December 13, 2017

December 2017


2017 has been an instructive year for me. I haven't enjoyed all the lessons it taught me, but they were well learned none the less. As it regards the immanent arrival of another Christmas celebration in a few weeks, here's something else I've learned: things are not always what they appear. 

For example, last Christmas a family member gave my daughter a Paw Patrol puzzle book. Each page is thick card stock with an inset puzzle. You take the pieces out of their recession in the page, do the puzzle, and when you're done you put them back into the book. Makes sense, right? Well, sure, all except for that part where the puzzle pieces are the same heaviness as business cards, and as a result don't really work as a puzzle and won't actually stay in the book when it's time to put them away. This puzzle book isn't really a puzzle meant to entertain a child, but a means to capitalize on the Paw Patrol license by selling overpriced ink and cardstock that can't be used for the advertised purpose.

Another example is a remote control helicopter a family member bought for my step-daughter. Going by the advertising, it's an handheld, rechargeable, remote-controlled helicopter. What could go wrong? We opened the package and found out that the helicopter itself can only be recharged when plugged into the remote control which is itself powered by AA batteries. What could go wrong? It worked the first time we turned it on, but when the battery died 5 minutes later wouldn't ever get it to charge again. We bought new batteries and made sure all the switches were flipped to the appropriate setting, but the helicopter appeared to serve no purpose except to sell painted plastic advertised as a working helicopter which accomplished nothing but utterly devouring AA batteries.

This puzzle book and helicopter aren't toys for entertaining children.

They're instant landfill disguised as toys for impoverishing adults.

These toys serve no purpose except to enrich the manufacturer.

And it infuriates me that my family members continue to fall for these traps, wasting their money on literal garbage that serves no purpose but to consume their money, take up space in my home, and eventually be sent to an anaerobic landfill where they'll never, ever decompose or be recycled into anything else ever again, ever.

I don't really know what to do, because there's no good solution to this problem that doesn't end with either my relatives being offended that I told them to stop sending my children landfill for Christmas, or my children being offended that I wouldn't let their relatives spoil them. If there's a solution here, then it's going to be about changing the celebration of Christmas so that it has nothing to do with materialistic consumerism and instead to do with good, old-fashioned gluttony in terms of holiday meals and putting the focus on connecting with local friends and family.

But then, that'd only apply to my family and even if my kids enjoyed that kind of celebration, they'd still ask why they don't get all new toys like every other kid at this time of year.

Christmas consumerism disgusts me, but what disgusts me even more is that I struggle to understand how to get my family out of it. There is no greater heresy than rebelling against cultural traditions, and cultural traditions at least in North America revolve around buying instant landfill and gifting it to people we allegedly love.

So if I don't give you anything for Christmas except an email or a call on the telephone, it's not because I don't care about you, but because I do, and I care so much that I'm not going to fill your house with garbage.

Merry Christmas. 

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