December 02, 2003

Why Shouldn't Consumers Consume?

Far be it for me to piss anyone off but, according to some people, Americans should be ashamed about buying stuff during the Holiday season, or something like that.

In other words, American consumers shouldn't buy anything because to do so means we've fallen victim to the marketing bogeymen out to taint the Christmas season with the smear of capitalism. They've killed Christmas! Those bastards!

The problem I have with people making such asinine claims is that they just seem as though they want something to complain about, and they see a few colored lights and crazed shoppers and they yell "See?! See?! This is what's wrong with America! This is what's wrong with the world!" Whatever.

I like Christmas. No, scratch that. . . I like the Holiday season, and I don't particularly care that it has crept as far back on the calendar as Halloween. So what?

Has Christmas marketing hit a state of overkill? Sure. But, as with most things that have hit a state of overkill, I've become very adept at ignoring it. Just because the powers that be have decided that I should want to do all my Christmas shopping on the day after Thanksgiving, that doesn't mean I'm paying any attention to it.

What I do pay attention to are the things about Christmas I like. For example, considering that I live in Minnesota, where everything dies in October and the shortened days means it's pretty damned dark come 4:30 p.m., I really kind of enjoy the explosion of Christmas lights adorning all the houses and bushes and trees outside. They provide a splash of color and light during a particularly dreary time of year, and I secretly applaud those folks who keep those lights burning well into January and even February. Back when I was in high school, during the longest and most grueling (yet awesome) sports season in existence, wrestling, I would drag myself home after practice, my recently washed hair freezing into triangular crinkles, and the sight of houses bedecked with lights just made me feel, I don't know, somehow warmer. You may see Christmas lights as a beacon of the commercialization of Christmas, but I sure as hell don't. Ditto for Christmas trees and wreaths and anything else that reminds me that green trees and foliage DOES exist.

And, damn it, I don't care what all the naysayers groan about Christmas being an excuse for people to be nice for 1/12 of the year. I'm a realist. I understand that people have a buttload of personal problems, as trivial or monumental as they may seem to the rest of us, and so they're not inclined to be particularly pleasant during the rest of the year. If the Holiday season gives them a reason, however brief, to smile or wave at me for a change, then wonderful. And, yes, I realize that the suicide rate spikes during the Christmas season but, seriously, if Christmas didn't exist, those people would find some other time to off themselves. Maybe Yom Kippur?

Those who rail against the commercialization of Christmas seem to hold onto some sort of misguided righteous indignation that the holiday is just an excuse to buy gifts for people when, in fact, people should be buying gifts for people thoughout the year if they mean anything at all to you. That's a very touching sentiment, but. . . puh-lease.

I buy my girlfriend little things throughout the year, and I think I've invested enough in dinners with her to put five kids through Harvard. But, I just don't have the money to buy her truly wonderful and thoughtful things throughout the year. Christmas gives me a holiday, a day on the calendar, to save up and buy nice things for those who mean something to me. I really have a hard time finding the problem with that.

And, you know what? There are people on this planet who truly enjoy shopping. I mean, they honestly get off on doing battle with other shoppers to get a stellar deal. Shopping: it's their anti-drug. In other words, if they want to hop on the hype wagon and fight shopping crowds during the busiest shopping day of the year, where, exactly, is the problem with that?

I'm not one of those people. I detest shopping. I detest long lines. I detest labryinth-like parking. But, you know what? That's why I'm NOT a holiday shopper. I don't begrudge those who do participate in the hooplah. More power to them, I say. I'm more than happy to watch them on the local news, but I'm not interested in joining their ranks. But, you'll notice something about those shoppers when they're interviewed. Typically, they're smiling ear to ear. They're enjoying the living shit out of themselves.

And that's the problem with moronic excercises such as Do Not Shop Day. The only people who really observe that day are those people who have already decided they're not going to shop that day. It's like me deciding I'm not going to buy a car on Oct. 15, and then joining a club dedicated to those who have decided not to buy a car on Oct. 15. Pointless pointlessness. Actually, in my opinion, most everything initiated by AdBusters are exercises in pointless pointlessness (basically a group that advertises anti-advertising: how avant garde *groan*).

I'm not a sucker for advertising, with the exception of Axe Body Spray, of which I now own three bottles thanks to those fun commercials. Still, I'm not going to go out and buy a Humvee or a diamond bracelet or a genetically modified puppy just because the commercials tell me that they're what people should aspire to buy. I buy what I want to buy, usually oblivious to the siren call of advertising. I find it extremely easy to tune out most of the Holiday marketing. Seriously, it's not that difficult.

Unless, say, you've decided to have a problem with Christmas. Then the commercialization of the season is hard to ignore, because you're already convinced that it's bad, and it's wrong, and it's evil. Then you see it everywhere, which is too bad, because the Holiday season is really kind of cool.

Posted by Ryan at December 2, 2003 10:56 AM
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