The time has finally come and gone when Americans express how much they love one another through the purchasing of gifts. Christmas is the day where families gather together to share valuable quality time. Yes, this is the season of giving, bringing joy to those less fortunate and focusing on the real “reason for the season.” Most importantly, Christmas is the time when we teach our kids to be excessive materialists and allow them to throw temper tantrums when Santa doesn’t give them what they want. The truth is, Christmas has become the most commercialized holiday of the year. For months at a time, the American consumer is bombarded by holiday advertisements, kids are drowned in a sea of frivolous desires, and adults capitulate to corporate suggestions on things that they “need.” Christmas is no longer the time of year when families gather together to eat, embrace and love; it is the time to buy! buy! buy!
The American economy is centered around a consumer culture. Even after great disasters like 9/11, the best advice our leaders have for us is to go out and purchase things. It doesn’t really matter what you buy, as long as you are buying something. This kind of attitude creates a materialistic and consumer based nation. Nothing matters except for materials. The value of life is diminished, social relationships deteriorate, families crumble over mountains of credit card debt, basic cooperation between individuals suffer, and people become less empathetic toward others. Psychologists have studied the affects of materialism on human interaction and have consistently found that when materialistic aspirations go up, social actions go down. This also offers an explanation as to why the placement of money at the center of activity, or becomes the goal of individuals, the need to care for anything else is greatly diminished (’08 financial crisis). When an economic system is greased solely by capital, it is no surprise that this system is riddled with debt, vulture capitalists and genuine unhappiness by those individuals chasing the proverbial carrot on the stick.
The consumer and materialistic culture is always prevalant in America, but tends to manifests itself immensely during the holiday season. The celebration of Christmas is so grand now that it even consumes another major holiday, Thanksgiving. The day that we are supposed to give thanks and all the other good stuff is replaced by Black Friday which has quickly become “Black Thursday” (the time we are supposed to be eating dinner). These holidays only rhetorically promote companionship, family and camaraderie. In reality Thanksgiving and Christmas have become one extended corporate holiday where every American is complicit in the rampant materialization of the country. Americans are projected to spend 154 billion dollars over the two weeks leading up to Christmas, this is an 8.1 percent increase from 2011!
What is more interesting about America’s addiction to consumption is the fact that this habit is being facilitated by the accumulation of mass amounts of debt. Over the past year, economists and political analysts have been ecstatic that consumer confidence is on the rise and people are out buying things as if the economic crisis is behind us. What these experts fail to address, however, is the record use of credit cards and subsequent credit card debt. Capitalists have successfully kept wages stagnant for the past 30 years while replacing consumer purchasing power with credit cards. Corporations are spending millions of dollars in research in order to find different ways to seduce the consumer to buy their product. Businesses are aware that credit cards allow people to act more on impulse which helps fuel their profits. During the holiday season, corporations launch multi-million dollar marketing campaigns in order to get individuals to buy their products. The television acts as the medium to hypnotize Americans into buying things they don’t really need. The more individuals focus on the media the higher the levels of consumption. This is why Thanksgiving and Christmas should be considered corporate holidays, before being considered anything else.
If the holiday season is truly the celebration of family and friends, I propose a moratorium on the purchasing of gifts for next year. This will allow us to break the chains of consumption while simultaneously hurting those corporations who profit off of our demise. The “good life” doesn’t have to be synonymous with the “goods life.” We need to send the proper message to our kids, material possessions don’t qualify as love. As a matter of fact, consumption perpetuates unhappiness. The goals of the capitalists is to accumulate massive amounts of wealth, we don’t have to remain complicit and make our (consumer) goal the accumulation of material things. Addiction to consumption has the same effect as any other addiction. The addicts never get enough and they are always looking for more. As long as corporations practice planned obsolescence the American consumer will never be satisfied. Break the chains of consumerism and materialism, regain your dignity and free yourself from the chains of debt slavery.