All I Want For Christmas Is A War On Christmas

You don't even have to wrap it.

All I Want For Christmas Is A War On Christmas
Photo by Laurent Peignault on Unsplash, edited by author

I fully expect anti-leadership from our so-called leaders. If you do, too, it indicates you’ve been paying attention. Our leadership vacuum has reached critical mass. It’s a black hole. Ministers of the environment hold the environment down to help corporations more easily kick it in the face. Health officials minimize pandemics and undermine public health efforts at every turn. The president of the international effort to address the climate crisis is a fucking oil CEO who uses his position to push for the expansion of fossil fuels. Our collective lack of faith in public institutions is perfectly rational and evidence-based. Wherever you turn to seek leadership on an urgent issue, odds are you’ll find anti-leadership in its place.

It’s the context in which we all get personally blamed for things that people in positions of real power refuse to address. Your personal carbon footprint is goddamned insignificant besides that of Elon Musk or Taylor Swift. That doesn't mean it doesn't matter, because when scientists tell us we need everyone to do their part, it genuinely means everyone. We just need to be honest that if the poorest 90% of us all do all of the right things, we’re still completely screwed. 

Any possibility of an even halfway decent future requires we take responsibility not only for our personal share of the solution, but also somehow compensate for arsonists in charge obliterating all the good we’re doing with abuse of their top-down power. We can’t count on today’s leaders to provide real hope. Any real hope there might be has to somehow happen despite them. 

So: Christmas. The biggest squandered opportunity of the year, in which I’m including COP climate talks. Retail spending for this year’s Christmas season, despite handwringing over shrinking discretionary toy shopping budgets, is estimated to reach $1.3 Trillion. Hundreds of billions of dollars get thrown around throughout the calendar, of course. It’s not as if there’s an off-season for corporate welfare or profiteering on everything from exploiting your private data to dropping bombs on distant children. What makes Christmas stand out is that it’s the only occasion where assholes in suits aren’t making all the decisions without us and we the little people get to have any meaningful input into where the money goes. 

And where it goes is straight into a landfill, but only after making the world worse on the way there. 99% of what’s under the nation’s Christmas trees ends up in the trash in less than six months. Making cheap plastic crap that provides weak sauce momentary pleasure at best before being discarded still cranks out many tons of climate killing emissions. Sweatshop labourers suffer hellish conditions to make novelty reindeer sweaters that will only be worn once. Child labour and slavery makes the chocolate tucked into stockings possible. We are literally bankrupting ourselves in a race to expand the world’s garbage dumps. 

Gifting consumerist crap doesn’t really show our loved ones that we care. It shows that we don’t.

I can’t entirely blame us. Traumatized people rarely make clear headed decisions, and today’s collective trauma is beyond tsunami scale. After a year of cringing every time we look at the news or our grocery bill, some sort of long-awaited indulgence feels like exactly the balm our beleaguered spirits need. 

Christmas isn’t it. It’s actually the perfect mechanism for taking the various headaches we already face and pressure cooking them into full bore head splitters. The holidays maximize workload and stress levels. Gifting and feasting widen faultlines in breaking-point budgets as we feel pressured to grow yet more debt to show our largess. Family gatherings are super stressful at the best of times, but more so each year as hyperpartisan aggression makes your MAGA uncle ever more likely to fly off the handle while gifting you with Covid. The holidays hugely magnify domestic violence risks. Although it’s not true that suicides spike over Christmas, it shines a spotlight on a great many depression factors that we are conditioned to suppress over the holiday, which may contribute to a rapid rebound of suicide rates as soon as the tinsel gets packed away

It’s enough to make me hate the consumerist message made flesh who utterly fails at ushering in peace on Earth or goodwill to all every single time. Knowing full well that our so-called leaders are far more dedicated to squeezing every last drop of billionaire profits out of our misery than they are in preventing planetary ecosystem collapse, however, it turns out that exactly one good thing can come out of the Yuletide season. It’s a reminder that, for a very brief time yet, you and I still have the power to make a better world without them. If only we could find the collective will to do so.

We could plant more trees to sequester carbon as one plank in a mighty platform of interwoven climate measures. We could create no-fishing zones to prevent overfishing marine life into extinction, and act to preserve the precious and diminishing topsoil of our croplands. We could obliterate hunger, guarantee every person a secure supply of clean drinking water, and provide basic universal health care to every man, woman, and child on Earth, including reproductive care for all women everywhere. We know perfectly well how those things could be accomplished. It takes money, but not as much as you might think. The estimated cost to do all of those things added together would be surprisingly cheap, not much more than about $200 Billion a year. It’s roughly as much as the world gives the uber-profitable fossil fuel industry in subsidies every 12 days to make them even more wealthy while dooming our civilization. 

For less than one sixth of the resources we shovel into landfills in an endless orgy of mindless consumerism, we could replace childish indulgences with a real investment. One that would pay us back over and over again in countless different ways with greater security and safety and even human dignity in a civilization guaranteed to have a better tomorrow than our yesterdays.

Instead, we’ll collectively follow the example of our bad leaders, obsessing over trinkets and narcissistic crap as our plunge into a collective abyss accelerates without anyone wanting to look at it. 

This year we haven’t put up a tree. Instead, we’ve let a friend in need stay in our library where it would ordinarily stand. I didn’t even have the heart to listen to my collection of alternate Christmas songs for people who hate Christmas songs. My partner and I are already making good use of our one communally discussed gift: cozy electric blankets that let us stay comfy on the couch while turning the thermostat down to save energy. The highlight of the day itself will be preparing a fabulous meal from ingredients we grew ourselves in our ever-expanding vegetable garden. I’ll call distant family to hear their comforting voices and spare them the kick in the life expectancy that would accompany the indulgence of flying to see them in person.

I will show my love for the world and the people in it by demanding very little of it. I will tread softly on the Earth. And even though just about no one around me wants to hear it, I’ll remind folk of this awkward but vital holiday fact: for humanity to have a future, it’s not just the fossil fuel industry that needs to be shown the door. Santa needs to get the boot, too. A jolly old red faced walking exhortation to consumer excess and unspeakable waste isn’t doing us any favours. He’s just bringing the naughty more coal to scorch our hopes and dreams with.

Right wing pundits will bloviate about an imaginary war on Christmas sooner or later the way that they do every year. It will be no more real than it was last year or the year before that, and that’s a darned shame. A real war on Christmas, one with teeth, is pretty much exactly what we need. 

You don’t even have to wrap it. 

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