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December 6, 2009

Whatcha want? Whatcha got?

Hello. Buy, buy. Or to paraphrase Mark Twain: Everybody complains about the Christmas shopping frenzy, but nobody does anything about it. Starts about Labor Day now, doesn’t it? Forced labor, shop till you drop. Life is all economics, right? Bad economics = bad life and vice versa. That’s what it’s all about. Give an’ take, in and out, keep the blood/money movin’ around. You shop at my store; I’ll shop at yours. Get it while it’s hot. Newer is better. The one with the most junk wins.

Remember that TV show from 30 years ago where people got five minutes in a supermarket to grab anything they wanted? Wow, what a dream, better than Halloween candy, like the 12 Days of Christmas. I want all that stuff, even if I don’t know what it is. I do know it’s all free! Complimentary, they call it now. [Sorry, can’t walk in the woods or down on the beach or look at the stars or swim in the river. Can’t enjoy breathing fresh air or drinking sweet water, gotta go downtown and get my FREE stuff. I deserve it. I need it. Or else somebody else’ll get it first.]

What if I gave you a million dollars right now? Who would refuse? (Nobody.) Think of all the great things you could do with all the great things you could buy. Sorry, I won’t. Disappointed? Do you hate your non-million dollar life so much? Boys and girls living/learning at the mall, if I only had that ... and that ...

Free at last, free at last. Will we ever be free from the Big Lie of getting something for nothing? Or ‘slave your life away and you will be rewarded’? Money brings happiness. Will they just continue to fool us every time, like lab animals that keep grabbing the cookie even though they get a shock instead of food? Can we shake this tragic distraction of the hysterical market: “Hey, buy this! Over here, buy this!” Can we have a little quiet, please?

And they sell us our opinions, our religions, our politics, our wars, our entertainment, our pastimes, even our conceptions of ourselves as a country, an ethnicity, as individuals: Who we are is right there in CostCo alongside the miracle knives and the flat tummy machine. You are what you buy, they say. You are what you sell, I say.

Yet can we not buy in, just say no? Conformists need nonconformists to define them, consumers/nonconsumers, the buyer weary/the buyer be wary. This silly new green consciousness, for example, a fad, like people didn’t live simply and self-sufficiently in our grandparents’ day. Like we didn’t know what ecologically sound meant five years ago, twenty-five, fifty-five. As my Thomas Jefferson Junior High P.E. teacher, Coach Smith, would say: “I don't buy that brand of crap!”

But we gotta buy something, some brand of crap. Can’t live on air and poetry. Or handouts for very long. And then the gentler, friendlier companies like Starbucks or Timberland or Nike turn out to be the same greedy bastards that have conned us and squeezed us out of our dough all our lives. So the people who see behind the curtain at the little man running the big machine (because they look, most people don’t want to see) know what’s going on, but what’s the alternative? What choice do we have? I used to believe that the little choices mattered (ethical shopping stress), buy the all-natural, all-organic, 100% no preservative soap, even if it doesn’t clean as well. But, you know, there are bigger pictures.

What I need is a slogan to live by. Give me an F! Give me an F?

And whatever happened to the myths, the myth of a non-crashable system, the myth of continuous growth, the myth of noble competition? Back in the seventies and eighties I took Continental Trailways buses a lot and wondered why the station was always across the street from their biggest competitor, Greyhound. Later I found out they were both owned by the same company. It was phony competition, and I was the victim. And tell me again why Microsoft saved Apple from bankruptcy? And, while you’re at it, I’d like a list of the millionaires and billionaires that lost every cent in the recent crack. The soup-lines are full of bankers, right? All we hear on TV are rich people telling us that prosperity is right around the corner, and we chase the carrot around in circles, digging a rut with our work boots.

Cogs. Maybe you’ve got a mission, a noble humanitarian calling. Maybe your work is to save lives or fight injustice or ignorance, poverty or addiction. Are you still selling something? An idea, a principle? ‘Fraid so. Wait a minute. My doctor, for example, is giving his/her gifts away, isn’t he/she? In between rounds of golf. Optimists might buy that, but we can see that the drug company mafia and the insurance company mafia and even the medical research mafia have us all by the throats and are tightening their grasp the more they perceive their power is threatened. And Republicans and Democrats keep screaming: “Brainwash me, I beg you!” I must have quit believing in good intentions (even my own) when I turned fifty. Or I’m in a particularly bad mood this morning.

I haven’t seen Michael Moore’s latest film, “Capitalism: A Love Story," but I did see “Religulous” by Bill Maher. I don’t want to spoil it for you (if you’re brave enough to watch); let’s just say that it’s related to my song “I Believe in Santa,” posted (free) on myspace (click right). As a P.K. I’m exempt from charges of blasphemy.

Yet and all, it is sad that our greatest cultural folk hero representing the values and hopes of an entire nation is not a saint or holy man (surely not St. Nick the Turk, the patron saint of pawnbrokers) or even a superior being or superhero, but merely a cardboard advertising character, cynical fakelore. Two-dimensional too, don’t look around his back; there’s only a speaker going “ho ho ho!” till the battery runs down. That’s no loving old man dealing out justice in gifts, just a phony rip-off artist selling an unhealthy fizzy drink. As the year nears its end, we don’t celebrate some comforting religious legend or the conviction that love of clan leads to redemption; we celebrate sugar water with stimulants.

Humbug and happy trials, Martin

Mutt: Finally, I agree with everything he said. Amazing how he can insult every person on earth in so few words.
Jeff: Yeah. Brilliant. Ruin Christmas. Nice move. What’s next? Our mothers never loved us? I mean, is there no shame?
Mutt: It’s a shame to let any old nutso write a blog, I say. There oughta be a suppressive writers law.
Jeff: I say to write with a broken pencil is pointless.
Mutt: And I say a backward poet writes inverse.
Jeff: This is fun, keep going.
Mutt: A lot of money is tainted: 'Taint yours, and 'taint mine.
Jeff: Did you hear about the guy whose whole left side was cut off? He's all right now.
Mutt: They say that in a democracy it's your vote that counts; in feudalism, it's your Count that votes.
Jeff: And don’t forget: Those who get too big for their britches will be exposed in the end.
Mutt: One more thing ...
Jeff: What’s that?
Mutt: Santa's helpers ...
Jeff: Yeah?
Mutt: Subordinate clauses.
Jeff: Oh man, who farted?


M the B said...

Thanks to Mutt and Jeff for getting me back into the Christmas Spirit after Humbug's rant.

Graham Moody said...

Some of that and more, but we hear similar rants every year and still get into the Christmas spirit. It comes late for me, and I have learned that for the women in my family the decorations, the cookies, the lighted Dickens village, the presents, are very, very important. They loved it as children and they love it for their children.
Merry Christmas!!