Time for a rabble-rousing, festive rant.
The Christmas season nowadays starts round about early November - though I do know of a family a few streets away who have had decorations up since early October - just after we have finished celebrating the barbaric execution of Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators. That’s about the time the seasonal ads start appearing on your TV set, reminding you that within seven weeks you will be obliged to empty what little hard-earned money you have in your savings account and to spend the same on presents, the recipients of which, in 999 out of 1000 cases, never really need.
Christmas is undoubtedly a secular festival these days, all religious claims to it having long been conceded to the master class who use it as a midwinter morale booster for their exhausted workers, and a money- spinner. And how the masses warm to the event, numbing the pain of their alienation in an orgy of over-spending, over-eating and over-drinking!
The truth is the whole damned thing is an expensive ritual - a wallet-emptying convention devoid of any real and spontaneous show of affection - that many if asked, would rather do without. Just look how embarrassed people feel upon receiving an unexpected card or gift and having none to give in return – a situation that reinforces one of the basic tenets of capitalism: ‘you get nowt for nowt’. How many people feel uncomfortable about writing out Christmas cards to send/give them to people they think they are sure to receive one from, people they are acquainted with only on a superficial level, fearing that such an unreciprocated act will signify meanness?
I do not mean to imply that humans are greedy and selfish and uncaring. Far from it! I am a socialist because I think exactly the opposite - that humans are innately good, that they work best when faced with the worst, that they will go to any lengths to alleviate the misery of others and that they have the ability to fashion a world in their own interests. But Christmas is all about giving on cue, about affection on demand, about a “season of goodwill to all men”. And I really do not think humans need to be reminded to give on cue, to have their affection synchronised to the Gregorian calendar, to show goodwill to all people. We have developed the advanced technological society we enjoy now exactly because we give and share and care without being asked to, or being reminded to, or having the open show of affection ritualised – indeed, our very survival as a species has always depended on it.
I believe capitalist society suppresses our emotions, stultifies just what it is to be really human and goes a long way to create a society of atomised individuals, pursuing their own selfish interests. In such an anti-human climate Christmas seems a bloody miracle!
Granted, kids love it – it’s all about magic, about a fat, unshaven, jolly geriatric in a red suit who, with his band of trusty, anal retentive, reindeer, can cover the earth’s surface area of 196,940,400 square miles within 12 hours whilst showering presents on the deserving. And, granted, the heartily religious love it – it’s a time for remembering when, 2,000 years ago, a 13-year-old Palestinian lassie had a virgin birth, having been impregnated by a God (nowadays that gets you on the sex offenders register, as does entering the bedrooms of youngsters in a silly red disguise to leave presents).
Just where the fuck would we be without the advertising industry who continually alert us to needs we never even knew we had and who constantly remind us that our lives are really less satisfactory than we had hitherto imagined? I looked through an electrical store recently and was amazed to find items I honestly never even knew existed. Jeez, where’ve I been this last year? Just how the fuck did our species survive without them? Sheesh! Consider this - according to the Worldwatch Institute, we have used more goods and services since 1960 than in all the rest of human history! Have all of these pleasure-inducing goods contributed to a general human happiness? No, over the same period, 25-year-olds in Britain have become ten times more likely to be afflicted by depression. The WHO recently estimated that by the end of the decade depression will be the second commonest disease in the developed world.
The unrelenting onslaught of advertising exerts constant pressure on parents in particular who, fearful their kids will be labelled, belittled and humiliated if their pressies are not up to scratch when they compare notes in the school yard, are more than ready to satisfy the most outlandish wants and bugger the cost and inconvenience for the next 52 weeks. To hell if that present you’ve just paid £250 for will end up in a cupboard after a few weeks, the novelty having worn off – to be sold for £50 on eBay in a few months time – you just can’t let the neighbours know you're hard up.
And the sad thing is, we all know Christmas marketing is just one big profit-oriented scam, benefiting manufacturers, stores, and huge corporations while driving individuals into debt. We all know it’s a game of winners and losers. You don’t need a degree in ethics to realise that the Chrimbo "wish lists" and "gift exchanges", the giving on cue demeans the real concept of giving. We know this annual orgy of consumption – 40% of what we buy is binned, unused – is detrimental to the environment, filling landfills with useless packaging and discarded gifts. We know Christmas means misery for millions of families, depression for hundreds of thousands – the Samaritans say they receive a 10% increase in calls between Christmas day and New Year. Yet still we tag along with the damned charade, still, we passively acquiesce in the madness.
Seems the workers just need this annual fix, this distraction from the rat race, even if they do know it's all bollocks.
But do we need Christmas? I can only conclude that until we have abolished capitalists from the earth and gods from the skies the answer has to be yes. If it was not Christmas, then another event which necessitates the suspending of the normal functioning of the rat-race, demanding the proverbial letting down of one’s hair and the partaking in an orgy of consumption, would take its place. It’s sad, but the exploited masses just need that fix. Religion has sod all to do with it