Like We Need Another Excuse…..

As Christmas approaches once again, I can’t help but notice that the holidays have become less about giving, family, friends and being together and more about spending, buying, and yes, “CONSUMING.”

Increasingly I hear the term “consumer” being bandied about; consumer economy, consumer pricing, even consumer holiday.  In Canada, Boxing Day has traditionally been our “consumer holiday,” as if that was something to celebrate or even participate in.

This year I couldn’t help but notice how “Black Friday,” the US equivalent of Boxing Day, is being touted here in Canada as well.  This year it fell on Friday November 25th.

It seems that one “consumer holiday” is not enough in Canada, we need another excuse, right? I think a more appropriate term for us should be “conned-sumer!”

Who came up with this term in the first place? What is a “consumer” and why do we let ourselves be called that in the first place?

To “consume” means to use up or destroy.  Is that how you wish to be labelled – as a destroyer of things?  The very word itself denotes images of rats being let loose in a grain warehouse – “consuming” anything and everything in their path.  Just look at some of the images from “Black Friday” from our neighbors in the South…

Lining up for hours or even days outside of stores, then pushing and shoving their way in to be the first to engage in a veritable orgy of spending and purchasing. Fights break out in parking lots and line ups, then like misbehaving children people literally fight one another in the store over the last remaining trinkets or gew gaws.

That’s a “conned-sumer” if I’ve ever seen one!

The corporations of course wring their hands in glee as they witness us acting like a bunch of mindless lemmings, and even encourage this behavior by offering a too-good-to-be-true deal on that newest electronic gizmo then only having 5 in the store while dozens of people are left to duke it out.

Even the term “Black Friday” and “Boxing Day” seem ironically appropriate – the “Black” describing the greed and the animal like behavior, and the “Boxing” describing what you have to be prepared to do in order to get what you lined up for!

Yet the thing that amazes me the most is how many people not only participate in this nonsense, but how they react when you tell them how silly they are being.  What’s the matter, they say as they look at you quizically, don’t you like to get a good deal? Don’t you LIKE Christmas?

In all honesty this used to be my most favourite time of year, with all the lights and the snow and the decorations and special music…but as of late it has lost much of its magic and has been replaced by a sense of disgust and foreboding.

What have we allowed ourselves to become? A bunch of spoiled, petulant children scuffling with one another over useless things because, well, we’re SUPPOSED to – that’s what the retailers tell us anyhow!

This really began to hit home on me a couple of years ago when spending Christmas Day at a relatives house. Now, my family celebrates Christmas with giving gifts as well, but nothing prepared me for the veritable onslaught of presents that we encountered when we arrived; you could scarcely notice the Christmas tree under the mountain of gifts that were under the tree, almost all of them being for my relatives two young children.

As they opened one gift after another after another, which seemingly took an entire afternoon and the better part of the week, I observed their reaction; they would open a gift, give it a barely cursory glance, then immediately put it down and continue to the next, and the next, and the next….I don’t think I ever received that amount of presents throughout my entire life, let alone what those two kids received in that one day. There literally must have been several THOUSAND dollars worth of gifts – per child – under that tree, yet when all was said and done, they went through their stash, picked out one toy to play with and the rest were forgotten quicker than last spring.

Then, after receiving all of these wonderful gifts, they woke up extra early the following morning to get into line in front of the electronics store to buy MORE things as, tragic as it was, they didn’t get EVERYTHING that they wanted!

Of course, when I commented on how many presents they had and why would they want to line up at a store the next day to buy MORE stuff, they gave me this “Don’t You Get It?” look that is reserved only for less than “cool” and “not with it” silly relatives.

And what about the true spirit of the holidays-that of sharing good times together with family and friends?  What of helping people in need? What of the joy of spending the holidays with the people we love, and of sharing and compassion and of good will towards all men and all that stuff?

Think about that this holiday season – how can I NOT be a “CONNED-SUMER” and what can I do to make Christmas a truly special and fruitful holiday? How about not going so crazy on the spending? Twelve year old kids REALLY don’t need laptops and Blackberries. And how about donating your time or money towards charities, or calling people you haven’t talked to in awhile?

Well, I suppose that a 60 inch LCD TV for under $500 trumps that all…

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About Nick Lagrasta

Chief instructor, Classical Martial Arts Centre, Umaka Dojo, Shelburne Ontario
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