I don’t do Christmas any more. I decided to stop once I lived alone and therefore had no familial pressures to deal with at home, but even so it was not an easy process, yet I was tired of grumbling about Christmas but not doing anything about it. It took some years before I even began to feel comfortable about my withdrawal from participating in the international (and seemingly all embracing) phenomenon that is Christmas.
The first five years were incredibly difficult during which I felt I was engaged in an internal war against what felt like a psychological and emotional assault which lasted the entire month of December.
If we look at Christmas as a social experiment of mass manipulation, then it is a very successful one in which individual personal choice is, if not eliminated, then certainly muted to a very high degree and in which the pressure to comply, both internal and external, is very high, not least through obligation and guilt.
If you want to experiment with withdrawal of consent then Christmas is a good time to do it because there is no way you will not be impacted strongly and your decision challenged in a multitude of ways both internally and externally.
It helped, I discovered, to have already rid myself of any televisual influence in my life, having decided to give my television a flying lesson from my second story flat window some years previously. I would have offered it more lessons, as it seemed to have a natural talent for flying, but it lacked any talent for landings and its dismembered parts did not look keen for more.
But there is something important to say about our sovereign will here and the power of choice. Television is a portal through which a constant barrage of ‘stuff’, very much including advertising, is broadcast into the hearts of homes and all who live there. At Christmas especially, that is not in any way helpful. But it says something about the power of will that what is required to keep it in check, or subvert it, is a constant battering.
If someone demands you do something, it requires an act of will to refuse and that can be difficult. Being constantly nagged by someone to do something even though you’ve already refused to do it, is harder still, not least because they are almost certain to be close to you. The onslaught of television is that although it is only a box, the images and sounds it produces come from a wide variety of sources and that’s nagging at another level of social, cultural, commercial and political influence within the intimate sphere of home. No matter how any of us might choose the ‘off’ option, there is no way, even with sparing use, that we can miss the cultural and social references that are built in and around television programmes, especially at Christmas.
Choosing not to do Christmas and/or television requires a rationale for doing so, something on which the decision or choice is based. For me it was primarily about my own daily battle with mental ill health and needing to be grounded in myself without undue influence from anywhere, anything or anyone else. The fewer sources of influence, the less processing it takes me to stay grounded and I particularly wanted rid of commercial influences which clearly have a self serving agenda no matter how they present and pack their products in very smart advertising. It was recently estimated that $500 billion is invested globally on advertising every year. For me that’s $500 billion of influence I would like to avoid as much as possible and the last place I want it is beaming into my home.
Nowadays I am a lot more relaxed around Christmas, this year December hasn’t bothered me at all and I am quite comfortable with Christmas approaching and will doubtless spend a quiet one on the one day of the year when the streets are at their most quiet for much of the day. I have no desire to participate in a season of good will, or a season to be jolly, and I am perfectly capable of thinking and caring about others with good will at any time of year.
There is also a quietly pleasing subversive element to not doing Christmas, which I engage with just for me, to be free of something that, whilst is has some entirely benign and pleasant aspects, I am just as capable of engaging with at any other time and not some brief celebration in December, which will have no influence on the killing fields of humanity in the global nightmare of war. It isn’t me who needs to find some soul, it is governments and corporations and all those who prosper from their inhumanity at a cost that is always met by others, especially poor people.
So, if you want to play guerrilla warfare with your head, try taking on Christmas. Personally, I think it’d do you a world of good once you deal with the ball ache you’ll get for not complying, not least from your own head. That all said, if you enjoy Christmas and/or have children, I sincerely hope that you have a very good one.
Hearth, home, health and peace of mind to everyone, most especially those who are increasingly excluded from even these, as minimum rights, if we are to become and regard ourselves as civilised.
KOG 14 December 2016