The consumption frenzy that is the annual celebration of market religion once began after Thanksgiving but as economic problems grow the season of overspending starts even before Halloween. During this time when many seek spiritual joy through shopping but often find material sorrow through debt, we really should consider what it is we celebrate, and why.
Long before humanity invented religion or calendars our ancestors huddled in caves during the darkest cold, discovering in the process that we needed one another to survive. The winter solstice brought our primitive communist ancestors together to cope with fears but also strengthened faith that the darkness would ultimately lift, light would return and nature be reborn. And this was always the case, thereby setting a tradition for the celebration of future light, and the warm security provided by the community of kinfolk and tribes.
In the 21st century another darkness is descending not as a result of nature alone but of our systematic attack on that wonder. Continuous war and threats of economic and environmental breakdown present us with more crises than we’ve ever had to face, not simply as families, tribes or nations but as a race. And while we learn, all too slowly, that despite geographic and cultural differences we are one extended human family, those differences are manipulated by rulers and used to keep us in a mental darkness that threatens our future survival. So as we wallow in the season of further increasing already unpayable debt we should consider this natural impulse to come together at special times and its perversion and transformation into a mass marketing orgy that covers evidence of a society going mad under a cloak of senseless individual consumption.
During our earliest days life was a struggle for all and not just some. But as we evolved we found that clinging together was not only the best but the only way to survive, as when the coldest, darkest nights offered no other security. That impulse is still part of us though it seems hard to find in present divisive reality of competitive and warring national organizations that corrupt healthy individual instincts by perverting the social nature of their origins.
While much of the religious impulse is toward material good for the whole human community, dualistic racial supremacists control the dominating biblical faith of Judeo-Christianity and menace all that is positive within any and all other faiths. Their fanatic absolutism denies our commonality by separating us into cults of competitive warriors. They rationalize violence as necessary to protect some of us from the rest of us, in support of governments, which wage war for political economic systems of profit and loss, which always mean profits for a minority and loss for everyone else. The contradiction between human ideals and spiritual dreams must be confronted at a time when it is more apparent than ever that preaching charity and togetherness for a special season makes no sense at all when we accept brutality and alienation for all seasons.
The holidays are never joyous for the billions living in poverty, nor those invaded, occupied and made refugees by a warped moral code that glorifies waste and celebrates pain. When we have reached a material level which could assure lives of decent comfort to all humanity, what allows this situation to prevail? The reason is not mythological or supernatural; it is political and economic and needs to be changed, radically, by the democratic human family which has been manipulated into being dysfunctional for far too long. Wouldn’t it be nice to celebrate a holiday season not only with those at our dinner table or religious service but by extension with all those unable to physically join us where we huddle in greater physical comfort than our ancestors might ever have dreamed? We don’t want to return to the material status of those ancestors, but it could happen if we don’t gain control of our social and natural environments, which are inseparable but at present being torn limb from limb. We might advance as a race, both materially and spiritually, by relearning our ancestors solidarity practiced in times of greatest stress and need.
Political systems use religion to keep people focused on an immaterial future and oblivious to the material present, but the best religious motivation brings people together for the betterment of all, in the here and now. Despite those thrown into fundamentalist fanaticism by conditions of oppression, a larger segment of believers are motivated to take social actions for humanitarian values not limited to only their own faith or belief systems. While some politics is helping create radical change, however slowly, it does so balanced with strong religious belief inspiring much citizen action. Whether movements for radical change are political or religious based they are portrayed as menacing by ruling forces that work to maintain the system of commercially murderous hypocrisy and call it enlightened moral democracy.
It is no longer the natural conditions of weather or seasons that are a problem for all humanity but political economic systems of domination by minorities which threaten our race more than ever before, and even when what is dubbed “climate change” is called natural by those whose profits would end at democracy’s beginning, we are learning that the political damage inflicted by an uncontrolled economic tyranny is what needs to end for human salvation to truly begin.
Our early ancestors clung together hoping for a rebirth of nature, which always came. We live in a time when the death of nature is not a mysterious menace from collective unconsciousness but a real earthly force driven by pursuit of private benefit to be gained only at the ultimate public cost. We should exercise the spirit of the season in the communal way in which it was born and revive its past social impulse as a means of working for present social change. Rather than continue throwing money we don’t really have into the immoral mall that is a major part of our problem, if we shop for presents this season, we might consider buying them from organizations, people and businesses working for another world of peace and social justice. We could further its possibilities by helping create a celebration of humanity and not simply an economic bottom line that could cause our aspiring civilization to bottom out. Let’s spend, if we must with acts of thoughtful hope for the future of all and not just our immediate families and friends, and however we choose to label them, have happier holidays in the process.