’Tis the Season to Be Folly

By Novar Caine

Your correspondent is reporting from the arctic depths of western Europe, where he has been travelling in recent days. It is a blast arriving here from the cocooned climes of Bali, even if the island has also been experiencing extreme weather, including violent storms last week that were accompanied by hail.

Here it is so cold – minus 17C the other day – that the refrigerator seems warm and inviting. Wrapped-up people are gliding about with perma-shock looks and numbed brains that resist firing up. There is an outbreak of agape.

There’s no need for fake yuletide icicles and snow that folk festoon their windows with at this time of year, because the real thing is abundant and large. An associate broke off a stalactite shard that was the length of a grown man’s arm and almost as thick. Surrounded by severe weather, it’s all anyone can talk about. The anaesthetised effect causes shock mantra-looping: “It’s freeing; it’s bitter; it’s freezing; it’s bitter.” Some say this to no one in particular. Others attempt conjectures of their own: “It’ll be here for months,” they declare of the inclement climate. 

Naturally when snow falls everything fails; it dissolves into chaos. Traffic stops; and what keeps going ends up in the ditch. Rolling news footage is a sequence of frenetically spinning, grip-less wheels. Planes can’t take off; schools are shut; office workers claim they can’t make it in, even if they could. It’s the greatest pretext of all. Emergency workers pave the roads with traction-enabling grit; and other crews dump salt to erase hazardous black ice that sends vehicles into a spin.

The harsh weather – arriving unseasonably early but in time to herald the festive season – comes to us courtesy of sub-zero slabs of wind from Siberia, we are informed nightly by people on television with graphics and maps and wind-arrows and contracting and expanding isobars. And lots of minus signs. They keep telling us: “This is the lowest temperature on record, since records began.” Which was about 100 years ago, which is not all that long ago, really. It’s enough to make you want to hit the hot-whiskeys.

A Daily Mail reader commented on a piece about the big-freeze shutdown: “There’s … no reason for businesses to close due to weather like this. Why is the UK the only country that shuts down over a little snow?” Another opined: “When Bush took all the oil from Iraq it unbalanced the magnetic field of the planet and caused these weather problems.” At least there’s a smidgen of sense in the latter.

Dublin, meanwhile, is now as multi-ethnic as London and in both cities the people are revolting: in the Irish capital, over their bumbling government ceding control of the country to the International Monetary Fund and European financial institutions as the Celtic Tiger is laid to rest (great party; one hell of a hangover); and in London students are furious with their equally bumbling coalition rulers’ tripling of their university fees.

But none of that is diverting droves from the shops. As the countdown to Christmas – a religious festival marking the birth of a prophet in a cowshed that has morphed into a holy spectacle enabled by cash cows – reaches its zenith, there are strange but yearly enacted scenes of mass buying of highly priced plastic moulded into shapes that allegedly please small children. Purchases for adults run from computer chips in plastic cases with shiny screens to unwanted garments to beverages containing alcohol-based formations. These products are gifts that are intended to convey love and affection towards one’s family and friends: and this in a lopsided world where nearly one billion people are starving. What is a redeemer to do?   

So, yes, it is true. This annual obeisance, this yearly homage to excess, is astonishingly depraved. Being cognisant and cogent, we would come to know that the individual self matters not to the fate of mankind, but that the collective is where morality lies. The children going to bed around the world tonight with empty, gnawing stomachs are as much a part of our story as you and I. Our fates are interlinked and intertwined and we are all of us an element of this condition. To party while turning the cheek to the pitiful travails of others belies the core of humanity: compassion for our fellow man, woman and child, no matter where they are or what their circumstances.

Celebrate Christmas for what it is, not for the greed industry that has elbowed its origins aside. This wicked carnival of corporations is not only soulless but it hoodwinks tens of millions each year into believing in the religion of business that turns followers into slaves who do not know they are hypocrites.

Greetings of the season to you all, and in all you do, may it be because you want to, not at the gratuitous and mindless behest of people in office-tower boardrooms.

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