Friday, December 23, 2011

Don’t Play this at Home:

The obscenities in this video tear through the sentimental and schmaltzy fabric of Xmas with the sound of a low flying jet over a soft Kincaidian landscape. The message is that Santa gets all the accolades (and gets to look charitable to boot) whilst the beasts of burden (the reindeer) and the small men (elves, pixies and dwarfs) do all the work. Given that Santa is patron saint of Xmas capitalism, the video reminded me very sharply of the days when I used to read the stridently Marxist newspaper "Socialist Worker". The video expresses that paper’s vision of society to a tee: In raucous and harsh tones it forever condemned middle class capitalist acquisitiveness at the expense of working class wealth producers. “Stuff the Bosses”, “Stuff the Tories!”, “Stuff the Royals!” were the kind of headlines that often graced the front page.

I myself, however, was as cynical toward this Marxist message as the Socialist “Workers” were to the society that sustained them in sufficient freedom to express their opinions. Theirs was a materialist version of an archetypical eschatology that promised worker salvation on the great and terrible day of Revolution. Thence on the workers would own the means of production ushering in a supposedly classless society where everyone’s interests coincided and therefore all would live in peace.

But as the video says: “What a croc of ****”. A successful society depends on differentiation and specialization, thus implying classes, thereby setting the scene for potential conflicts of interest. Potential conflicts of interest are a fundamental feature of social existence. The so-called “dictatorship of the proletariat” is a cloud cuckoo land concept that in practice leads to an elite ruling class who stifle all debate and dissention under the pretext that in a (fictitious) “classeless” society no conflict would exist and therefore by definition dissenters are reactionaries.

How many times have we seen the failure of this sort of cloud cuckoo land social philosophy? The Christian cults and sects do exactly the same: They are so sure they have found the secret to a social and spiritual utopia where (wo)man is at one with fellow (wo)man. But they fail to get the right balance between positive and negative democracy; accordingly their uncompromising effort to usher in a new unified and free Christian community has exactly the opposite effect. Their zeal, conviction and misplaced confidence in the rightness of their proprietary vision of community betrays them and they end up creating a social nexus ten times more oppressive than what they aim to replace; a nexus where censorship and compulsion are the norm and imposed by a (self) righteous elite. As the video says: “What a croc of ****”.  Oh the pathetic irony of it all!

No social restructuring of community and society will ever relieve us of the basic challenge we face day by day; namely, that of finding the strength of moral character to meet the demands of gainsaying self in favour of our neighbor. There is no uptopian society so structured that the moral choices we should make come effortlessly and naturally. This age old challenge is as much with us today as it always has been:

And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

Whether you believe the Christmas story is a myth or to signifies deep ontological realities, the values and challenges it embodies are timeless and for all: It is a story of a double condescension by Deity: One:That of giving our contingent and suffering world the power to allow its emergence out of the platonic realm of possibility into reality. Two: Of that Deity giving up all to visit this graciously reified world and identifying with it to the point of death:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.
9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Whether as a myth or as an “in fact” reality the Christmas story, in beauty, meaning, depth and grace, surpasses all.

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