Sunday, 23 December 2007

Christmas and consumerism

I was just wandering round Sainsbury's yesterday amidst the pre-Christmas melee. It was about as bad as you would expect: an asexual orgy of frozen turkeys, eight-feet-deep trays of sprouts, and more broccoli than you could eat in four lifetimes (especially if you don't like broccoli). The trolleys were like dodgems, and were all full of food which would probably soon be dumped - either before or after being eaten.

So, everything ship shape and as expected. The more you consume at Christmas, the better the Christmas will be - so the illogic of modern capitalism goes. In fact, as I wandered around (purposely annoying the more rabid shoppers with my laid-back pace and whistling of Aida) the supermarket, it struck me that consumerism is locked in an indirectly proportional relationship to meaning. The more we consume - and particularly the more conspicuously we consume - the less the event for which we're consuming means. The more we've consumed as a society every Christmas - in terms of booze, food, t.v. and presents - the less Christmas means in a spiritual sense. The more the cost of weddings has spiralled, the less they've come to mean in a social sense - the divorce figures prove that. The more ostentatious funerals are, the less we really think about the spiritual side of them. As I say, the more money we spend as a society on something, the less that something means.

None of this comes as a surprise. Everyone knows that the most over-the-top weddings are often the hollowest; everyone knows that no one's interested in the true pagan - let alone Christian - meaning of Christmas any more, despite everyone spending far more cash on the festive season that at any other time in history.

But what's noticeable is that the mathematical formula:


... brings about a certain desperation in the human race, when the variable CONSUMERISM% is in the ascendant. Hence the people dashing round the supermarket. Hence the desperate turkey-buying. Hence the desire to pig out even more than we in the West normally pig out.

Not that pigging out should be underrated. After all, if it's all we've got left - if SPIRITUAL MEANING% really is at a fairly low ebb - then we might as well give in disgracefully and join in the pigging and outing.

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