things.
Lesli W.

Kelleen my step son who works at Mall Wort, who could not be with us for Thanksgiving because he Had to work, told us people were cutting thru the black plastic wrap to see the "deal" with box knives. This was to see flat screen TVs that he says are normally ONLY $10.00 more not on sale! So it's sad and pathetic that stores that don't provide living wages or health insurance, keep employees away from their families to lure people into the stores, putting employees at risk too from these nuts. I boycott the whole lot of them. I don't go to Malls especially at Christmas, I don't like the way I feel or the pissed off person I become there. I am blessed to have most of my large family feel the same way. Thank you again and your readers comments are thoughtful.

I like how you reminded me that I have my "on the line moments" where I turn into an ogre--just because someone doesn't use their signal or cuts me off, or who puts on the breaks for no apparent reason. I'm not a swearing person generally speaking but little buggers come out of mouth during those times and I don't like it either. That's when I really need to remind myself that I need to work on fortifying the spiritual preparedness in my life. I've got to strengthen the value and beliefs and live by them better. Thanks for the reminder.

I'm 66 yrs. old. I remember in grade school, that most families prepared with food and money for hard times, etc. Then, the government started a campaign (? spelling) constantly on tv and the radio, that if people kept more than they needed for the week they were in (not a week of preparedness) that they were hoarding. I can still hear those messages, they were constant and even schools and churches got on the bandwagon.
What a shame!!! I love your site and your insite.
Thank you.

Izzy, where do you live that the government was running anti-hoarding messages?

Rule number one: Stock up and shut up!

My book club recently read "Patriots" by James Wesley, Rawles. Living the rural life near a series of small, peaceful towns in the midwest, I gave out the comment that the riots and warfare measures in the book were extreme. But my friend from Chicago assured me that people are NOT as nice as I think they are. And this article you wrote really helps to affirm that, with solid evidence. It's important for us to realize how much protection we may need from everyday people when food becomes scarce. Thank you!

Kellene, Have you had a chance to read Z is for Zachariah yet? If you have, I would love to hear what you think of it (amongst all the other excellent reads out there). Thanks again.

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