When politicians talk of the “War on Terror” I wonder do they ever think of the commercial terrorism inflicted on our world at this time of year. Think about the endless media message that we must be happy, this is the happiest time of the year so if you aren’t having a great time you are some sort of failure. That would be sinister enough of course as people have different and very individual ways of coping with life, but it is underlined by an unspoken subtext blasted at us through the medium of advertising. “The way to be happy is through buying things.” Can buying stuff make us happy or is the idea that buying expensive gifts for friends and family will prompt them to buy us expensive gifts in return, thus proving that they love us? Either way it is a rather bleak view of the human state.
Christmas is a strange festival, on the surface a celebration of the birth of Jesus (who, we know for certain, was not actually born at Christmas, but only just beneath that Christian overlay truly the pagan celebration of the Winter Solstice which is much more in line with the modern partying, boozing and unconstrained shagging (if you’re lucky) than the rather solemn commemoration of the birth of a Messiah destined to die for the sins of humanity could be. Strangely though, the two extremes, people like myself who try to live in harmony with the natural world (that is all Pagan means; nothing to do with Black Magic, nor with having orgies around big fires at midnight – bummer!) and those with a very profound Christian faith will be getting far less worked up about Christmas than the majority of sensible, level headed people.
I think the point at which these two extremes meet is an understanding that Christmas/Solsticetime should not be about money. So you bought the kids a new computer each, maybe it will help their future job prospects but might it not also raise expectations for next year? And as for the kids, is their pester power not fuelled by a constant stream of advertising.
The question we ought to be asking ourselves though has nothing to do with expensive consumer goods. We all live at a crazy pace now, we work to many hours, we spend too long travelling to and from work, during the precious leisure hours many of us are concerned with networking or are frenetically engaging in some self improvement project. We have no time for ourselves, never mind anybody else. So as you are making your gift list think what the most precious thing you can give in the modern world actually is.
The symbolism of both Christmas and the Solstice is new beginnings. The Messiah who will lead his followers to a new and better life is born on Christmas Day. The sun passes its nadir and the cycle of life is renewed. Not so different when you rhink about it, note that phrase “Jesus is born,” which I have taken from old Latin scriptures. Not Jesus was born, but present tense, IS. Every year hope is reborn just as it is in the pagan tradition when the days start to become a little longer each year, when the growing cycle of crops and the breeding cycle of the livestock starts again.
These beliefs come from a time when life was harsh, there was no air conditioning, no SUVs, no global trade to bring exotic foods by 747 and truck to local supermarkets and then our tables. Feasting was the way to celebrate at this time of year because food was the most precious gift that could be given, food was life. Now many of us find our health failing due to too much food. In the world of 2000, 3000, 5000 years ago people had to depend on each other to survive. Now it is possible to survive alone and in isolation. Many people do so, particularly in the industrialised world where the many pressure combine to separate us from our roots. Surviving however is not living, nobody should lose sight of how much we actually depend on each other still. Think about someone who has been alone for a long time, have you noticed how such people build their lives around little private routines and rituals? Such people develop eccentricities as a defence against loneliness. Do you also ever notice how many people seem to be obsessive these days. Even in a city, even within a long term relationship people can become lonely and find themselves seeking refuge in personal fetishes, be it an unhealthy interest in a particular celebrity or a fascination for playing poker on the internet. One of the most dangerous obsessions is an obsession with sex and yet progressively sex is being turned into a cash commodity. There is an industry dedicated to selling us sex as a purely mechanical way of gaining a brief pleasurable sensation through an act devoid of all emotional content.
Among this craziness it is no wonder almost all of us get caught up in this obsessive consumerism to the extent that everything human about the Christmas/Solstice season is lost. What was the great celebration has become a time of stress as we try to keep everybody happy, maintain our social profile, find time to fulfil all our obligations and worry about the New Year credit card bill.
This year why not be adventurous. Break out of the loop and instead of buying false happiness with costly, expensively wrapped gifts give your friends and family something much more precious – as much of your time as you possibly can. They will treasure it and the giving will add an extra dimension to your life as you find yourself remembering who you are.
Join the Christmas resistance, start thinking for yourself again. The fad is catching on, in the UK retailers are complaing that sales are down five per cent and are predicting financial catastrophe. The directors of megas – corporations had better get used to the idea of smaller salaries because as people discover the sheer relief of joining resisting Christmas terrorism the idea could catch on.