Da Black Whole

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Christmas in November

The day before Thanksgiving, I was tooling around the local burg, trying to kill time (failed, it still lives.)

I was pleased, but amazed, to find so many light-displays already up. It seemed very premature -- the weekend
after Thanksgiving being the earliest date I can recall for setting up Christmas displays, and the more common date being, perhaps, the first or second weekend in December.

. . . and premature is, I think, the operative word here.

But LOTS of folks already had their displays up, barely halfway through November.

It seemed strange, but I already had plenty of strangeness happening (as usual!), so thought nothing more of it.

Then today, the author of Egg Salad Annie -- with no prompting from me -- mentioned the same phenomenon. Annie and I live a couple thousand miles from each other, so it's not like we were canvassing the same town.

Annie suggested the early-jump on Christmas smelled of desperation, American-style. That hadn't occurred to me, but as soon as she mentioned it, I knew she'd rung the bell.

We're used to commercial interests "moving up" the holidays, but these were private homes. I think this particular zeitgeist has a lot to do with our collective national denial about . . . well, about damn-near everything.

I mean, pick a sickness: environmental degradation, mass homelessness, the prison-industrial complex, torture-as-policy, gender war, extensive government corruption, pandemic alcohol/drug abuse, empire-building, fatherlessness, and a host of other maladies, mostly self-inflicted.

We've done virtually nada over the past three or four decades to address -- much less resolve! -- our basic national problems. We've settled for superficial fixes that, deep down, we know don't work and can't last. But we lack the national will and courage to look at the reality of ourselves. Many of us are Phat, very Phat, in the sense of materialism and power, and we'd rather buy a new car, vote for obviously corrupt "leaders," turn on the teevee, and pop open a sixer than face the abject failure of our generation.

The human capacity for denial, whether individual or collective, is massive -- and to some extent, also necessary. The average developing human psyche, personal or national, can only stand so much. We live in times of exponential cultural and global change, and the very earth seems ever bucking and rolling beneath our feet. The handrails of tradition largely have disappeared. Despite the wealth of information available, we mostly don't want to know anything that might upset us, or challenge our biases.

The Bomb Generation, living under extreme global stressors, fled underground psychologically. We cocooned, and certainly our mass regression to matriarchy -- to Mommy -- is part of that collective denial.

But at some point, no matter how stressful, children must become adults, and face not only denial, but the serious problems underlying that denial.

To take merely one example: as a nation, we knew forty years ago that fossil fuels were running out, that our waste was shameful, and that both environmentally and econonically --even in national self-interest -- we had to change our ways.

But we didn't. We just kept on -- and keep on -- sliding into oblivion, barely bothering, as individuals or communites, to take easy and simple conservation measures that would greatly alleviate this particular problem.

We couldn't be bothered. We wouldn't be bothered. We won't be bothered. And, as always, our "leaders" -- looking to cash in, to consolidate power and influence -- facilitated our denial, making it "ok" to do the wrong thing, or more often, to do nothing. The destabilization of our economy -- no problem. The suffering of other beings -- so what. Extinction of species -- don't distract me, I'm watching The Simpsons.

Living in an ongoing Twilight Zone is psychologically comfy. We can endlessly put off our responsiblities with a litany of excuses: I'm tired, I've got kids to care for, my head hurts, I'm oppressed, I can't make a difference, or the perennial favorite, hey I already work 40 hours plus, get the hell away.

But hell, apparently, isn't going anywhere.

So a few decades back, intead of attacking our (admittedly severe) problems deliberately and honestly, we simply shut down. We crept into our hideyholes, let the iron door on the Bomb Shelter clang down, and shot the bolt -- from the inside.

Now we're stuck in the hole together -- and the pit we dug for control, safety, and protection became our prison. We know we're in there, we know we blew it, but it's easier to remain in eternal Twilight than kick open the cover and bear the piercing sun.

So we string up the Christmas lights, even though we haven't even had Thanksgiving yet. Zombie-ing along in mass depression, we literally can't wait for the Happy Holiday. Anything to jumpstart a little feelgoodism. In our fractured, psychotic, greedy, violent culture, Christmas is our final bastion of tradition, our last tether to togetherness. We cling to it because we've pretty much let everything else go to shit.

I love Christmas. I love Christmas displays, and I appreciate the time and effort folks take to make the holidays a little brighter. But everything has its time, including Christmas, and rushing pell-mell toward that day is desperate and, somehow, dishonest. It's self-infantilization, and lessens the intensity of the season, siphoning the holiness, the wholesomeness, from the holiday.

You can't force joy. Once we start facing our national maladies -- really attempting to ameliorate or solve the extremely pressing problems of our times, beyond fake bandaid solutions -- we won't hunger to have Christmas in November.

Feliz Navidad!


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