Tag: Christmas

Christmas Makes Me Ignorant

Promptly at 12-noon each day, when lunch break begins, I turn off the radio. CBC Radio One is my daily deliverer of news and interviews, albeit news and interviews that do little to capture the truth behind current events, because, like all mainstream media, has reasons to not upset the prevailing order. Following Q with Jian Ghomeshi, the deified interviewer and cultural compass to the barely-left-of-centre young adults of Canada, and following the half-hour segment about medicine, Francophonie, or comedy, Saskatchewan’s most awkward radio host takes the reins on the aptly named, nothing-of-substance, Blue Sky.

Hungover in a van, clutching the natural hydration of a coconut water driving home from Saskatoon, we listened as people called in to ask questions to a Butterball turkey cooking expert. One-sixty-five Celsius in the breast and one-eighty in the deep thigh. Confident great-aunts claimed the greatest turkey dressing in the southwest of Saskatchewan and asked about the cooking properties of smoked turkey. Public broadcasting strikes again; getting down to the issues that matter to Canadian families—gluttony and blind tradition at all costs.

And now I am here, alone on Christmas day, just wishing that a call-in show about turkeys would exist once more so I would know where the hell the deep thigh of a 29-pound turkey is. Christmas makes me ill, and has consistently in my short life. This year I have been resting with pneumonia-like symptoms at the house alone, saving myself for the days after Christmas where work and friends will take another toll on me to ensure that I catch the dreaded fiction-defying double-pneumonia. Last year it was fever-hallucinations in the basement of a party house. When I was eight the family spent the holidays in Edmonton, and as I vomited though the holiest day of the year, my family rode rollercoasters at the West Edmonton Mall. I sat at home and pouted, the highlight of my day being a 600mL bottle of ginger-ale. Spending Christmas home alone hasn’t been as exceptional as that of Kevin McAllister, but it hasn’t been as miserable as people seem to think it would be. That is because it doesn’t matter. Being alone today is no different than being alone two weeks ago.

Talk radio has been playing continuously in my parents’ garage since far before I existed. It has just recently been a conscious part of my daily life, and only now, with a personal investment of months, can I really distinguish between shows. The production quality, the natural flow of interviews, the call-in shows. Rex Murphy’s voice is about as hard to mistake as his fossil face and recently on his own Cross-Country Check-Up I had the opportunity to hear five or six passionately uninformed Canadians weigh in on prostitution. I learned nothing except that ignorance is painful.

It is also inevitable. We are all unlearned creatures and will continue to be this way regardless how long we live. Ignorance isn’t inherently negative. It becomes harmful when the ignorant believe they are experts. Call-in shows celebrate ignorance by allowing the comfortable middle-class to weigh in on topics that are often foreign to them, and encourages them through polite recognition of their opinions. An opinion is irrelevant if it is ignorant. The democratic nature of such a forum is as imagined as that of a constitutional monarchy, for although it is open to the public, it purposefully alienates those it deems unimportant, often those who don’t pay taxes. And like the debates and propaganda in politics, these call-in shows only further people into their partisan stubbornness. When ignorance is purposeful, in a blissful attempt at self-preservation, it is equally as harmful. These forms of ignorance are harmful not to the ignorant, but to the subject which they are ignorant about.

As a person who has been labelled a vegetarian, I am currently roasting two of fifteen turkeys. I will not eat them, and the rinsing of their giblets and the massaging of their frozen breasts makes me ill. I am admittedly ignorant about cooking turkeys, and dammit, I’d like to keep it that way.

Christmas makes me sick for infinite reasons, all of which I will save for the next call-in show I hear, asking about family Christmas traditions.

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Youth (Me) and Why I Hate Them (Me)

Santa called me at work. The recording of his voice seemed as if he cared less about Christmas than I do. Painfully forced. Knowing full-well that he hated his life. His voice brought forth images of a forty-nine year old male drinking from a 40oz of bad whiskey on the day before his birthday which also happened to be Christmas, wearing a vomit-stained cotton beard, just after calling his ex-wife about when he’ll pick up his sixteen-year-old over the holidays. A slouch. All the recording told me was that I need to be good so that he would deliver a present in my chimney this Christmas. Not even a promise of a free cruise. Just a pre-solicitation for something that may or may not include the loss of my anal virginity. This is Christmas.

And children love him. They love the undoubtedly alcoholic, morbidly obese. The kids that cry at Santa photos are the ones with natural instincts to stay away from the downfall of mankind.

But who am I to judge this digitally-recorded Santa? I have become that lonely old man who sits alone, thinking about the one(s) that got away, smelling the various disgusting parts of his body throughout the day. The man who constantly wonders what happened to the younger generation. Who loathes technology, the things considered as viable entertainment, many forms of social interaction. At twenty-four, I am that man. Different, but no better than the inebriated Santa robo-calling the nation with threats of gift-giving. But, I don’t know what previous generations were like, so I can’t responsibly say that I can see a cultural and intellectual decline. And saying that the world is worse off than it has ever been is history-ignoring naiveté.

And when I’m thinking of points to my argument of why youth are despicable and why I don’t want to be a teacher or have a child, I have to check my email three times, look up the writer to an episode of television. My attention span has been shortened thanks to constant interruptions in my pocket and the ability to get any information that I ever wanted at any time.

In the thirties, Evelyn Waugh’s characters of ‘Vile Bodies’ seemed to constantly critique the younger generation.

‘Don’t you think,’ said Father Rothschild gently, ‘…[t]hey won’t make the best of a bad job nowadays. My private schoolmaster used to say, “If a thing’s worth doing at all, it’s worth doing well.” My Church has taught that in different words for several centuries. But these young people have got hold of another end of the stick, and for all we know it may be the right one. They say, “If a thing’s not worth doing well, it’s not worth doing at all.” It makes everything very difficult for them.’

‘Good heavens, I should think it did. What a darned silly principle. I mean to say, if one didn’t do anything that wasn’t worth doing well–why, what would one do? I’ve always maintained that success in this world depends on knowing exactly how little effort each job is worth…distribution of energy…And, I suppose, most people would admit that I was a pretty successful man.’

-Evelyn Waugh, Vile Bodies, p111

The slight shift in the adage, and the youth become defeatist, single-use, one-task brains. Instead of attempting at excelling at many things—like how your dad can fix the car, build a bathroom, design a power plant, and your mom can fix jeans, bake the greatest pies known to man, know so much about health and the world—the youth decide that they will attempt to perform a single task adequately, while being useless at everything else. Because they can.

The wise adults of this book then talk of success being the bare minimum with maximum profit and high efficiency. Success. Suddenly moronic youth with one skill-set and the inability to focus sound pretty reasonable. Like the success-hunting adults, but with a sense of humour.

If Santa calls me back, I would like to talk to him. Not just listen to his nightmarish recording. He has seen the youth and he has seen them grow up. They have sat on his lap for the hundred years that he has existed, and he has seen them grow up into these success-hunting adults, placing their new children on his lap, and so on, and so on. He would know. He’d be able to tell me if the youth are getting dumber. If technology is ruining our ability to focus, or ability to give a shit, or ability to be shocked, or ability to learn and retain. I mean, he is the one making most of these toys and giving them to our kids. And at that revelation, Santa’s drunk voicemail message seems more threatening than before. Not only does Santa want to deflower my anus, he also wants the be a part of the plague of idiocy in our children. The dumber the children become, the more they need his gifts. The more they need his gifts, the fatter he becomes. The fatter he becomes, the more women he gets.

Don’t call back, Santa. I’m already plenty dumb.

Failed States

When history is crafted in the service of power, evidence and rationality are irrelevant.

-Noam Chomsky, Failed States, p100

I am in the business of joy. Lowercase j. I am directly employed by Santa himself to greet the masses of joyless souls and bring the rapture of new merchandise to their lives. Running a business as if it were a business makes sense, as long as a service is provided or goods are traded for money. People convinced they they have a right to demand things in the form of a Christmas list because they believe that forced giving is the thoughtful thing to do, are running their lives like a business, taking advantage of situations and people and money. This does not make sense.

In structure, the political counterpart to a corporation is a totalitarian state. There are rewards for loyalists, and quick punishment for those who “cross party leaders.” The antidemocratic thrust has precedents, of course, but is reaching new heights. It should surprise no one familiar with history that it is accompanied by the most august missions and visions of democracy.

-Noam Chomsky, Failed States, p238

Running a government as if it were a business frightens me. It makes humans commodities and necessities marketable. More regard for the dollars earned than the humans living in conditions where it is impossible to earn enough for basic human comforts. The past and the present have been crafted in the service of power. The connection between the system governed by the powerful and wealthy and the consumerism of this season is not coincidental. Someone, or a series of someones, have carefully crafted this holiday season that is loved by so many into a two-month shopping obligation. Our love for one another that is best expressed through fellowship and merriment has been changed so that we feel the only way to express it is through the giving of unnecessary items. And it has only strengthened their position of power. They have taken what we love more than anything and inverted it into another means of profit. Power is a business.

Among the most salient properties of failed states is that they do not protect their citizens from violence—and perhaps even destruction—or that decision makers regard such concerns as lower in priority than the short-term power and wealth of the state’s dominant sectors.

-Noam Chomsky, Failed States, p38

Violence can be demonstrated in many ways. A boot stamping on a human face forever. An army occupying another country to control the energy reserves and elections to stifle the power of a population. Several levels of government building a handsome yet useless multimillion dollar sidewalk ignoring a housing crisis that continually worsens. Poverty is violence.

Our state has used garlands and lights and parades to help us forget that it has indeed failed. And these lights and garlands have trained us to continue to support the failed state through red Santa hats and a marketable ‘Christmas Spirit.’ Either each year the situation becomes more grave than the last, or each year my cynicisms mount even higher than Santa’s pyramid of elf skulls that he compiles at year end, a physical exposition of the slave labour that his capitalist methods require.

We can demonstrate our power by running our lives as the human lives they are, not as the businesses that they are told to be. We can take back the power from the failed state by refusing to participate in the season that characterizes their abuses and violence more than any other time of the year. We can go a year without ‘celebrating’ to show that our Joy (capital J) is founded in something more than a self-serving system that they created for us to mindlessly follow. We can buy nothing and be better, more generous, less selfish people because of it.