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General Santa Claus and His Secret North Pole Base

By       Message John Grant     Permalink
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In societies like Guatemala and Egypt this militarization is more blatant, to the point the military as an institution actually owns and runs much of those economies. In the United States we're not that crass and obvious. Here, the military is a state of mind imposed on a public in which fear is kept at a constant low simmer. There's fear of others in the world angry at us for a host of reasons. There's fear of losing the good things we've come to take for granted vis-Ã-vis the rest of the world. And deeper down there's the psychological fear of the future manifested as a gnawing doubt that the exceptionalism our leaders assure us we represent may be nothing but sham based on arrogance.


I submit it's a bit Scrooge-like of me to be so negative about a cheerful holiday movie like Arthur Christmas. But this sort of spoon-fed, happy-face militarist propaganda directed at children (and their parents) seems particularly un-Christ-like and about as far from the notion of Peace, Love and Joy To The World as one can get.


But, then, everybody should know that Christmas isn't really about the birth of Jesus. Obviously, no one is able to say what modern month he was born in. So what we're really celebrating is the Winter Solstice, a pagan holiday that honors the Fall harvest in temperate climates when people feel a natural urge to celebrate with friends and relatives before they hunker down for the long harsh Winter months ahead.


Stan Freberg was even more accurate about the holiday when he pointed out what we really celebrate on Christmas is the birth of the gross national product -- which is exactly what the regimented gift delivery system up in that secret North Pole base in Arthur Christmas is also celebrating. We have indeed arrived at a place in evolution where we're really good at distributing crap from one place to another using computer and internet record-keeping. Add a tremendous, looming Santa space ship right out of Star Wars and you have a holiday movie Freberg would wink at.


But is this kind of celebration of hugeness what we should be propagandizing -- oh, I'm sorry, entertaining -- our kids with? Or at this juncture in economic history should we be wising them up about the excesses of wasteful, centralized bigness and, instead, encouraging responsible, local sustainability? Should we be glorifying the co-option of everything under the cloak of militarism? And are we at the point it's actually subversive to stress the idea that the lives and problems of ordinary working people in local communities really matter?


It would be immensely beneficial to show kids that small really is beautiful -- that E.F. Schumacher's humble notion of "enoughness" is a good idea for our times. In this sense, the last thing we need is a slick, big budget entertainment that turns Santa Claus into Norman Schwarzkopf and the act of giving into a massive military operation.


The Obsession With Greed and Security


Alan Watts, the writer who popularized Buddhism in the sixties and seventies, isn't fashionable these days. But he hit on a profound idea in a little 1951 book titled The Wisdom of Insecurity. He likes to play with paradoxes, and in the introduction he sums up the thesis of his book this way: "insecurity is the result of trying to be secure" and "there is a contradiction in wanting to be perfectly secure in a universe whose very nature is momentariness and fluidity."

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I'm a 68-year-old American who served in Vietnam as a naive 19-year-old kid. From that moment on, I've been studying and re-thinking what US counter-insurgency war means. I live outside of Philadelphia, where I'm a writer, photographer and (more...)

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