War on Christmas or War on Capital?
Baton down the hatches, good people; soak your floors in Florida Water; hang protective charms in every window and door; petition whatever spirits you must to defend yourself and those you love.
It’s War on Christmas season.
Yes, the tired meme rears its ugly head for yet another year as talking heads and church leaders bleat and moan on and on about how oppressed they are, about how hard and dangerous it is to be a Christian in today’s world. You’ll see memes and half-warmed arguments that if we simply prayed more in schools that the shootings would stop, or how all our ills stem from us drifting away from the Christian Values this country was founded on.
You know, like slavery.
“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ; not only while being watched, and in order to please them, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. Render service with enthusiasm, as to the Lord and not to men and women, knowing that whatever good we do, we will receive the same again from the Lord, whether we are slaves or free. And, masters, do the same to them. Stop threatening them, for you know that both of you have the same Master in heaven, and with him there is no partiality.”(Ephesians 6:5-9)
“Let all who are under the yoke of slavery regard their masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be blasphemed. Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful to them on the ground that they are members of the church; rather they must serve them all the more, since those who benefit by their service are believers and beloved.” (1 Timothy 6:1-3)
But matters of religion are far too often not the hunting ground of logic or reasonable arguments; topics of faith cause us to feel rather than to think and this level of cognitive operation is a dangerous one.
The forces behind this meme not only know this, they plan on it.
All Hail Santa
Before we can really break it down, what constitutes this “war?” More often than not the refusal of some businesses (themselves secular, private entities desiring money from people of many faiths) to showcase typical “Christmas” symbols: trees or even full blown religious motifs like the nativity scene.
This is not the result of some vast, communist scheme to get rid of religion. Most people don’t celebrate Christmas in a religious sense if they end up “celebrating” it at all. More and more potential customers do not identify as Christian, and as such either aren’t interested in traditional symbols or don’t connect with them. And if they don’t connect or identify with the symbols, they aren’t effected by the ads.
“The IPA dataBANK contains 1400 case studies of successful advertising campaigns submitted for the IPA Effectiveness Award competition over the last three decades. This particular analysis of the IPA data compared the profitability boost of campaigns which relied primarity on emotional appeal vs. those which used rational persuasion and information. The chart above shows the results. Campaigns with purely emotional content performed about twice as well (31% vs. 16%) with only rational content, and those that were purely emotional did a little better (31% vs 26%) those that mixed emotional and rational content.”
If the Christmas tree doesn’t evoke the splendid memories of familial fun-times it’s not something effective for advertising; if I only vaguely understand the Nativity and don’t see it as “holy,” or “good” your product next to it has no emotional pull behind it. This has nothing to do with religious belief. It’s just business.
“When advertising triggers a strong emotional response, it has specific, undeniable advantages for advertisers. Meaningful emotional responses help shape brand perceptions. Advertising that generates positive feelings guide consumers to develop positive brand associations, just as ads that trigger negative feelings guide consumers to develop negative brand associations. In order for emotional appeals in advertising to be effective, advertisers have to strategize ways to evoke a positive take-away from the consumer.
The fact that human-beings are inherently emotional is another advantage of emotion-based advertising. Consider the process we go through every time we make a decision, whether it be a purchasing decision or otherwise. Our decisions almost always align with the way we feel. They are influenced by emotional factors and conditions at every stage of the decision-making process. Advertisers must acknowledge this fact and incorporate emotional elements in their advertisements if they want to build meaningful connections and brand-ties with their audiences.”
selling event holiday itself, not just it’s symbols, requires some kind of emotional shroud to increase sales; Christmas itself must be wrapped in emotional appeal.
“Wakefield said the NASCAR study was, in part, meant to show how people who are passionate about an event may differ in their reaction to sponsorship ads from those who were less interested in the event (in this case, NASCAR). The major sponsors of the Florida event covered in the study included Ford, the U.S. Army, Coca-Cola and Sprint. All of the companies displayed banners throughout the venue and set up booths and giveaway promotions around the track. In addition, five additional sponsors had a smaller presence at the event. The researchers also asked study participants about Apple and Rolex — two firms that were not represented at the event — as a test to see if people were faking their answers….
According to the researchers, the attendees with the greatest passion for NASCAR were more likely to be affected by the advertising that sponsors displayed at the event.”
Christmas trees and Nativity scenes are an evolutionary dead-end in regards to sales: Christmas is no longer so much about the religious meaning or even the holiday but about the products we buy and receive. Why the hell would I want to remind you of things I can’t necessarily commodify (family, religion) or that you may not experience (joyful familial relations, religious contemplation) when I’m trying to make money?
But you know who never seems to disappear from the holiday season? Santa.
Yes, praise Santa, that jolly old elf directly created by a Coca-Cola advertising campaign. It doesn’t take a Jungian nor an advertising exec to see the symbolic appeal for consumerist excess: Santa’s suit is red, a color consistently shown to make us more emotional and excited; his mythic tradition is so socially engrained in our culture even die-hard atheists, who would normally laugh at such a figure, gleefully get in on the fun as they buy products awash in Santa symbolism; Santa bestows “gifts” on “good people”(who among us does not self-identify as “good?”) in a ritual replicated by parents, both secular and religious, creating an early childhood identification of “happiness” with consumer products.
“Well, that may be true, but we all know Santa doesn’t exist.” Well, that sure does seem like alot of psychical energy being thrown towards something that “doesn’t exist.”
“Oh come on now, all those kids and parents of the world feeding the god-form of Santa psychic energy, love, affection and cookies in a worldwide ritual every year… who gives a damn bout the elves? We all know where the real money is, and every year he delivers, avatars spread across the entire suburban hell of the San Gabriel Valley, invoked in a ritual every Christmas eve, parents assuming the quietness, swiftness and good will in a yearly sacred invocation. Santa lives, whether invoked unconsciously by the parental magi or not!”
Even the most embittered Christmas warrior never seems to have a problem with Santa, in fact using his continual existence as evidence that the war is not yet over, that Christmas is not yet finished. From a website devoted to the “War on Christmas” meme comes this little gem:
“In perhaps one of the only legitimate beefs(Freudian slip here?) in the so-called ‘war on Christmas’ it appears the good guys actually won one. Malls across the country have attempted to capitalize on the Santa business by installing what they call “the Santa adventure” and charging parents fees from $35 to $50 just to get their children in to see Santa Claus. In the most high profile of these cases Cherry Hill Mall near Philadelphia famous imposed the charges and then faced a brutal customer backlash that went viral on social media. The mall has since made Santa a free attraction, as he has been in the past.”
That’s right, the victory for the “good guys” was won not against Santa usurping the role of prime Christmas figure or the decline of Christianity in the West, it was over children being allowed to see the walking embodiment of a Coca-Cola ad for consumer capitalism and whether they’d have to pay for it.
“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store…”
“Oh look, yet another Christmas TV special! How touching to have the meaning of Christmas brought to us by cola, fast food, and beer…. Who’d have ever guessed that product consumption, popular entertainment, and spirituality would mix so harmoniously? ”
― Bill Watterson,
The other half of the War on Christmas meme is usually some school (a public, government institution) either not pushing the desired religious motifs, doing away with them altogether, or worse…putting other religious traditions on an equal footing.
And I could go into all that…but it’s not even worth it, because such cases are only a sideshow, a production, a ruse. Sure these things happen, but these are tiny battles, little skirmishes between adversaries that lack the power to really change things. It might be a clash of cultures, sure, but one of those cultures is clearly in decline.
So why all the hubub? If this was really such a life and death struggle between two ideological camps we would have seen some actual change, some legislation, maybe even a shooting or two. But we don’t. Ever. So why does this become such a big issue every year?
As Lenin said: “Who stands to gain?…In politics it is not so important who directly advocates particular views. What is important is who stands to gain from these views, proposals, measures.” If such fervor and fight is being evoked every year it most assuredly is being done for a purpose. Lets analyze how the meme of a “War on Christmas” plays out in both conservative and liberal circles:
- Appeal to self-esteem
“I’m helpin’ to keep Christ in Christmas.”/”I’m helping to fight religious bigotry.”
- Appeal to social fears
“What, you one of those godless, liberal, Democrats?”/”What are you, some bible-thumping Republicans?”
- Appeal to authority or experts
“Bill O’Reilly says it’s all a liberal, progressive scheme to remove God from everything.”/”Bill Nye was just talking about how all this religious idiocy is holding us back as a species.”
- Appeal to Pity
“Just imagine how Jesus must feel.”/”If we let the fundamentalists win they’ll stop teaching evolution in schools!”
- Appeal to force
“It’s Merry Christmas, goddammit!”/”You can’t stop me from saying Happy Holidays!”
“What happened to the good ole’ days, when regular Americans could get together and enjoy Christmas?”/”It’s just commonsense, everybody should be free to celebrate whatever.”
Notice a reoccurring theme here? Those are all emotional appeals. And what is an excess of emotion good for?
Just as consumers who were more passionate about NASCAR were more likely to buy products from companies who advertised there, the more emotion you feel about Christmas the more likely you are to spend, spend, SPEND!
Occultists, Pagans, Alternative Faiths everywhere: You’ve been played a fool in the name of profits. Just as they corporate media whips the conservatives into a fundamentalist frenzy, they’ve whipped you up in a need to combat them, to fight them in a war that doesn’t even exist. And while you are jabbering on about how proud you are that Starbucks refuses to have any Christmas imagery on their cup you don’t notice you’ve been spending ALOT more money there. You think these companies shy away from controversy? They live for it! They spend millions of dollars on focus groups just to see how much they can rustle your jimmies without pushing you over the edge.
THAT is the real “war” being a waged here, a war for your mind and your money! By getting people emotionally charged around this time of year they ensure a steady stream of profits. Each year we wonder why Christmas seems to get bigger and bigger, going so far as to completely devour Thanksgiving, Christmas now becoming a full 6 weeks of designated shopping. The conservatives moan about the loss of religion yet there they are on Black Friday, running over small children to grab a cheap toaster.
Wake up! The War on Christmas is a distraction from the real war, the ongoing assault on our very lives by the forces of Global Capital: these companies will do anything hide the fact that your shiny new Apple product was assembled by slaves in conditions so bad they require suicide nets around the factories; that the people that sewed up that dress you so fancy worked 16 hours for next to nothing in pay; that the food you eat in between shopping sprees was not only raised in conditions that are practically Lovecraftian in horror, but the people that got it from factory-to-plate are working in squalid, feces-ridden conditions that would put even the coldest 19th Century robber baron to shame.
And we’re worried about a Starbucks cup?!?
The Christmas of yesteryear with it’s quaint familial bonding is as dead as every Roman who celebrated Saturnalia. Holidays have become nothing more than state-sanctioned Retail Holy Days, where the people sacrifice what little money they have in an orgy to Consumerism and her consort Profit. The ideologues on the right and the left are complaining about the same thing, but in terms and languages the other side can’t understand: that our world is becoming less human. The quality of life we once took for granted is slowly disappearing, and unless we find a way to join our brothers and sisters in the Global South in putting a wrench into this whole machine we are destined to join them in destitution. 30% of all jobs are set to be done by robots of some kind by 2025. You think those jobs are going to be replaced at all, much less by well-paying middle class ones?
There is no “War on Christmas”; you can’t declare war on something that’s already dead. And if we remain only vaguely conscious of the reasons why it’s dead we are bound to join it. Don’t think so? Flash forward to a not so distant future: Have fun celebrating Yule in-between your 16-hour day split between 3 jobs; maybe the Coven or Kindred can combine their foodstamps so everybody can at least eat this year.
Celebrated or not the bloated corpse of Christmas should be taken as a sign, an omen of the all-pervading, cancerous expansion of a system that demands constant profits with an equally as constant cutting of costs. If something so ubiquitous as Christmas can wind up as nothing more than a frenzied exchange of goods, what hope have we of remaining free ourselves?
“Underlying all this is a profoundly important phenomenon: all human life, from the very beginning of its development within capitalist society, has undergone an impoverishment. More than this, capitalist society is death organized with all the appearances of life. Here it is not a question of death as the extinction of life, but death-in-life, death with all the substance and power of life. The human being is dead and is no more than a ritual of capital.”—Jacques Camatte, “Against Domestication”
To hell with a War on Christmas, if we are to continue to exist as human beings we need a War on Capital!
Dr. Bones is an 8 year practitioner of the Southern occult tradition known as Conjure, Rootwork, and Hoodoo. A skilled card-reader and Spiritworker, Dr. Bones has undertaken all aspects of the work, both benevolent and malefic. Politically he holds the Anarchist line that “Individuality can only flourish where equality of access to the conditions of existence is the social reality. This equality of access is Communism.” He resides in the insane State of Florida with his loving wife, a herd of cats, and a house full of spirits.
He can be reached through facebook and at firstname.lastname@example.org