Cultural war is tricky business. As a living entity, culture needs mechanisms of protection from external threats. But intellectual defensive systems can become an obstacle for evolution especially when a culture has fallen in love with itself to the point where criticism is no longer seen as a mechanism for progress. For all its merits, Western culture is affected by a plague of intellectual rigidity.
There is no need to generalize. There are many Westerners who are quite open to change and new ideas, perhaps more-so than any other major culture on Earth. This is only sufficient if these people can trigger an evolutionary step forwards by reaching a critical mass enough to spread a wave of change throughout society.
What does all this have to do with Christmas? It’s quite simple really. Changing the way we interpret Christmas is probably a litmus test for cultural evolution. Why do we need to reinterpret this cultural event? Because it is the avatar of a way of doing business that may have made sense in the 20th century, but will only lead to worsening the quality of life on this planet for future generations of human beings.
Christmas and the surrounding period has become a sad proof of how masses can be manipulated into doing whatever the manufacturers of fake value desire. Peer pressure drives people into shops, irrespective if their friends or family require the presents they are (socially) forced into buying.
Adding insult to injury is a plethora of consumerist traditions such as Black Friday. All in all, Western culture is chiefly responsible for the environmental destruction of dozens of countries that occurs while shopping malls have transformed Christmas carols into soundtracks for consumption. Perhaps organized religion deserves its fate of being defiled by capitalism.
Our environment, our heritage, our children however, do not deserve this fate. Perhaps we should do something to stop this rampant consumerism from wrecking our future. This is not to say that we should stop purchasing gifts or merchandise. It simply means that perhaps we should think twice about the value we will extract from a purchase. It also means that we should avoid buying wares from manufacturers that are clearly designing their products in such a way that forces us into a lifetime commitment of perpetual upgrades and spiraling costs.
Does upgrading a phone every two years even make sense? I’ve used my Galaxy Note 3 for almost 3 years now and, thanks to the replaceable battery, will probably use it for more time to come. Even though Samsung’s software is very bad (fixed via installing custom, de-bloated firmware), they used to produce quality hardware some years ago (no longer the case, new Samsung phones are built to be fully replaced). Actually, most phone manufacturers now-a-days build these devices in such a way that replacing the battery is difficult and costly.
It’s the same racket that the printer industry has been engaged in for decades, but with a more devious implementation – observe how corporations have become masters of milking the population. Almost all industries have various ways of coaxing consumers into purchasing pieces of our planet’s minerals, usually taken from countries that are exploited by developed nations.
Even though the Earth will probably survive us, we should not be so sure that we can survive what a broken ecosystem can do to us. And don’t think that those that are chiefly responsible for the destruction of our ecosystem will suffer alongside us. With their money and power, using today’s technology, it’s quite easy to build paradises for the rich & privileged. In the meantime, the rest of the planet will suffer the consequences of having been fooled into turning the Earth in a factory of products built for becoming obsolete, engineered to break as soon as the warranty expires.
As usual, the solution is spreading knowledge. It’s very easy and everybody can take part in this. Encourage people to think about their purchases. Investigate mercilessly and purchase only those products that are known to deliver quality and can be easily repaired. This will encourage the companies of tomorrow. Such companies do exist.
There are clothing companies that strive to recycle and reward customers for bringing in old clothes, giving them discounts. There are phone manufacturers that design their devices so that the batteries can be replaced. There are software companies that are not obsessed with finding ways to trick users into new purchases with fake features, but instead are happy to remain as small, driven teams, focusing on quality and enjoying the loyalty of satisfied customers.
Many times, people end up buying useless gifts due to social pressure. Material gifts are not the only way to reward a relationship. I have purchased no presents this year, even though I love a lot of people in my life. Instead, I have gifted experiences to those that are close to me. I have gifted words, time, love and care. What I received in return was more love, sometimes even tears of joy.
To know exactly what to tell somebody in order to cause a positive emotional response takes knowing that person, or at least knowing how to appeal to something that is a common denominator for us all – love. The effort invested in reaching another’s heart, and the reward thereafter is more worth it than anything any shop will ever offer for sale.
Except the last one, the picture for this article have been taken from this beautiful and enlightening photographic essay over at Lens Culture: