Saturday, 13 December 2008

Christmas Commercial

I have consumed a lot of caffeine during the past hour, and you will have to forgive me because my mind is vibrating. Luckily overdosing on caffeine has helped to dim last night’s hangover. At nineteen I was able to slug an ungodly amount of alcohol down my throat, and feel no ill effects in the morning (trust me, I tested this on a regular basis). If there was any latent discomfort it could be easily cured by greasy food. That was then. This is now. Now, the idea of eating a ton of grease makes me want to hurl. The larger issue – I can tolerate a fraction of the alcohol that I used to be able to. I can see I have work to do over the Christmas holidays.

Yep. Christmas. It’s officially the Christmas season. Actually I am fairly certain that it has been the “Christmas season” since sometime around Labour Day. It was fairly shocking that while the UK faced economic collapse, the solution was to begin Christmas in early October. Stores quickly threw up their decorations, moderately impressive sales were implemented, and Christmas music started to blare from speakers. This music is nauseating at the best of times – three solid months of it is downright cruel. And really…I’m not sure that this was the best approach to the Credit Crunch. Christmas is a fairly expensive time of year, and reminding consumers that they are financially destitute does not really seem very festive. Amidst daily reports of bank closures, bankruptcies, job losses and global financial meltdowns, reminding Mom & Dad that Johnny wants an Xbox, iPod, and Blackberry just finishes the gutting.

This year I am not doing Christmas – at least not in the conventional sense. I have no desire to decorate (and really, unless you have kids, or entertainment plans, why bother?), and I refuse to the gift thing. Oh yeah, I know; “The Spirit of the Season” is in gift giving. Not true. This is commercialistic idea, and I am sick of the commercialism of Christmas. I am tired of stores encouraging us to spend copious amounts of money on presents and trying to further the idea that love is somehow reflected by the amount of money that is spent on each individual. That is not the essence of Christmas. Johnny doesn’t need an Xbox. Suzy doesn’t need a new Blackberry Pearl. David doesn’t need the newest Nintendo. It shocks me when I see what parents purchase for their children. I realize that it is entirely the prerogative of the parent to do so – but let’s be realistic.

As you can tell by this blog, I work in schools, and have for almost a decade. It is time for parents to face the reality of their expensive gift giving habits. Firstly, I am absolutely shocked by what kids bring to school. Technology that is more expensive than I even wish to comprehend! Actually, I don’t even understand half of the technology that they show up with. Why these kids have these items at school is beyond me. But they do – and when these items go “missing”, teachers and support staff are left to deal with the consequences. I applaud the ever increasing number of schools banning many of these items from their halls. Here is the reality: kids are not little adults, and no matter how many times parents lecture their kids on the “value of money” (which most children hear as “blah blah blah”), and no matter how “mature”, “advanced”, or “understanding” Johnny is for his age, they are still kids. If parents saw how some of these items were treated while at school, they would likely be shocked too.

Oh but wait – here is what I love, and here is when you realize just how materialistic, dismissive and unappreciative our culture has become…oh yes…if you work in schools, you know what I am talking about…it’s the “My Parents Will Replace It” mentality. Ya. Who cares that the iPod is smashed? My parents will buy me a new one. Who cares that I dropped my entertainment system? We’ll go to the store later and replace it. This mentality is best reflected in how students now treat communal property.

I am of the Commodore 64 era. Yes, junky, boxy computers which were the biggest novelty of their time. We did not mess with those computers – we didn’t dare. Firstly, having a computer in the classroom was a HUGE deal! You didn’t dare do anything that cold possibly damage it – heck, you didn’t even touch it without supervision. If you were caught “messing” with it, there would be consequences! There was a hundred foot safe zone around those computers. For a brief time in the 80s, the computers were actually treated better than the students.
Now fast forward to 2008 – computers (including their value) have long been taken for granted by students. It doesn’t matter anymore. It is replaceable. If it breaks, buy a new one. As such, kids don’t think twice about tossing balls or other items in close proximity (and trust me, even in classrooms with excellent behaviour management it still happens!) and will more than willingly eat, drink and be merry around the classroom PC. It’s the prime indication of how far we have come.

So back to Christmas – I won’t be doing the whole Christmas stress thing this year. I see no point. I won’t be made to feel guilty for not spending overwhelming amounts of money (that I don’t have), and I won’t feel forced to create the “perfect Christmas”. But I will eat. Just because I have no intentions of overspending, I will definitely be enjoying a nice turkey dinner, with gravy, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and whatever else is piled on to my plate – don’t think for a second that I will forgo that! HA!! But in all seriousness, Christmas as lost something in our culture – when I look around at the stressed out faces, and see the grimaces of pain each time a credit card is swiped, is it really worth it? Shouldn’t it just be about spending a nice day with your family, without being paid to do so? The beautiful gifts become the ultimate form of bribery, and maybe its time to see Christmas for what it has become. Sad, but true.

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