Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Xmas Insanity

This season brings out some rather odd behavior in people. The commercialism of Christmas seems worse than ever, and since Thanksgiving happened very early this year, the selling and decorating scene got a jump start. We have neighbors who lit up their Xmas lights in mid-November. People have been brainwashed to think that this nation of ours isn’t doing well unless we spend, spend, spend. The pressure is on and a great number of people go deep into debt just to keep up the gift-giving image. Are we too proud to admit that perhaps this year we shouldn’t waste money we don’t have on stuff that nobody needs or perhaps even appreciates?

Americans look at money in a strange way. On one hand we complain about the price of fuel which we still get a lot cheaper than our European cousins. Price of prescription medicine is criticized and for a good reason as it has skyrocketed, just to fill the coffers of pharmaceutical companies. However, for those of us with medical insurance, we only have our deductibles to worry about, and even those who are without that protection, Wal-Mart and Target offer their $4 (or $9 in some states for newer medicines) plan for generics. Of course, for that money one doesn’t get the latest creation from the companies’ labs, but in many cases the old tested products work as well, if not better. Yet we complainers are ready to spend an average of $27,000 on a wedding (often the most expensive mistake in one’s life) or bury our dead in tomb-like coffins costing fortunes. The ultimate in financial stupidity showed up in today’s New York Times: many colleges are increasing their tuitions in order to look better in the eyes of the applicants. Do we really believe that just because a product costs more, it is better? Apparently so, as many schools have had their enrollments go up as a result. Yet more of them are willing to give just about all the students some form of financial aid, amounting to discount of the tuition increase. This is like the commercials on television where viewers are duped to believe that they are getting $50 worth of merchandise for just $10 if they call within the next ten minutes. Are you sure that the $120 music lesson for your child is twice as good as someone else’s $60 one? Does a mediocre provincial orchestra become a true ‘world class’ ensemble just by tripling their ticket prices? Perhaps this tactic should be tried and see how gullible we really are.

Other worthwhile news of the day tells us that the Arctic Ocean will shed its ice cover in perhaps only three decades. Yet there are people in our federal government insisting that there is no global warming and it would be unfair to require a drop in greenhouse gases. Many state and local governments beg to differ and have instituted stricter regulations of their own. Why are our leaders, at least some of them on the very top, so na├»ve and childish? A possible answer to this came to my mind: because they were born again and again and again…

A rabbi from local Chabad decided to sue the authorities for having Christmas trees at the Seattle airport, and the trees were quickly removed to avoid costly litigation. I guess the rabbi just wanted to put his menorah up next to the trees, but in public’s eye he wanted to destroy the holiday, and as a result security has had to be tightened again at all of the area’s synagogues and institutions deemed Jewish, for fear of a backlash. All this because of a pagan symbol that the Europeans conveniently converted to represent a holiday that originally also was pagan, but was turned to commemorate the birth of Jesus, which happened months later in the spring... For crying out loud, there is nothing Christian about the tree: why not call it a Hanukkah bush, Kwanzaa pine or whatever, and let people have the symbol what they have associated with Christmas, a federal holiday! Everyone should see the Seinfeld episode where George’s father has had it with all the Xmas humbug and decides to celebrate Festivus, with a metal pole as its ‘tree’. That wasn’t such a dumb idea after all.