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Talking about X-Mas Consumerism? Too Mainstream

Far too mainstream

Well, I figure it makes sense to be topical since it’s “that time of year“. Look, we could certainly talk about how this holiday is a really thinly disguised ploy to get us all to go out and spend and consume like the sad little locusts we are, but other people have been there and done that. It’s about as commonplace to associate christmas with horrid consumerism as it is to associate it with fat bearded ancient men in red jumpsuits. The argument would basically run something like this. I ask you “What is the point in spending so much money on christmas presents?” and you try to explain to me that “The presents are an expression of affection, you get people gifts because you love them.” And most of the audience (because during our debates we have an audience) goes bawwww how cute and sweet and sentimental. This is about the point where I want you to think about two things. 1. Do you really think that you need to express your love (especially for your family) in the form of an expensive gift? Do they not know that you care about them if you give them a big ol’ hug and say merry christmas (no I didn’t get you anything, be happy with this hug)? Seriously. Putting aside how awkward it would make you feel (like that time you totally forgot your aunt was coming for christmas, and she got you that really cool whateveritwas, and you didn’t get her anything) would it really make that big of a difference if *dramatic music* WE DIDN’T GIVE GIFTS FOR THE HOLIDAY??!?!?!!?111ONEONE

I’m pretty sure that you’re going to agree with me, people don’t need to receive gifts to know that you care about them. In the off chance that you say “No, everyone would think that I hate them if I didn’t get them gifts.” or even better “I would hate everyone if they didn’t get me gifts.” If you answered with the latter, rather than try to argue with you, I think it’d be best if you quit the internet. But, if you’re seriously under the impression that gifts are THAT important, let’s think about it for a minute. If people need gifts that badly, why do they JUST need them on christmas? Why don’t you need to get them a gift every two months? Perhaps the answer is because social convention tells you to. Is that ever a good reason to do something? I seriously don’t think so. Maybe it’s easier to have it once a year so that no one forgets to get their friends/loved ones their annual present so they don’t decide they don’t like you anymore. If this was your response, clearly you haven’t started your shopping yet, because if you’ve tried to go to the mall in the last few days, you know how lucky you are to be reading this (for the record that should read “old drivers”). The only benefit from making everyone search desperately for christmas presents at the same time every year is that it makes finding gifts safely much more challenging. There’s not much reason behind it. I guess my point is, why do we feel compelled to follow the standing convention of getting each other presents? Is it really necessary? I mean sure, you can take a “Herp most people can’t even afford to feed themselves, why bother with gifts” argument, but I don’t think it needs to be taken that far to make sense.

This is the result of your need to express your love

An entirely separate issue, is religion’s relation to the holiday. Some of you may be re-reading that previous sentence wondering “Religion? Christmas? I don’t get it.” Believe it or not, some people seem to think that christmas is a christian holiday. Where Santa fits into the already crowded “monotheistic” grouping between baby hesoos’s birth and the cosmic omnipotent father is anybody’s guess. Probably has something to do with those wonderful peaceful christians “adopting” pagan traditions and integrating them into their own.

Anywho, when I was out today risking my life at the mall, I saw one of those “Keep the Christ in Christmas” bumper stickers. Of course I really wanted to do something silly and immature like scrawl “MERRY X-MAS” all over the person’s car, but it also made me think. WHY should christ be kept in the holiday? Is he still in the holiday at all? I mean honestly, is there much religious association with the holiday at all anymore? For those of us that don’t go to church, yeah, there’s the occasional nativity scene outside of a few houses, which happens to feature a bunch of people and animals standing around a wooden crib or something for whatever reason, which I THINK is supposed to have a religious connection, but it certainly isn’t that overt. Let’s face it, Christmas has nothing to do with Christ, it hasn’t for years, X-mas or not. The holiday is an opportunity to worship Mr. Fat Cat up there, your new Corporate God. If you’re not disgusted by that prospect, you should get that checked out. It’s one thing if you disagree with me, but if you’re okay with the worship of a corporate god, let’s go back to the an hero plan.

So,  ultimately, my questions remain: 1. Why are presents necessary?

2. Don’t they cause more harm (and waste) than good?

3. Why do we/Should we still bother with them?

My answer to #3 is no, but you’ve probably already gathered that. Look, I’m not saying presents are evil and should be destroyed. I’m just saying that spending tons of money to get gifts for your great aunt gertrude and every other member of your family just seems kind of silly and unnecessary. They’ll still love you if you don’t get them new ipads. And if they don’t, there’s something wrong with them.

And as always, I look forward to your comments, questions, suggestions, rude comments, insults, poorly formed arguments, and silence because you didn’t bother reading any of this post because it isn’t funny or interesting.

About forthesakeofdebate

I enjoy intellectual discussion and learning, metal music, martial arts, and blades. Pretty soon I'll be your favorite misanthrope.

3 responses to “Talking about X-Mas Consumerism? Too Mainstream

  1. Trying to figure out how a social phenomenon as strange as Christmas got started is nearly impossible. I agree in that the social convention of presents is ultimately self-destructive for generating a need for some sort of validation – or maybe renewal might be a better word – where before none existed, but on the other hand, I don’t really see it as a problem either. The act of giving a present as a token of affection is perhaps not always the best way to express this, but the problem is not with the act itself, but with the ensuing web of perceived duties that comes with it. Anyway, to answer your questions,

    1) They’re not. I’m having trouble coming up with a situation where it is actually a duty and not supererogatory.
    2) I’m not sure what you mean by waste, but in terms of perpetuating the Christmas present construct, I can see how it might be harmful. However, if the good will behind it is still there, then I don’t see it as something you can actually hold anyone accountable for, and I’d still see it as a good thing.
    3) We still bother with them because That Is The Way Things Are. Even if people who don’t like the idea are fairly common, social inertia is an enormous force. Should we still bother with them though? I don’t think anybody should feel compelled to if the will isn’t behind it.

    Anyway, nice article.

    *disclaimer: I’m from a Jewish family.

  2. In the off chance that anyone else ever reads this that isn’t a logic geek like us, supererogatory is an act that is not morally obligatory, but a nice thing to do like holding the door for someone.

    2. “Waste”: My family would love me regardless if I got them presents this year. I’m about halfway done my christmas shopping and I’ve probably spent well over $100. Was spending that much money necessary? Or is it more or less a waste if it went to no clear purpose? That money could have gone anywhere else, to a charity, to people who needed it more, or on useful things like food and gas money. Gifts aren’t necessary to express good will, so why are they necessary? You’ve essentially said they’re good because they express good will, but my point is that they aren’t needed to perform that purpose.

    3. “That’s The Way Things Are” is something I intend to continually attack on this blog. Much like an ethics class, I don’t have much interest in what people DO DO (insert your own terrible joke here), I’m interested in what people SHOULD do. The point behind this post was to express that we SHOULDN’T bother anymore, they’re a waste of resources to serve a purpose that could be served with less.

    • I think I mentioned that I don’t think presents are always a particularly good way of expressing affection (in fact, in many ways they’re a singularly bad way of doing so), but that does not mean that they’re always a waste. As for whether or not it’d be better to donate that money to a charity or something, I always have problems with the idea that you can compare goods like that, especially when the stakes are so low.

      I’m not sure I was entirely clear on this, but I do agree that this obligatory exchange of presents on Christmas thing should not continue. It’s just that I don’t think that the idea of giving a gift is in and of itself bad, and I don’t think you can hold someone accountable for doing so, even if it perpetuates the phenomenon.

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