This past weekend was a time off work and school for most people, ostensibly to celebrate one of the biggest holidays of the year, Thanksgiving. Stop for a moment, however, and think about the past seven to 10 days — how often did you actually hear about Thanksgiving as a holiday of “family” and “giving thanks,” and how often did you instead hear the terms “Black Friday,” “Small Business Saturday” and “Cyber Monday?” The fact that this holiday of appreciation has become synonymous with shopping is a separate issue, but what interests us is that everything now has a label, and every label has a sacrosanct meaning that no one is allowed to question or judge, and with every label comes the cheapening of anything special — and of general existence itself.
What do we mean by this? Take Thanksgiving for example. We are old enough to remember when “Black Friday” meant shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving during regular business hours. Black Friday then started at midnight Thursday, and in recent years it has started during business hours on Thursday. Then came “Small Business Saturday” for the local merchants jealous of mass-produced shopping. Then came “Cyber Monday” to coincide with the reality of online shopping. Black Friday, as a special shopping day, used to mean something; it used to mean one special day of big holiday sales. Now, it is just another term that means “go shop,” it does not really matter where because Saturday and Monday are “special” days too. None of them are special anymore; they just have different labels for the same thing.
This applies to “holidays” throughout the entire year. Have you ever really paid attention to the labels on the days in your calendar? Or to the cards stocked at Hallmark? Ever noticed that every day is a “special” day? There is no longer just Father’s Day and Mother’s Day. Now there are days for step-parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, kids, cousins, co-workers, secretaries, bosses, and even “Sweetest Day.” Did you know there are also “Food Days”? These include International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day, World Nutella Day, World Idli Day, International Carrot Day, International Hummus Day, World Milk Day, World Chocolate Day, International Beer Day and World Vegetarian Day, among numerous others.
Have you ever stopped to think that when every day is “special,” then no day is special? Proclaiming and heralding an obeisance to some mysterious reason vitiates any meaning. Why do we need a day set aside to celebrate friends, family and co-workers? To celebrate certain foods, to celebrate certain shopping days? If they mean something to us, should we not celebrate and appreciate them every day? Well, the main reason is marketing (money), but also because everyone nowadays feels entitled. Everyone believes they are entitled to some sort of special recognition — not to mention entitled to unearned income, to unearned grades, to free housing and cell phones, free food, free wifi and internet and anything else they feel they “deserve” simply because they are “special.”
This “identity existence,” as we call it, has been growing and thriving for decades. It says: “We demand special recognition simply because we are, not because we particularly deserve it.” All the while, people miss the fact that these “identity” games not only cheapen real meaning, but are also insulting — are these people, these foods, these days so helpless and unworthy that they have no meaning, no recognition unless it is demanded for them? The overabuse of special identity labeling has had the opposite effect in our opinion — when you are awash in a sea of “special” days and items, they are no longer special. Do you identify, appreciate and count the raindrops that fall around you, or, do you just see rain?