|Christmas—The Blackest Time of Year
(December 14, 2014)
“If the U.S. sneezes, Canada catches a cold,” such is the dominant and domineering influence of the virus factory to the south. Once upon a time (for it seems so long ago) Canadian governments believed it wise to immunize this country from anti-democratic pathogens like military aggression, economic determinism and anti-statist extremism. Today, these are not only officially embraced, but are presented to the public as a national ethos. The very idea of Canada as an independent, moderate democratic state is unthinkable, if not unutterable.
As Canada’s political immune system becomes even more ravaged, the effect of these pathogens is now more acutely felt at this time of year. Christmas is already problematic for a host of reasons—spurious religiosity, artificial bonhomie and lemming-like consumption—but since 2008, we have had to deal with an additional disease, Black Friday, as if our addiction to debt and frivolous spending needed a boost.
If left alone, some Canadians already start Christmas shopping at the end of November, but Black Friday’s saturation, hard-sell propaganda drums into us the depressing reality that the prime directive of citizens is not to lead free and rational lives but to hearken unto to the voice of greed to pad corporate bottom lines, especially American ones. Many businesses even extend the feeding frenzy over the weekend and in some cases a whole week.
Lamenting economic subservience to the U.S. is hardly novel—it’s an integral part of being Canadian—but there is something distinctly perverse about the media—TV, radio, print and Internet— hustling, hectoring and bribing us into participating in a pre-Christmas economic orgy that has Jack Squat to do with this country.
Even sadder is the acquiescence of so many Canadian malls and stores, but you can't blame them entirely. If they don't buy into it, they run the risk of losing customers. In addition, the media cannot legally refuse to run Black Friday ads. Freedom of speech applies to self-serving, even deceptive, advertising whereas it does not to apply nearly as much to honest expressions of political dissent.
This latest virus shows no sign of loosening its grip on Canada, so maybe we can learn something from it. We should stop kidding ourselves that we have any control over our lives and acknowledge that America’s darkness and Canada’s obsolescence are the defining truths of our time. The four weeks or so between Black Friday and Boxing Day should, therefore, be viewed as a U.S.-driven economic holy month, the celebration of which is a societal imperative for the welfare of corporations.
Because Black Friday celebrates unenlightened economic self-interest, the kind embodied by Ebenezer Scrooge, the entire Christmas shopping season is devoid of any authentic morality, so we should adapt our language accordingly. Why bother with slogans like “Joy to the World” or “Peace on Earth,” when everything this country does from mining the tar sands to subverting governments is deliberately harmful to both? More to the point, should Canadians feel guilty about being co-opted into a ritual that encourages the very over-consumption that is destroying the planet?
Let us recognize “The Spirit of Christmas” for what it really is or has become, so that we may openly and unashamedly wallow in our own crapulence. We could start by updating our symbols and traditions. We could celebrate Black Peter, St. Nick’s sidekick, and elevate the Rolling Stone’s hit Paint it Black to carol status. The Christmas turkey dinner could be redesigned to reflect our total commitment to the Black Spirit of the season:
Of course, we would still watch the traditional holiday movie A Christmas Carol (the 1951 Alastair Sim version, of course), but this time we will boo the meddlesome “spirits” who ruin a miser’s otherwise contented, rapacious Koch-like existence.
And on Christmas morning, Canadians everywhere would wake up to coal in their stockings.