I visited my local shopping mall yesterday and was horrified to discover that Christmas songs are now being played continuously. During my mercifully brief visit I heard, among other dire Christmas songs, a dance version of a 'A Little Drummer Boy'. Well, at least I didn't hear the atrocious 'Snoopy's Xmas' - every year I make a determined effort to avoid this song.
The mall put up their Christmas decorations about two weeks ago, but with the introduction of the cheesy Christmas pop songs, the manufacturers, the corporations and the retailers, are cranking up the pressure again - whipping up consumers into a buying frenzy and putting more pressure on the environment as more useless goods are produced which will ultimately end up in landfills.
Coming soon, within the next few days, will be the mall's 'Santa Claus' - some retired guy getting barely more than the minimum hourly rate.
Columnist Christopher Hitchens got it right when he wrote:
.'.what I have always hated about the month of December: the atmosphere of a one-party state. On all media and in all newspapers, endless invocations of the same repetitive theme. In all public places, from train stations to department stores, an insistent din of identical propaganda and identical music. The collectivization of gaiety and the compulsory infliction of joy.'
The message is if that we don't get into the 'Christmas spirit' (ie buying stuff) then we can't experience real joy. We can't be happy. We can't be fulfilled.
But the promises of consumerism are empty. In fact we're less happy, less fulfilled.
According to the World Health Organisation by the year 2020, if current trends continue, only heart disease will effect more people than depression. In the economically prosperous west, depression will by that time be the biggest health problem.
In New Zealand, the rate of depression continues to rise. Its estimated that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men suffer from depression. Also significant is that people are now experiencing serious depression at an earlier age.
Depression is linked with over half the suicide attempts in New Zealand.
And the rate of depression increases markedly during the lead-up to Christmas, during this period of so called of 'peace and goodwill'. Welfare agencies report more people seeking help. Women refuges are bracing themselves for the Christmas influx of women who have been assaulted by violent partners.
But the corporations and the retailers want your money and they'll use every weapon in their arsenal of Christmas bullshit to get you to buy stuff they you can either not afford or don't need - or both.
Here's an alarming fact: More than three-quarters of the world's forests have already been cleared to feed our consumerist culture , and still there is no halt. Every year a further area, the size of Austria, is cleared of virgin forests from the Amazon to Indonesia, so that we can keep consuming.
How many people will think of such matters or will the message be drowned out by the insane babble of capitalism in Christmas overdrive?