A Freeway in Hell

My thoughts on the nature of our late capitalist society. The title should give some clue what I think of that! US 101 or I-80 as metaphor for our imperatives. Besides worrying about what sort of black hole we are speeding into, I like airships. One reason being the almost inescapble desire to have one to get out of a traffic jam!

Location: Sonoma County, California

Grew up a military brat, Californian-in-exile, reactionary libertarian-essentially spent the 70s on Mars, for I am hearing impaired and I did not know what the music was saying. Generally still don't unless I listen to it over and over or find the words captioned on a movie or somewhere on line. Came "back" to California to begin my adult life, have not lived elsewhere since. No regrets there despite our problems here. Have studied physics, more math than most human beings will ever need, worked on spaceship projects (well, one) at JPL. Lived with a wonderful disabled person who lives no more--L Natasha Littletree RIP October 2004. I have a life plan, just kind of vague on some of the short-term stuff.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Keep the "X" in "Xmas!"

The commercialization of Christmas is a problem, but a very old problem. I'd say by the time the first Miracle on 34th Street movie was made the die was socially cast; if commercializing the holiday was going to ruin it, it started over half a century ago. Maybe it did.

Then again, I'm looking out the window at a dreary rainy day in Sonoma County and figuring, as I have ever since I moved to Humboldt County nearly 13 years ago, that the real "reason for the season" has nothing to do with anyone's religion. People who live in the temperate zone and north of there, in the Northern Hemisphere, generally get miserable weather around this time of year and so there is a deep social need for a holiday. If we didn't have a globally agreed upon party time now, we'd probably seek to hoard our food, money, fuel, whatever, until spring definitely had arrived. We'd spend half the year as miserable Scrooges. This way, we blow a lot of our savings, but we have the chance for a lot of socially shared good cheer, and no one will blame us for being sullenly hung over (for any number of reasons, many not chemical) next January. By then the solstice will have come and gone, and the days will be getting longer. The worst weather may still be to come but we only have to hold out till March or in some places May. Without Yuletide to brighten things up, we'd be much worse off.

Now of course a person who happens to believe in some particular model of how the Universe was organized can draw comfort and meaning from the symbolism of the season. They can assume all this came together with a Purpose in mind and it is no accident their organizing myths bless it. Historically speaking of course, the Christians co-opted a pre-existing holy season that was already a party time, and some denominations over the centuries have taken up arms against all the pagan fooling around that clearly doesn't have anything to do with the Scriptures. But if you believe in a kind and loving God or divine order of any kind, you ought to allow that it is no doubt providential that all this merry-making comes under the rubric of your traditions, even if it is clearly wrong from a Puritanical point of view.

The corporatization of the season is just another takeover in a long series of world-views that have adopted the season, then. If capitalism can have a human face, then we could have plenty of good, friendly fun with Xmas. Only if you suppose the cult of property is itself dangerously and inherently and irrevocably inhumane does it appear as an inherently terrible thing--and even then, we can always seek to co-opt the holidays back to a more humane, fun version and undermine capitalism that way.

I for one can't afford to run around buying gifts, but I can wish you all happy holidays, and remind us all to keep the "X" in "Xmas!"


Blogger Mimus Pauly said...

Ho-kay, that's it....

I know you aren't trying to bum anyone out, Mark. But I happen to like this time of year, warts and all. I do not buy into the commercialization -- I have no need to. I enjoy this season for what it is. Getting to know its pagan origins did me a lot of good. The ancient pagans who celebrated it (in their various ways) were, whether they realized it, celebrating the human spirit. Yes, things were bleak and unpromising, but there was always the hope that things would get better. And you know what? That hope has persisted to this day. So I'd say their hopes were vindicated. Maybe their fondest desires were dashed, I dunno. But the essense of what they hoped for remains intact.

And that's good enough for me...

12/17/2005 12:17 PM  
Blogger Mark H. Foxwell said...

Nope, not trying to bum anyone out except the louts who go around saying "keep the Christ in Christmas!" They are trying to impound the whole festive season for themselves and deny it to everyone else, so it suits me to mock them with the X.

Beyond that--X is the unknown, the variable, the case-by-case, in algebra. Therefore--your Yule, her Kwanzaa, their Hanukah, and even his Christmas can all be "X"-mas, and that even includes the shallow people whose only comfort comes from buying stuff. X-mas is everybody party as we diversely see fit in the best American tradition.

That is the true meaning of Xmas.

12/17/2005 12:44 PM  
Blogger The Fat Lady Sings said...

Thank you, Mark - for your kind comments on my site. I have been reading through your blogs - the tribute to Natasha was very moving. I'm so sorry. Losing someone you love just takes your soul and blasts it apart.

I've noticed you haven't updated here in a while. Do keep writing. It helps with the demons. Really.

I wish you well. Please take care.

The Fat Lady Sings

2/03/2006 9:38 AM  
Anonymous Shae said...

Hello, Mark. I clicked your link through a comment at Pandagon, and would like to suggest you paste your arguments on your site - they were more cogent than many people's blog posts.

Barring that, best of luck finding the Muse again.

(P.S. Hi from another military-brat.)

2/24/2006 11:25 AM  
Anonymous eyelessgame said...

Hi, Mark! This is Al, your former Tech roommate (for one term back when we were frosh). Found a comment of yours on Pandagon, recognized the name and attitude, and followed it here... how are you, these past decades?

3/15/2006 8:57 PM  

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