November is upon us. Once we manage to get through the election crap we get to look forward to the incessant blaring of ads designed to make us feel that we need something just because the commercials tell us we do. Americans will prepare to celebrate a day of Thanksgiving to celebrate how fortunate we are and how thankful we are for what we have, to be immediately followed by a frenzy of consumerism run amok. Each year the situation gets worse. This year a lot of people who make minimum wage at best will be spending part, if not all, of their “Thanksgiving” working to provide useless crap to other people who feel that being thankful and being greedy are fine when placed side-by-side.
Black Friday is a day that I will take off from work, but it will be to stay home and rest. It will NOT be used to rush headlong into stores and shopping malls, nor will it be used to swarm Amazon or other online retailers in order to get stuff. Once again I have to ask if this is all we are now? Is this what we have come to? To be nothing more than the programmable instruments of industry to run around and mindlessly buy things on demand? I hope that we can do better.
I have gone through financial hardships, and I learned without a lot of pain that the holiday spending is just unnecessary in order to be happy. Now that I am back on my feet financially, I feel no desire to be caught up in the madness of the Black Friday and Holiday shopping crush. One of my favorite things is to go and watch people as they become mindless savages rushing to get that TV that is on sale, or that computer, or that whatever the hell it is. I watch people with glazed-over look going past the point of exhaustion, and then glancing at me as if to ask “Why aren’t YOU buying something?”
I learned through hard times who my friends are. My friends are the ones who do not demand a gift just to thank them. I treat my friends as best I can, and I give them the most valuable thing that I have, my time and attention. Those who are offended by the lack of gifts rapidly find themselves as former friends. I do not expect gifts from people, I am grateful if I receive one, but I always let it be known that I would rather talk and spend TIME with them rather than receive something that they felt obligated to give me.
I am an Atheist, so the religious aspect of the holidays is not that important to me. I do find it interesting that for all those people who claim to believe, they are the ones out there acting as if their money will somehow make them better people. I fail to understand the link between their faith and their wallets. This has been discussed through the years, and has offended some people. I cannot help how I feel when it comes to this lemming-esque waste of time and money, I simply refuse to take part in it.
Several years ago, someone bought me some stuff for the holidays that I had seen plastered all over the checkout lines at every store in town. The thought struck me that I was considered just as disposable as the crappy gift they bought for me. The effort was futile, and the gift itself marked me as someone who had to be bought off for another year. I would rather have had no gift than the one I received. I did not tell them this, instead I made plans to spend time with them during the holidays. These plans fell through due to the lack of free time since they were still too busy shopping. The gift that I received from them was donated to charity in the hopes that it might have done some good to someone in more need than myself. That particular friend is no longer a friend. There were too many other issues that they were dealing with, and I have to believe that they treated people the way they did during the holidays as a means of compensating for their less than stellar efforts for the rest of the year.
I just find no serious connection between friendship and gift-giving as it is practiced today. This colors my view of the holidays, to be sure. I simply cannot take part in the madness anymore. As I am able to have more money, I find that I would rather save it, or spend it more wisely and appropriately than by getting something that shows a true lack of interest other than to cross a name off of a list for presents.
My plans for the holidays involve spending time with friends. My gift would be making a meal for them, or seeing a movie together, or just talking. My way is not perfect, but it does allow me to focus on the people I truly care about and in some small way to give them relief from the madness in their own lives if only for a while.