Saturday, November 29, 2008

Santa Is Coming, Let The Shameless Consumerism Begin

image Today is our annual Santa Claus Parade.  It will probably be a dismal disaster much like last years (the kids didn't even want to wait around for Santa) but we are going any ways. 

With the official arrival of Santa comes the what I want for Christmas pitch.  You cannot watch tree house, or the toon network without being inundated with the latest piece of over priced plastic crap, that was probably made in a Chinese sweatshop. Ho Ho fucking Ho.  Retailers have already started to inform kids about products they didn't even know that they wanted until the commercial promised them they would be happy, if only they could this plastic piece of crap.

I recently read that about FOX's resident evil asshole, Bill O’Reilly complaining how the liberals have destroyed Christmas by making it all PC.  Yes saying happy holidays and acknowledging that not every single person you meet is Christian is somehow an affront to what has become nothing but a consumer extravaganza. 

What disgusts me each year is the way we put ourselves into debt becauseimage somehow the only way to show people we love them is to purchase items that they will forget about in less than six months.  I am not trying to be a scrooge here, but I am really starting to wonder about the message we are sending our children.  Show me you love me, buy me something doesn't really feel like a celebration of anything other than capitalism.

The Christmas season is the only time Sick Kids has a waiting list to volunteer. Does it not occur to anyone else throughout the year that the season of giving should be continual?  Suddenly people have money to buy that homeless guy a coffee, though they walked by him in their nicely tailored suit for a year without ever acknowledging he was a human being.  The Project Share Bin gets filled because hey everyone should have one decent meal a year, and who cares if the rest of the year people donate by dropping off food that has collected dust in their cabinets that they have finally decided that they are not going to eat.  Christmas donating like this is giving yourself a cookie...you were great for one brief season so for the rest of the year you continue on ignoring the real struggle and plight of the working/underclass.

The unhusband and I have a rule, If five toys come in then they must donate 5 toys to our local brothers and sisters club.  I am trying desperately to keep a balance and remind the boys that this is about us being together as a family, but it seems since we are together daily as a family to them it is about the toys.  All of the lessons that we work all year to impart seem to go out the window the minute the man in red trolls into town with his reindeer. 

image He ho ho ho's and jingle bells his way through the downtown core as people line up for free stale donuts and popcorn, but right after he pulls upstakes and returns to the North Pole, our sense of caring for those around us dissipates. Does anyone notice the end of the desire to give usually coincides with the arrival of the visa bill that lists the ways in which we have once again over indulged?  We claim that we have winter blues but I have the feeling that a good portion of that is shopping hangover and regret.  Even if you max out your credit cards you cannot make someone love you more.

As the unhusband and I struggle with the lessons we want to teach Destruction and Mayhem this season, I cannot help but be troubled by the fact that everywhere they turn they are given the message that the path to happiness is consumption.  I want my children to understand most of all that giving should not be something that we schedule on the calendar when we put up the Christmas Tree, but something we actively engage in because people matter 365 days a year.


8 comments:

Queers United said...

ugh, you invoked the Devil's name - Bill O'Reilly. It's that time of year again "the war on Christmas"

AR said...

I am trying desperately to keep a balance and remind the boys that this is about us being together as a family, but it seems since we are together daily as a family to them it is about the toys.

If your appraisal of their attitude is correct, then I can empathize with them completely. When I was young I was never able to understand the alleged family togetherness aspect of, say, Thanksgiving, because why should family togetherness on some particular day matter to me if I'm with my family all the time? It was only when I spent long periods of time away from home that such meetings gained any significance to me beyond turkey, but even now it functions only as a common marker for when to take time off from work. If the only thing actually unique about Christmas is the presents, then that's what children will associate it with.

Show me you love me, buy me something doesn't really feel like a celebration of anything other than capitalism.

Gifts could still exist in a socialist economy; they would just be limited to consumption goods and labor. The only form of gift unique to capitalism would be, well, capital. Actually, that sounds like a pretty good idea now that you mention it. Maybe I should look into gift-wrapped stock. The idea of giving parts of Valero (NYSE:VLO) to people I know who own SUVs is very appealing...

And hey, if it caught on it would also help fix the nation's negative savings rate and debt problem, because people would be gifting production instead of consumption. How would the economy and its distribution of wealth change if gifts from Wal'Mart were replaced with parts of Wal'Mart(NYSE:WMT) itself?

Vera H. said...

I knit and crochet, so I try to make many of my gifts although I will get my spouse something electronic, but not too expensive. I will also give to buy a small gift for a child or get a bag of groceries more. I need to do better.

The trampling death of a worker at a Wal-Mart in Long Island has disgusted me. What's happened to us???

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/29/business/29walmart.html?_r=1&em

AR said...

Meltdown fallout: some parents rethink toy-buying

"In a season that inspires earnest letters about toys, one notable batch is being sent not by kids to Santa's workshop but by parents to the executive suites of real-world toy makers.

"The message: Please, in these days of economic angst, cut back on marketing your products directly to our children."

Renee said...

@AR thank you for that link. I think that what the toy companies do is shameless. The degree of marketing targeted at children is terrible. I don't even want to let the boys wash television during this time of year because it is constantly about getting toys.
My children will not go without a present but I think that this sends the wrong message to them. My heart breaks for the children that are going without and this is so unnecessary.

Anonymous said...

I will spread the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood website. It's not just about the advertisers. For TV stations that have 90% adult shows, couldn't they find a way to get rid of commercials during kid shows. It would be nice if some more people in power cared about that. I wonder how our culture might be different if only adult shows had advertisements.

AR said...

I don't think the existence of the ads is a problem. Advertisements directed at children are an excellent opportunity to teach kids about evaluating advertisements, and social manipulation in general. The main tricks of propaganda, commercial and otherwise, are basically easy to understand, but parents don't generally teach them. I don't think this is due to lack of motivation, but because parents themselves aren't any better at resisting excessive consumption than their kids!

Even with an economic downturn, they can be useful. Can't afford expensive toys? Don't get them, and tell your children why. There are no guarantees in life, and understanding the concept of not consuming things you can't afford is a very important one that many adults would do well to learn.

nia said...

Last Christmas was the first time I decided not to buy any gifts for friends or family.
Everyone just got a card instead and I used the money I would have spent on gifts towards charity instead. It was probably easier for me to do because I don't have kids, but if I did have kids I think I would try to get them books as gifts at Xmas so at least they could learn something.