It’s that time of year again
‘Many people complain that the Christmas sales campaign starts too early. But as the market is stimulated to grow, and as it grows, so will the effort to exploit it. This might mean an even longer sales drive in the future—wasn’t there a story about a business man who said that Christmas was good business as long as they kept religion out of it?’ (Socialist Standard, December 1965).
Although it appears to have been so three months ago because that’s when Christmas commodities started to appear in retail outlets. Even more than the rest of the year the mantra is purchase, buy, consume, spend!
It’s no wonder that alcohol consumption soars and family rows escalate in this period of joy and peace. Coping with capitalism creates enough stresses on a daily basis in itself but, at this time of the year, especially for parents, but not just confined to them; they increase many-fold life’s everyday pressures.
Sympathy must go out for one to the residents of towns served by Medway Council in Kent because it has ‘cancelled all its Christmas lights this year just to save £75,000. Medway Council in Kent announced the “sad and difficult decision” after identifying a potential overspend of £17 million this financial year.’ Local folk have labelled the Council ‘Scrooge’ (Sun, 10 October).
Think that can be filed under the heading of ‘First World Problems’.
It’s very hard to get through this period without Charles Dickens and A Christmas Carol impinging in some way or other. George Bernard Shaw, channelling Scrooge, (before the ghost’s visitations) in a 1946 letter to Reynolds News expressed his vehement opposition to Christmas:
‘I am sorry to have to introduce the subject of Christmas. It is an indecent subject; a cruel, gluttonous subject; a drunken, disorderly subject; a wasteful, disastrous subject; a wicked, cadging, lying, filthy, blasphemous and demoralizing subject. Christmas is forced on a reluctant and disgusted nation by the shopkeepers and the press: on its own merits it would wither and shrivel in the fiery breath of universal hatred; and anyone who looked back to it would be turned into a pillar of greasy sausages’.
Perhaps Santa let him down as a child. Proper pantomime villain, boo, hiss? Did Outraged Christian of Easily Offended inundate the letters page with their outrage? The latter-day aficionados of Christmas are rushing to social media to express their umbrage at a particular seasonal advertisement.
Speaking of outrage, there’s always a competition amongst capitalist enterprises to ‘win’ the best Christmas advertisement. The purpose being to maximise sales in the ‘golden quarter.’ Back in November an ‘edgy’ anti-Christmas advertisement from Marks and Spencer apparently upset some as M & S were forced to apologise because the destruction shown of party hats in an open fire was deemed to be an insult to Palestine. How, you ask? The colours of the hats were also those of the Palestinian flag! Even socialists know that red and green are traditional Christmas colours.
This is surely taking taking offence to the level of the absurd. The events across the world in 2023 are more demanding of offence, outrage and umbrage.
A world of dread and fear
John Donne’s 1624 Meditation XVII piece, No Man is an Island seems particularly relevant almost four hundred years on:
No man is an Iland, intire of itselfe; every man
is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine;
if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe
is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as
well as if a Manor of thy friends or of thine
owne were; any mans death diminishes me,
because I am involved in Mankinde;
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.
As in other years of mass bloody conflicts the bell has tolled for far too many in 2023 in places other than Europe.
Almost forty years ago Band Aid released a charity record, Do they know it’s Christmas? in response to famine in Ethiopia. The lyric included, ‘It’s Christmas time, There’s no need to be afraid, At Christmas time we let in light and we banish shade’. And ‘There’s a world outside your window, And it’s a world of dread and fear’. It is to be fervently hoped that, over the intervening weeks, the chilling prospect of more ‘dread and fear’ will not have spread to a far wider arena.
In 1961, at his presidential inauguration, John F Kennedy said, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you but ask what you can do for your country.’ Sixty plus years on this exhortation would seem to now mean ask what you can do for the capitalist state engaged in armed conflict with the full support of the capitalist state where you reside – or else. A reminder that the global working class have no country. Patriotism is the refuge of the scoundrel, even if is it being forced upon many; but many, even if they do not, as of yet, understand that socialism is the only viable solution, are resisting the brainwashing and propaganda. But, without the realisation that socialism is the only alternative, nothing will change.
When the working class of many states were engaged in capitalist wars in the early part of the twentieth century, black humour was much evident as a way of coping with great adversity.
Bairnsfather’s 1915 cartoon of two British soldiers under fire in a foxhole with the caption ‘Well, if you knows of a better ‘ole, go to it’ is an example.
Well, we do know of a ‘better ‘ole’. It’s a money-free, leader-free, state-free society where conflicts and wars are forever abolished and consigned to the dustbin of history.