I particularly enjoy Christmas because I find it is a wonderful metaphor for 21st century life: gaudy decorations and expensive gimmicks adorn and surround a tree which is, after all, dead.
I was in a supermarket earlier when I suddenly remembered that what I especially love about this season is nothing at all. People say it’s for the kids but it isn’t, apart from trying to buy your children’s affections with gimmicks and trash; it’s just about marketing and profit. In the shops there is a veritable feeding frenzy: endless, interminable Christmas music fades to a mindless drone and everything is in your face – sales, sales, sales: eat this, drink that, wear this, use that gizmo or gadget. Mobile telephones and the internet masquerade as the new frontiers of freedom and expression but they are no more than new ways for us to consume and now each of us is marked with a number. [And no-one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is a man’s number. His number begins 07.] We are all prisoners of consumerism, voluntarily branded (both literally and metaphorically) in a manner which almost echoes the serialisation of the Jews under the Nazis. Even our predilections and addictions are indexed, thanks to store loyalty cards. Each of us is now truly nothing more than a number.
I‘m not going to get all holier-than-thou because I’m as guilty as anyone and, to be honest, I don’t really care sufficiently about the planet or its population to try to make a difference; but the simple fact is that, especially at this time of year when drinks and splendid free buffets are in abundance, the profligate waste in western society is almost an obscenity in the face of the hardship which some people are suffering. As individuals, there is little we can do to make any significant difference but as a society – as a community, as a species – we could move the world. It’ll never happen, of course – there is too much at stake for those who are in a position to change things to get over the squabbling and power-play politics – but, with little or no effort, we could easily feed, clothe and shelter the world. Meanwhile, I poison myself with cut-price vodka while others die from lack of clean drinking water.
As a complete aside, when I went to my Christmas lunch this year I saw that the venue had acquired the presence (so common now) of someone hanging about in the toilets offering to help me wash my hands in exchange for fiscal remuneration. This is assistance which I simply don’t need – I am quite capable of washing myself and do so several times a day. Call me a traditionalist, if you will, but I rather preferred it when people asking for cash in toilets were plying the honest trades of offering drugs or sexual favours.