Saturday 27 December 2008

Christmas is today, the feast of thieves

Between God and mammon

One is almost driven to distraction about the way Christmas is so yoked to retailing to the complete exclusion of the Christmas story in the United Kingdom.

Originally, as varied historians assert, what became the Christmas [1] feast was once a pagan feast, not that it so matters now, but the contemporary message of Christmas should for all intents and purposes retain a link to what gives rise to the celebration.

What I see on the English channels on my hotel television is the great lament about retailers, shopping, bargains and profits – Baby Jesus cannot seem to get in edge-ways.

Buying at every cost

Materialism has pervaded the atmosphere, even customers are rushing into the upscale Selfridges, it really makes you wonder as people queue up for shopping in the winter cold just to grab a cheaper handbag, shirt or dress.

In my view, what you cannot afford at the full price you probably should not have, the victory of a bargain or a price reduction by omission or commission rely belies a poverty of spirit that people fail to understand. However, sometimes shops have deals or promotions but we should not be waiting for the stirring of the water by angels [2] for cripples to “jump” in.

Between affordability and bargains

For instance, when I was buying my home, my unspoken prayer was to be able to afford it whenever I was ready rather than having to wait for prices to collapse before I stepped in – what if prices did not collapse but doubled, then I would never get to buy my home.

Equally, much as we live in a debt-fuelled world where the ability to pay off a debt depicts your seeming creditworthiness especially if you are middleclass, the received wisdom should be that one should not spend what you do not have in the bank to pay off – regardless of the reach of your credit cards.

But people are trapped in a hedonistic addiction to goods and the need to be able to show off, Christmas should never be a time for bargains and really, I have no sympathy for retailers who fleece their customers throughout the year and plead low till receipts at the end of the year.

Not in that demographic

If most customers were like me, retailers would have to get into better logistics to keep in the market, the competition would be so keen that only retailers with durable, sophisticated and valuable goods would remain in the marketplace.

Behind all this lament of the retailers stands the shareholders who have raked in profits like money is going out of fashion and even in these lean times, they still expect those atrocious profits – my wallet is closed because, the shoes I buy, last; the clothes I wear are durable; I am not a fashion slave, my old television still shows good pictures and I am not given to unnecessary ostentation.

The government would like the economy to recover through more consumer spending, which is a fine macro-economic idea, but customers as individuals need to be wary of situations where they are more exposed financially than they should be – thrifty is the word, regardless of the national call to spend; except where you have received a bailout from the government.

Bring Christmas back

Since Christmas is about the roots of Christianity, if the retailers are having a really tough time this Christmas without any mention of Christ, we can look at it as the proverbial overturning of the tables in the temple – then Jesus took exception to making His Father’s house a den of thieves [3], today, the climate takes exception to making a holy and religious time of celebration and reflection a trading day for cheaper tat.

Maybe one should have some sympathy for the impoverished, seeking the unaffordable but who think overpriced goods they crave are now a bargain to be had – conversely, maybe that is the real price of the goods with a little markup – we have all been had and we think we have had them.

In fact, Christmas becomes a good cloaking scam for a more sinister con, but if it costs less, it is worth less or should that be worthless?


[1] Christmas - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[2] John 5:4 For an angel of the Lord went down at certain

[3] Den of thieves

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