“The more wealth we have, such as friends, skills, libraries, wilderness and afternoon naps, the less money we need in order to be happy.” — John DE Graaf, author of “Affluenza.”
Did you see on TV news broadcasts all of the shoppers who were squeezing into the stores on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving? “Like a hungry pack of wolves,” as one commentator described it. “Capitalism at its height,” he continued. “Credit cards burning hot in their pockets.”
It’s obscene how the holiday season has become a shopping orgy. When you think about those who have lost their jobs, their homes and even some who have to make do with less Supplemental Nutritional Assistance (food stamps) because of the ridiculous government sequester, it boggles the mind that so many others can sashay through Nordstrom or Walmart purchasing gifts for themselves and people that have everything without shame or guilt and without feeling exploited and used by giant corporations that are only concerned with padding their bottom line. Santa Claus has become their shill and it seems that many people are mindlessly caught up in the hype.
Tension is high! This year there is less time between Thanksgiving and Christmas for shoppers to spend their money! Heaven forbid! Stock market analysts hover over sales reports like anxious Scrooges. The spirit of the season — religious or not — gets lost in the shuffle. A time traditionally celebrated with warm hearths, warm hearts, family closeness and love has become an orgy of consumerism. Corporate interests are thrilled, of course. What more than a cock-eyed bunch of shoppers excites them and sends them giggling to the bank? As Piero Ferrucci wrote in his wonderful book, “The Power of Kindness,” many of us have lost contact with our soul and are fleeing toward the chimera of consumerism, or else are lost in a fog of depression.”
There are many gifts that we can bestow upon our loved ones that cost nothing but contribute greatly to the quality of life all year long. How about time? If we were to use the time and energy with our families that is normally used for shopping and wrapping gifts and searching for the perfect decorations, think of the possibilities! First, the decrease in stress would benefit everyone. Add more time to create projects together, contemplate life, play games or just enjoy each other’s company.
How do we justify thinking that we are so entitled when there are many people in this country and the world who do not have enough food or a decent place to live? How much stuff do we think we have to have before we feel secure or satisfied or superior? All of this sacrifice on the altar of corporate interests is a huge indication of a gnawing emptiness within those consumers who never seem to have enough.
As Ferrucci asks: “How can we sit down to eat peacefully knowing that 15 million children die of hunger or malnutrition every year?” Just think how much good could be accomplished if most of the money spent for gifts that no one needs were to be contributed to charities devoted to improving life for those who have very little! Just think of how much better the karma of whatever we are commemorating if we were to create a way to celebrate or observe without exchanging material gifts. Few see virtue in prudence, living simply, sacrificing anything for the good of all or a sense of responsibility to teach our children that the good life is not in what you have but in what you are. Instead, we have self-serving modern vices that include instant gratification, indulging yourself and getting all you can while the getting’s good.
Instead of spending on gifts for those who have everything, wouldn’t it make more sense to donate generously to Second Harvest Food Bank, St. Anthony’s Dining Room, the Philippine Relief Fund or similar? Wouldn’t it be better to use Christmas as an opportunity to teach the children by example that having everything is not really what makes for life satisfaction, but sharing what we have with others who may be in need? Would that the message of Christmas would revert to that of the old days when people felt that they were all in this together and we must do what we can to generate love, compassion, empathy, etc.
“Humility is a precious attitude in times such as ours when waste is the very basis of economic development, greed a lifestyle and demand for new privileges a social deity. Those who make do with what they have are often considered losers. Yet they are the ones most likely to be serene and happy.” — Ferrucci.
Since 1984, Dorothy Dimitre has written more than 700 columns for various local newspapers. Her email address is email@example.com.