Monday, December 26, 2016

Happy Consumption Day

By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

Talk about social pressure. Someone got mad at me today because I don’t celebrate Christmas. I’m supposed to be happy and bubbly and spend lots of money. You see if you’re not happy, or more importantly, happy in the way the capitalists want you to be happy which is desiring something you don't need, you’re not likely to spend money and Christmas is about spending it’s not about anything else.

It’s not that they’re angry because I’m not celebrating Jesus Christ’s birthday or anything like that. I have no problem with people genuinely celebrating religious or cultural holidays. The real issue is that they are responding to social pressure that they should be happy, that we should be cheerful, yet the reality is people’s lives are extremely stressful. Not only that, the world is consumed with one catastrophe after another. We are all on the edge of possible catastrophic events.  People are not oblivious to what’s going on around them in the world, they just try to shut it all out, but they can’t.

So before Thanksgiving is over, a new period of shopping sets in and we have to be happy to shop. If we remember, after 911 the imbecile Bush told us to remain calm and go shopping. So those of us that reject this manipulation by the media and the folks that profit from Christmas are not “Scrooges” or just “grumpy”. It’s not that. I’m happy today and I know lots of other people that are happy today, I don’t have to be happy on command no more than I have to feel a compulsion to go out and buy my wife a present on February 14th or she won’t think I love her.

First of all, why would people not be depressed? The most depressing aspect of Christmas is that we are told that we should be happy.  And the reality is that there is a lot to be angry at in society and we suppress that anger. It is this conflict that causes problems and especially for those of us that refuse to be “happy” on command and refuse to play the game.

I remember when I was still at work. We used to get a half a day off for Christmas and many of my coworkers would spend the whole afternoon rushing around in a last minute effort making sure they got presents for all the people who expected them, it was stressful for them I could see it. Instead of a relaxing afternoon, free from work, they were running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

The pressure is so great that there are even tips for controlling impulse buying. The media pressure is intense and the psychologists and other experts that business uses to help develop media to coax people or guilt trip them in to buying, are working overtime.  The entire spectrum of human emotion and ethos is contained in one ad.

And it’s obvious why. Holiday sales are expected to exceed $1 trillion this year according to one survey.  Americans spent $7 billion on Halloween alone last year.  Imagine the pressure that parents in low-income families have to deal with if they don’t tell their children the truth and scramble to ensure that their kids aren’t the “poor kids on the block”. The idea we cannot end hunger or provide every human being on Earth with fresh water, health care, and a decent life is a lie.

And what is the truth? The truth is not complicated. In other words, unlike feudalism for example where what was produced was primarily for use, or immediate consumption, in a society like ours, what is produced is for sale not only for the national but the global marketplace. 

And the key issue is this. It is in the process of production, what we call the labor process or work to simplify things, that wealth is created. More value is produced in this process than is paid to us workers for the time we spend producing it (wages). This we call surplus value which is also the source of the capitalist’s profit. 

But that profit is contained within the object or commodity that we produce A product then, contains within it labor time the capitalist has paid for and labor time they get for free. But that added value, cannot be realized until the commodity is sold, the product is sold, and then they go through the process again, and again and again. That’s how the system works.

That is why they spend trillions on advertising as a product not sold is wealth not realized, profit not gained. When we watch television think about how much time they spend selling this object, the car, the clothes, and other products of the workplace. The capitalists’ motive for setting the production process in motion is not society’s needs; that is incidental as workers must have certain needs met in order to work. They produce commodities for the added value contained within them, or what Marx called, exchange value as opposed to use value.  Advertising can create the need, create the desire using all sorts of tricks and manipulation including exploiting workers’ genuine religious beliefs.  If you have a religious reason for celebrating then do that. It’s not likely was born on Dec 25th anyway. It’s all a hoax.

To me, this short explanation of what role a capitalist actually plays about sums it up:
“Use values must therefore never be looked upon as the real aim of the capitalist; neither must the profit on any single transaction.  The restless never-ending process of profit-making alone is what he aims at.  This boundless greed after riches, this passionate chase after exchange value, is common to the capitalist and the miser; but while the miser is merely a capitalist gone mad, the capitalist is a rational miser.   The never ending augmentation of exchange value, which the miser strives after, by seeking to save his money from circulation, is attained by the more acute capitalist, by constantly throwing it afresh in to circulation." Karl Marx, The Transformation of Money in to Capital

This is what makes us sick, makes us depressed as we are always wanting but we will never be satisfied because the capitalist class has to have us always wanting, just like we always have to be in fear of foreigners. The best relief for this is to reject this aspect of society and resist it in some way and fight to change it. One thing is for certain; if Jesus was alive today he would put an end to this commercial holiday they call Christmas.

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