Saturday, October 27, 2012

Joys and Lamentations

What have we Americans done to holidays?  A media report the other day claimed that we will spend over a billion (yes, BILLION) dollars on Halloween costumes for our children, and another billion (yes, billion) dollars on Halloween costumes for ourselves, i.e. the adults in this country.  That doesn’t count the two+ billion dollars we’ll spend on decorations, cards, and candy.  Can you imagine what an infusion of four billion dollars could do for public education in this country?  And that's just from one holiday!

Have we mixed up our priorities?  It used to be that at Halloween people handed out fresh fruit like apples, or little bags of homemade cookies or homemade candy, or kids asked for pennies and nickels for their UNICEF collection boxes.  Parents challenged themselves and their imaginations, along with their kids’ imaginations, and created their costumes from what they had around the house.  I have a friend who one year used large cardboard boxes to make her kids’ costumes – one was a washer, the other a dryer.  There are still parents out there who show their kids how to have fun without emphasizing buy, buy, buy.

Of course, we’re also concerned about our children’s safety.  Homemade treats and fresh fruit stopped being safe when some sickos slipped razor blades inside them to hurt whoever bit into them.  We no longer allow our children to go trick-or-treating by themselves to protect them from strangers who might want to snatch them.  The Dark Side has always been a part of Halloween but in its fantasy narrative, not in its reality.  We’ve changed that, too.

So, we succumb to buy, buy, buy: costumes, decorations, cards, candy, gasoline for the car to take our kids to safe neighborhoods for trick-or-treating, and extra money for the electric bill to leave the lights on later outdoors.  Buy, buy, buy.
Courtesy of Google Images

We have become the unwitting dupes for marketers that work for companies who want our money so they can also be unwitting dupes for marketers of other companies and their products.  Talk about your crazy hamster wheels!  Around and around we go, listening to ad campaigns that ignite our desire for this product or that one which we buy the next time we’re on our way home from work or to pick up our kids from school. 

We live for money!  Think about it.  We need jobs to earn money to pay for shelter, transportation, food, clothing, and education, and the maintenance of shelter, transportation and clothing.  Everything else is frosting on the cakes of our lives.  We need money to live in our society.  If we haven’t inherited a significant amount in land or investments, then we must work to earn that money.  We make things to sell or learn skills to sell either to consumers or to companies that need what we make or what we know.  We call it Capitalism.  Free market enterprise. 

Of course, at the moment we’re crawling out of the Great Recession’s Hole, our economy still struggling to return to pre-Great Recession productivity and profit levels.  We forget that we’re psychologically and emotionally connected to money – we want it like a drug-induced high.  “If I were rich….”  “If I were in that corner office….”  We connect who we are and our success to money.  Think about it.  When was the last time you worked gratis at something that you loved and would continue to do if it paid you a living wage?

Making Halloween into a capitalistic feeding frenzy is only a symptom of what ails us.  We have an addiction.  Some people are honest about it, like those addicted to shopping or the arbitrager who can’t stop betting other people’s money on high-risk securities.  The kid in the Projects who wants to be rich and famous because he understands that’s the way to get out of the Projects.  Our creativity has channeled into how to make money either by selling something, creating a product to sell or a service to sell.  We need to get creative to find the way to rehab from this addiction.

But hey, Halloween is just a holiday and it’s fun to dress up and scare the kids, right?  Then there’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Father’s Day….. 

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