And In our world of plenty*
For one weekend each fall, millions of shoppers flood the internet with orders and violence commonly erupts at retail stores. With an extensive prelude of “Pre-Black Friday” campaigns, the new religion of consumerism erupts on Cyber weekend in late November to mark the commercial countdown to Christmas.
But Say a Prayer
Pray For The Other Ones*
With its origins in the pagan solstice “Yule” on December 21, the early Christian church assigned December 25 as its central holy day. Eight days later, on the Gregorian calendar, the New Year begins, precisely upon the date associated with the circumcision rite of traditional Jewish custom. The commercialization of Christmas is rooted in the coattails of the Industrial Revolution when the Coca-Cola company dressed old Kriskringle in the corporate Coke scarlet and white. The new iconic Santa Claus has redefined Christmas ever since.
But When You’re Having Fun
There’s a World Outside Your Window
And It’s a World of Dread and Fear*
Marketing experts smear our media with tantalizing propositions designed to appeal to our greed through an array of apparent remedies for our media-generated insecurities. We have cheerfully taken to handing hard-earned money to merchants in return for credit card debt and inflated interest payments. Vendors use urgency and cognitive dissonance to sell their wares: we feel compelled to give the perfect gift to that special someone on or before that special day, even though the Christmas overstock will be liquidated in the week following that marketed purchase deadline. Though it is in bad taste to speak it as such, these bargains are cut off abruptly after New Years. Savvy shoppers know that February is the annual clothing liquidation, making way for spring inventory.
Where the Only Water Flowing*
Before padding your closet with marked down fashion finds, it is worth knowing the true cost of that pair of jeans in terms of how many litres of water go into a single tee shirt. According to the World Wildlife Fund, that would be 2700 litres in each shirt. “Only three quid!” Meanwhile, the reusable bags in which you probably carry the tee shirt home have the equivalent carbon footprint of 131 disposable plastic shopping bags used only once.
And the Christmas Bells That Ring There Are the Clanging Chimes of Doom*
A box of chocolate covered almonds is a delectable first-world luxury with a social and environmental impact beyond comprehension. Child labour in cacao rich countries like Ivory Coast are behind the chocolate we so love and take for granted. Countless children are killed and maimed every year working in jungles to harvest the beans with machetes. Each almond requires an entire gallon of water. About that holiday tourtière or its more secular burger counterpart, 2500 gallons of water go into each pound of beef. We have helped corporations create an era where a litre of water costs more than a litre of gasoline, hardly able to recognize the long-term impact on the same world in which our children must live.
Industry has consensually streamlined consumer behaviour into what amounts to a modern religion. “Religion” is a set of practices and rituals associated with a specific belief system. The institution of this religion of consumerism is the modern marketplace, consisting today of a mix of e-commerce and retailers. The institution has led its followers to believe that paying into commercialism is necessary for social inclusion, by using the very same ingenious principles as those who once sold indulgences to the faithful during earlier incarnations of the Christian Church. Economists have identified a retail apocalypse, already underway. Shopping malls are disappearing as retailers close their smaller yielding stores in favour of the web. Humans are being replaced by machines, from instant tellers at banks to airline check-in to self-checkouts at department stores. In the immortal and timeless holiday wisdom:
Well Tonight Thank God It’s Them Instead of You.*
* “Do They Know It’s Christmas”, Copyright Bob Geldof, Midge Ure
By Carol Ann