Monday, November 26, 2007

Have a Very Polemic Christmas

Here's an article in the NY Times Sunday Styles section — which I don't read — about the latest trend in eco-friendly holiday gift giving, and the resentment it creates among some people who do read the Sunday Styles section. The holiday drama starts with a socially conscious nucleus gift-giving handmade recycled crafts or charitable donations and the once-valent rest of the family, expecting real presents, turning resentful. Not to mention euphemistic: "We spent so many years so poor, where we didn’t have the money to do much,” said Cynda Reznicek, whose sister gave her a compact flourescent light bulb last Christmas. "We're at the point now where we can be a little more extravagant.... It's just a joy."

This is the point where I fruitlessly remind you how Christmas is supposed to be about the birth of our Savior, and peace on Earth, and mirthful times with your friends and (possibly politically backward) family, and spreading Christianity by co-opting a pagan solstice festival. But that's not what struck me.

I always thought there was this tacit rule in society that when someone gets you a gift, even if it's a light bulb — which, let's be honest here, ranks above underpants and below socks — you're either under twelve years old or otherwise at least feigning gratitude, you selfish jerk!

Kenneth P. Green, a resident scholar on environmental issues at the American Enterprise Institute — I'll point out that's not really any sort of credentials on this issue, but anyway — accidentally clears up the spirit of gift-giving: "The point of the holidays for many people is the joy people get in giving." No... if you're bitching about what you unwrapped, then the point of the holiday is the joy you get in receiving, potlatch be damned. You know, every family has their Christmas issues, and most of those are way more trivial than the health of our entire planet. The difference is the twenty-five year old rivalry between your two uncles because one got a car as a graduation gift back in 1982 and the other didn't doesn't manifest itself when presents get unwrapped. "A power drill! That fixes everything, for the remaining hour we have to be in the same room."

I'm not judging, although avarice does rot your soul, but the gift is supposed to be a gesture of generosity and not a fantasy of watching football on a big TV or impressing your girlfriends with designer shoes. It's one thing to expect something else, but to actually complain about the light bulb is the mark of someone who, next year, seriously deserves to get shit. (I was going to say "coal," but an environmentalist wouldn't give coal as a gift.)