Every day politicians are griping about spending and who gets the biggest tax breaks and keep their mega-billions. Economists tell Americans that if the United States Congress and President Barack Obama do not act now then America and the world will face a certain financial Armageddon. The paranoia and anxiety level has never been higher than in this season when, according to Biblical lore, "our Savior was born." In the midst of this awesome social and political kerfuffle is the fact that national poverty -- the privation or lack of the usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions -- has risen a whopping 15% to 46.2 million Americans (2010).
Indeed, the number of Americans living in poverty--defined as about $22,000 in annual income for a family of four-- is at its highest level on record with one out of every six people living in poverty. The child poverty rate is an embarrassing 22 percent.
Juxtaposing this serious statistic is the fact that according to Forbes magazine's 2011 annual tally of the 400 richest Americans, whose combined net worth has soared to $1.53 trillion, was up 12 percent since last year (2010). To even make the list, it was necessary to have a fortune of at least $1.05 billion or more than ten thousand times the median net worth of an American household.
The increasing wealth of this 1 percent of 1 percent is a direct product of the infusion of trillions of dollars into the financial system that was signed off on by both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations. Three years after rampant speculation and unbridled and uncontrolled greed led to the greatest world economic crisis in generations, the 1 percent of 1 percent is doing better than ever.
You'd think that during this Holiday Season Americans, especially the poor, would pause and reflect on this sad state of things that make "this season of good cheer" a dreary, humdrum existence for millions of poor Americans. But that's the not so good news for the 99 percent of us. The good news for the 1 percent of 1 percent is that big business will, through advertising, sales promotions and every gimmick designed to make Americans spend money that they don't have, reap a bumper Christmas and Holiday Season financial harvest.
Rabid mass consumerism will result in a projected $154 billion spent over this two week period -- and 8.1 percent increase over 2011. This year the average American (read poor working class American) will spend $795.86 cents on gifts and Christmas goodies -- up 5% from last year -- even as record unemployment of about 12 million is still in place. And even as Grinchish Republicans wage a war on food stamps and other entitlement programs that directly benefit the poorest Americans.
At the risk of sounding cynical, this Christmas, Americans will pay lip service to the Miraculous Virgin Birth and the Christ Child's timeless lessons. Of course, we'll go to church in the latest finery, drink eggnog, and run up our credit cards to purchase the latest gadgetry for parent-induced selfish, greedy and consumeristic kids yelling "gimme! gimme! gimme! Sad thing is that parents are the ones that created these little monsters. By our own consumer/escapist binge shopping for more and more envogue items, our children have been suckled on the milk of "the latest, newest, shiniest, biggest and baddest" toy or electronic gadget. So last year's smartphone is now ancient history; and this year's offerings will last only as long as the next new and cosmetically improved one is pitched, marketed to beady-eyed denizens and spun as the very essence of life to a gullible, fickle and incredibly stupid mass.
Our modern existence is to serve our big business god and genuflect at his cash machine shrines. The God of Christmas and the example of Jesus the Christ is now blase -- old fashioned and unexciting. You know, something that just happens as a welcome relief from the all-important shopping sprees. You see, we are consumers first and foremost; the addicted peons of product-producing businesses. Murder, wars, criminality, poverty, disease and want are of little consequence to us. It's just the consequences of the "others" -- not us and no real concern of ours. Our daily lives is an endless activity of drug-induced dependency on vapid television shows, celebrity shenanigans, and name brand items a la Klein or Laurent, embossed on bras and underpants that we simply must have.
This Christmas will again demonstrate just how divided the haves and have nots are in 2012. In places like New York over a million children will go to bed hungry on Christmas Night while over 38,000 adults will find it hard to find a place to sleep. And after Christmas passes it will be on to the next mundane issue and the unending search for a job by over 12 million members of the 99 percent held hostage by the machinations of the 1 percent of 1 percent. That's the group and their minions that will label members of this vast army of labor "irresponsible non-contributing leeches" of society who are poor because "it's their own fault." They are going to be called "losers and parasites" to be shunned and marginalized.
But America's television stations will beam into millions of living rooms, in shopping malls and the public spaces, the sappy, grandiloquent stories of big businesses and its leaders. Those who have a fleet of tractors that without respect for neighborhoods and traditions, rip down entire communities to build shopping malls, casinos and banks will be called American pioneers, entrepreneurs and business leaders. The poor are lazy; the rich are job creators and visionaries.
For me this Christmas Season is a clear testimony of social hypocrisy. If we are sincere we will acknowledge that Christ has been shoved out of Christmas and replaced by consumerism. As a "consumer block" entire nations and communities are pressured and forced into this new paradigm. Our government is also in on the game because their success or failure is all about money in the form of "fiscal and budgetary surpluses" or "deficits and deficit spending." So they too look upon their charges as simply cash-generating robots that they can milk for more money in the form of fees, taxes, fines and penalties.
And in collusion with the mainstream media - the brainwashing arm of Big Business and government -- Christmas and Holiday shopping has been elevated to the most absurd form of the herd mentality imaginable when thousands of crazed consumers camp outside megastores to cash in on non-existent deals. The true meaning of Christmas has been thoroughly subverted and corrupted by a banal spectacle of frenzied shoppers stampeding into stores like sharks devouring a kill, trampling, fighting and sometimes killing each other for the latest in designer junk.
The sad thing is that by the next six months 90 percent of those purchases will either be simply lying useless and unused or carted off to garnish some landfill. Christmas is a time for family and friends and, yes, gift giving, done with the best intentions, can be a good thing. But Big Business and other profit-driven industries are not realty interested in consumer loyalty, for all their hypocritical carping about "brand loyalty." The unadulterated simple reason is that Big Business cannot survive if it cannot depend on the fickleness and short attention spans of its consumers. From Big Business's standpoint, its consumers cannot love material things too much. That would build attachments and that's something they don't want happen.
You see, in my opinion, today's modern consumer must be addicted to buying lots of things but get tired and bored of them in a short time. For example, children must be infatuated with the latest toys only for a few months so that next year's toys will be just as eagerly gobbled up as this years. Loyalty and attachments must therefore be fickle, fragile and easily broken with no regrets or sadness. This allows us to discard that which is today new and exciting for next year's new and improved offering. We must desire new things and not cherish old ones.
Sadly, that's what modern Christmas has become.