Mark Morford, regular SF Gate columnist, writes a column today called “Eat My Holiday Cheer: Screw joy and togetherness. It’s all about retail, just like Jesus would have wanted.”
His tone is harsh in places, and certainly sarcastic (as per usual) — and the criticisms he makes seem to me true (even, perhaps, made with compassion). Not only do I see American society as a whole — the people and systems here in my local village, and media portrayals of people and culture elsewhere in the U.S. — as racing toward a cliff that drops off sharply to an earth-and-sea landscape strewn with rusted, broken, and outdated appliances, dismembered baby dolls, scads of wasted food, and reams of holiday catalogs, but I also see the same blind attraction to the cliff in myself.
I do feel like I have mountains of crap, and yet I still seem to perversely want to have some modicum of new crap (hence my Amazon wishlist). Of course, the new crap must be tasteful, thoughtfully selected, aesthetically pleasing, stylish, interesting, useful, tasty, engaging … items that will kindle my curiosity, challenge my mind, beautify my surroundings, entertain and comfort me, and preferably be small and always dustfree, or able to be used up and leave no telltale residue, or amount to restaurant and retail chits.
Even my desire to give alternative gifts (locally made or bought items, gifts of my time and talents, charitable gifts in honour of others), and my desire to receive the same, while nobler than amassing more crap for my already crap-laden self and bestowing same upon others in the same fix, still seems to derive from a culturally imposed call to ramp up the volume.
Simply put, why give and receive more of anything — stuff or intangibles — during December? If I am living like Jesus, I would either be giving fully in every way every day of the year, or would have no excess stuff (or money) to give.
The Harry & David catalog arrived yesterday, Dec. 1, announcing boldly, reassuringly, on the front cover, “It’s Not Too Late!” Is it ever too late to order more unblemished pears, smoked salmon, and decorated table-top trees? Why the panic?
Here’s some of what Mark Morford has to say:
“By the way if shivering in the dark outside a Best Buy at 3:30 a.m. in frigid November drizzle waiting for a half-price deal on a cheap-ass Chinese-made DVD player isn’t the very definition of self-immolating karmic torture, I don’t know what is.”
“Just because all these holiday clichés of joy and togetherness and hope don’t really hold, just because they’re a little more bogus than we might want to admit, must we give in so desperately, so fundamentally to the real engine of the holidays, the all-devouring retail sector? Truly, every holiday-related news story from now till January focuses almost exclusively on the holy grail that is holiday shopping, on the health of the nation as it relates to how many people are signing their paychecks over to Wal-Mart — and doesn’t that seem horribly wrong and sad?”
“Every year it seems as though we inch just that much closer to the edge, that much closer to the karmic realization that we long ago passed saturation, past the point where all our needs have been met and we now merely create endless mountains of new crap for needs we don’t even really have, and you cannot help but feel we are caught in a mad downward spiral, spinning toward something that smells like apocalypse but tastes like chicken and feels very much like a revolution of spirit.”