I have no religious attachment to Easter or Christmas. They were once pagan festivals, co-opted by Christianity, and then, relatively recently, largely secularized. For many of us, they are about egg-laying bunnies and fat, chimney-sweep guys in red suits. Fa-la-la-la-la and all that.
I like these holidays, not because I observe holy days or go on buying binges but because I get time off. No phones ringing, no emails waiting (or at least not ones I'm going to answer).
With respect to consumption mania associated with Easter and Christmas, we are a stuff-obsessed society. George Carlin commented that if you took away houses and flew over cities, you'd see little piles of stuff everywhere. Lots and lots of stuff. Are we happier with our boundless, unceasing, determined quest to fill out our quotidian existences with sweat shop shit?
Of course not. Pursuit of stuff is a pacifier. It shuts you up, shuts you down, and shuts others out. But we're told it's good for the economy. What was George W's call to arms post 9/11 (other than an actual call to arms): buy things. Show those terrorists no fear with your Bjorg armchair, flatscreen TV, and new dinette set.
Go into debt my good citizens so you can prop up the economy. Buy into planned obsolescence, find temporary reprieve from your empty, grey life, bigger your homes, bigger your stuff, bigger the landfills and the endless oceans of plastics, want what you don't need. This rapacious thinking has served us so well thus far, no?
I have a point here.
Toronto city council's economic development committee voted yesterday, obviously ignoring the symbolic importance of Earth Day, to end holiday shopping restrictions. Shops would be able, if they so choose, to remain open all year. Next month, this recommendation goes to city council as a whole.
The defense of what I think is an indefensible policy has ranged from ludicrous -- that employees can decide not to come in on Christmas Day. Right. Let's see how that plays out -- to invoking multiculturalism - that those who don't celebrate Christmas really need that day to do some shopping.
Can't we have a few days out of 365 where we don't buy things? How about maintaining nine statutory holidays when stores aren't open? Do Torontonians think they can't get all their shopping needs satisfied the remaining 346 days?
For once, I'm actually in agreement with conservative Councillor Case Ootes, the lone dissenting vote on the economic development committee. He doesn't think that we need every day to be a working and shopping day. This is coming from a die-hard, free market capitalist: again, he doesn't think we need to be working and shopping every day. Let that sink in. Savour it a moment.
Take a breather on the buying. You'll be better for it. Our planet will be better for it.
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