In the run up to holiday week, Scottish Socialist Voice contributor Roz Paterson offers a comradely reminder to remember that which matters most to people and planet.
When you put out the bin bag on Boxing Day, the one groaning with squelchy, uneaten food and scrunched up wrapping paper, think on this; for every bag’s worth of rubbish you chuck out, there are 70 more, hovering and clanking like Marley’s ghost, comprising all the resources that went into making the rubbish you are now dumping.
The midwinter festivities, once a bleak and flickering light in the long, medieval darkness, is now an overlit, overspent, overstuffed turkey of waste and regret.
Like Away In A Manger, you probably know the words, but here goes… deep breath.
Half of all the paper used by Americans is used to wrap up consumer gifts. Here in the UK, we throw away £4.2m worth of uneaten Christmas dinners, accumulate £6.2bn worth of unwanted gifts, and wrap them all up in enough slippery, twinkly unrecyclable paper to stretch to the moon and back.
Meanwhile, a horrifying £5.6bn, which is £300m more than last year, is predicted to be spent on advertising encouraging us to consume even more.
But let nothing you despair, and the “humbugs” go unsucked, as the trends are not as catastrophic as they first appear. Spending levels are stagnating somewhat. Sadly, because in these days of Brexit, zero hours contracts and benefits withdrawal, more of us have less money. Or indeed, no money.
But there is a positive trend too. We are becoming increasingly environmentally aware, and less blind to the trashing of finite ecological resources.
This last is good, especially for children. Parents may think they’re being good to their kids by overspending, and turning the front of their house into a mini Las Vegas, but in truth, more and more youngsters are deeply troubled by the implications of climate change, and the older generations’ seeming refusal to tackle it in any way. Childline has highlighted this as an area of deep concern to children, who turn to their services to discuss these fears – perhaps because there is no understanding going on at home?
So by all means, in fact I insist, have a well-earned yuletide break from it all. In these troubled times, all good comrades need a few days’ off, and some good food, to refuel them for the days ahead. Half a millennium ago, historians note, many of our peasant ancestors simply wouldn’t have made it through the long, hard winter without those precious few days of eating and drinking each winter solstice, courtesy of his lordship.
But ca’ canny on the spending – the fact that we in the UK receive £6.2billion in unwanted gifts per year is a sobering thought. Increasingly, people are restricting spending to children only – St Nick only gave presents to minors, after all – and wising up about how much food to cook to avoid throwing half of it in the bin.
For children, time is more important than presents, as any child psychologist will tell you, and portrayed so well in last year’s Ikea advert, The Other Letter, in which children made two letters, one to Santa asking for gifts, one to their parents, asking what they’d like from them. The former was the usual consumer list, straight from the catalogue in some cases. But the latter was for…time. To play games, talk, tickle. And when asked, if they could send only one letter, which one would it be, they all – after a little thought – chose the one to their parents.
Spend your time, rather than money, on the little ones, don’t forget to recycle your cards, and have a good one. Another Christmas is possible!
The Scottish Socialist Party wishes each and every one of you a very happy holiday season, and a safe, healthy and happy New Year.
Except the Tories. May their stockings be burdened with a very small lump of coal.