Monday, December 14, 2015

Why Santa should get stuffed (1997)

Cartoon by Peter Rigg.
The Last Word Column from the December 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

There is much to be said for abolishing Christmas. It is a festival of fake sincerity; the most dishonest season of the year. It is a time for buying what can't be afforded and selling what would not sensibly be wanted. It is a brief period of employment for obese drunks who are forced to fit into tight red uniforms and pretend to be jolly. It is a time for families to come together and realise how little they have in common but genes. It is the moment for the Arch-Parasite of Buckingham Palace to descend from her secluded palace and address the scum whose bent bodies support her and her class. It is busy season for the casualty wards, where wage slaves off the leash have bought escape through alcohol and mutilated themselves and others in metal wreckages, while the lonely attempt suicide and are dragged in sighing to be saved for another year. It is the period reserved for extra-special TV stupidity: the régime of the faked smile, the contrived sentiment, public condescension towards crippled children, and Noel Edmonds. It is the cold season for the noses of the poor to be pressed up against windows which display goods they may not buy. On the mass-produced greetings cards there is snow; in the shop doorways they shiver and hope they will not freeze.

The religious believe that it has become too commercialised. They want to rejoice in fantasies about a messiah born of a virgin. The traders are generally indifferent to the origin of the seasonal madness; their god announces his presence each time a cash till rings. Nobody knows quite what it's all for. Vicars run jumble sales and declare that it doesn't matter if the flock believes in Jesus. Merchants flog commodities with tacky images of babies born in a manger; Dylan's "flesh-coloured Christs that glow in the dark." All is confusion and falsified joy. The perfect festival for a system built on sales and insincerity.

It probably has something to do with the end of the year and a faint hope that the new one will be better. Perhaps Christmas is the illusory prelude to a new dawn: the lazy man's route to revolution. After Christmas come the resolutions of the New Year: ritualised hopes by the self-deluded who dream of self-control.

Worse even than Christmas are those New Year parties where strangers hug each other and pretend that the haze of booze and fabrication of community will last forever. The unkissed make a grab for whatever they can get, forcing some victim into physical proximity in the name of festivity. The next morning's stench of stale whisky is already in the air; the blushes of office co-workers who will have to share a desk after an unwanted snog are being planned; the delirium of the depressed makes its dreary way as the calendar changes and Ding Dong . . . it's 1998 and nothing's changed.

So, away with all this bogus goodwill and let us say what we mean. Tell the boss to stick his Christmas dinner where the sun don't shine, because you'd rather have the money. Tell the clerical men in dresses to bugger off and put their own house in order before they have the audacity to preach to us about how to live. Tell the charity merchants to seek their own crumbs, because we want the cake which we baked and nothing less. Tell Santa to get a life and stop trying to seduce innocent children with the lure of commodities. And tell those dull, offensive, dreary carol singers that if they so much as come within a foot of your door with their chants about little Jesus meek and mild they'll be having their lukewarm stuffing in an overcrowded corridor down at the local hospital.

Despite our best efforts, Capitalism's Merry Men will do their worst. Once again the TV News will carry pictures of the homeless being given a charitable mince pie by decent people who will be forced after Christmas to throw them back on to the cold, winter streets. Once again the Vatican Godfather will ascend his balcony and rub salt into the wounds of millions who will be told that their misery is god's will. Once agin those who refuse to celebrate religious and commercial folly will be called kill-joys. Even though all that socialists want to see is a society decent and co-operative and sociable enough for there to be no need to put aside one week or one day for happiness to prevail.
Steve Coleman

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