The holiday season is supposed to be a time when people look forward to getting together with family, friends, neighbors and co-workers, relaxing and eating good food. It is supposed to be a break from our normal routine, a chance to take time off of work and kick back and enjoy ourselves.
But for many of us this is not the reality. Some of us get no time off from work for the holidays and some work even more hours. Others of us have no jobs and are barely getting by. Some are homeless with no place to go and the holiday season makes it even more painful when you feel left out. Many of us have families who live far away from us; across this country or in other countries so we cannot be with them.
We are told that the best way to celebrate is to spend money – to show our love and affection by giving gifts. We are surrounded by television commercials and announcements of this or that product – as if these are real news stories. How can we not feel the need to buy the next Xbox or PS4, the latest cell phone or tablet or monster TV or whatever? The pressure can be enormous and people can end up buying gifts they can’t afford.
People are pushed to use credit cards, which puts them deeper in debt, which is not the way anyone wants to go into the New Year. So, showing our love for those close to us, will mean turning our backs on them in the coming year – working overtime or another job to try to make the bills.
This is also the time of year when we are asked to give money to charities, to help those who are less fortunate than us. As a result, working people are the ones who give the most to charities, much more than rich people who can afford it and often get publicity because of their supposed generosity.
Something ends up missing and that is the sense of a real holiday – whether you are religious or not. If the holiday is about getting stuff, there is never enough. In fact the only people who get to spend the holidays the way they say we are supposed to – who get the time to relax and have the money to spend for gifts, meals and drink – are the very wealthy. They have this privilege not because they’re smarter or work harder or are more deserving. They have this privilege because they are the one percent – the ones who own the corporations and banks, all the property and wealth of society. And they are the ones who benefit, not from their work, but from the work done by the rest of us.
We do have some choices. We can choose to celebrate the holidays on our own terms and many people do. Some people help out at a soup kitchen or shelter and serve dinner to those less fortunate. Others open their homes to friends and family or join them in a real celebration. This is not to say that we should be content with just doing the best we can over the holidays because often it falls short of expectations – especially for the children.
No matter how hard we try we can’t make it right – not the way the world is today. San Francisco boasts the addition of new millionaires ever day, while people who have lived in the city for years are being evicted from their homes.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. We only have to look around to see the possibilities. There is no reason why everyone can’t have a decent job and if we shared the work no one would have to work so many hours. Everyone could have a place to live and a role to play in the greater community. Education could be for a lifetime. Theaters and museums, concerts and movies could be free and available to all. The intelligence and creativity of each child could be encouraged and developed. We live in an incredibly beautiful area – wouldn’t it be nice to be able to walk the beaches and hike the hills whenever we felt like it?
That world should and could be a reality. But it won’t come into being by following the path set up by those who rule over society today. That reality will only come into being when working people decide not just to keep society running for others but to run it for ourselves. Then each day will be a celebration of life.