Time To Rethink the Idea of Want and Ethical Shopping

In the early hours of Friday morning the long-awaited Sony Playstation 3 was released to the US general public. Video game fans got into long lines around the country to get the prized $600 possession. One man wasn’t so lucky. According to a news report:

“Connecticut authorities said two armed men tried to rob a line of people waiting to buy the new Sony PlayStation 3 in Putnam, Conn., early Friday, shooting a 21-year-old Massachusetts man.

Michael Penkala, of Webster, Mass., was taken to the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester with wounds to the shoulder and chest area. He was listed in serious but stable condition after undergoing surgery on Friday.

"He and his grandmother had put money in to buy this game. They were going to put it on eBay and sell it, and make some money for Gram," said Penkala's mother, Helen. "A couple of guys with masks, I guess, came up to the line, demanded money, and most of them handed it over and my son refused."

While the shooting of the man is sad and unacceptable, what is more offensive is that fact that there is a long line of people waiting to spend $600 on a video game in the first place. The report continues on about the “near-riot condition” in some of these lines:

Meanwhile in Boston, NewsCenter 5's Gail Huff reported that about 500 people waited outside the Copley Place Mall and near-riot conditions erupted when mall security opened one of doors and scores of people tried to get in.

Andy Cash was there and recorded the scene with his cell phone camera.

"Look at the scene, you'll see, like people are pressed up against a cage. It was like the soccer games you hear about in Latin America where people get trampled," he said.

"People ran up the escalators. There was too much weight and the escalator went down and people got hurt," one girl said.

"People got trampled. I went to the floor. There were women and children here. They had to call the police," Michael Bernard said.

"We had to move the crowd back. We remove the 500 people from Copley Plaza. (We) brought them out to the sidewalk," Boston police Sgt. John Doris said.

Some customers said the situation got ugly.

"They took this club, and they said, 'Who's the joke now? Either get out of here or you're getting this across the skull,'" customer Jeff Grant said.

Mall security officers would not allow TV cameras inside the mall, and people waiting outside were given tickets for the 16 game systems that the store had to sell.

"I got No. 19, and they won't even let me in," Steven Duong said.
Kevin Swecker was one of the people who got a game system. He said the trouble he went through to get it would pay off in the end.

"It's going on eBay. We're going to make a couple grand," he said.
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino was outraged about the situation.

"It's almost like scalping. It really is. It's wrong to take advantage of the public the way they are. It's wrong by the manufacturer and by the retailer," Menino said.
The mayor said he was going to send a letter to Simon Malls and to Sony demanding that they pick up the expense for all the police officers who had to respond to the emergency.

At a Best Buy store in the Fenway and a Wal-Mart in Wrentham, people who had wait for days in line were disappointed because the stores had promised midnight sales but failed to get the proper permits to remain open. The stores gave them rain checks and told them to return first thing Friday morning.

This is what is wrong with consumer capitalism. It breeds this culture that you have to spend a lot of money to buy the latest, hot item that, in reality, you really don’t need. It is really bad at this time of the year, as the department stores start promoting Christmas shopping even before Halloween. What is even worse about this is that most of the people in these lines were young adults, a new generation who is being consumed by this idea of want. In the West we are either really stupid to be duped into the idea of want or we just have too much disposable money. It is almost laughable that in America we complain about the bad economy, but yet we have money to spend on a video game that will go out of style in the next year or two when an even bigger, better version of the game comes out.

It is time to reevaluate our values.

The true meaning of the holiday season is supposed to be about giving to those who are less fortunate. Ethical shopping is one major way to make a difference in making the world a better place. If you do find a disposable $600 or any denomination hanging around, please consider spending it differently this year. You would first want to pick up the November edition of the New Internationalist, which has dedicated that issue to the subject of ethical shopping and how to be a better consumer activist. Most importantly, charity starts at home. Give money to organizations in your area that are working for the betterment of society, like those dealing with homelessness, the disabled, battered spouses, animal rights and environmental justice. Of course, we shouldn’t forget the international community. Western consumerism is only driving up the poverty rates in the Global South. Please consider donating to or shopping with a wide variety of organizations around the world at the following link:


Some of Global Wire’s favorite NGOs:

Oxfam International www.oxfam.org
Amnesty International www.amnesty.org
Grassroots International www.grassrootsonline.org
New Internationalist Online Shop www.newint.org/shop

(Global Wire went to South Africa recently and we hope you will consider donating to the following groups)

Khanya College www.khanyacollege.org.za
The Steve Biko Foundation www.sbf.org.za
Pathfinder International South Africa www.pathfind.org
TRALSO www.tralso.co.za


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