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Offbeat 19 December 2014

Christmas is here again. I don’t know how Santa does it.  A whole year of supervising elves, tending to reindeer, and still he manages to smile and laugh. I imagine it is some kind of strong tranquilizer with something else mixed in. If I had to work the way he does, the gifts I gave would be grim indeed. On the other hand, he has the cool weather, which probably helps him stay chilled out in the ways he needs to. Actually, nobody knows how he does it.

This year I am going to go all-out naïve and ask for peace and goodwill, the same way the traditionalists do it. It is all that I can reasonably hope for, even though I can say there won’t be anything resembling wish-fulfillment. The year has been brutal in the extreme. The Islamic State has shown us unbelievable savagery born of complete willingness to degrade their individual humanity, with the killing of children and everything else that moves on two legs.  The phenomenon and revelations of rape culture have become so commonplace that the endless streams of news items have become completely humdrum. Star after star has been tarred with that brush in 2014, and yet there are still deviant politicians who are willing to say that certain types of dress invite rape, and there are constituents benighted enough to vote for them.  The oil price is doing something completely weird in the latest round of economic warfare and, my best guess, is that the outcome will be spectacularly awful. It’s turning out bad for a number of countries who base their budgets on oil, including our neighbours Angola.  The recent round of global climate talks yielded not much more than a plan to hold more talks, even though the evidence is mounting into a heap so obvious even a child can see it. Yet more hot air. There might have been a ray of light in the new Pope who seems to be able to open his mouth and talk some kind of sense, but he doesn’t want to do tea with the Dalai Lama. The buzz is that it has something to do with bringing the Chinese Christians into the Vatican fold. That seems to be a significant compromise: the moral authority of belief versus buying flock for numbers. I can’t think about much that was good in any way, just slightly less bad, like the fact that rape culture is actually being called out now. That in itself might be hopeful. Hope is important, even if it is a fantasy. Without hope there can only be realism, and in the current scheme of things, realism seems to be a quick route to the knowledge that things are not going to get better for a long time to come. The idea of the material value of Christmas gifts does not move me much, only the love and care that goes into them. As things stand now, the giving of gifts is not so much a function of the traditional idea of Christmas, rather than a function of the East West production complex centering on China as the producer and the USA as the consumer. If however, you want to support the global economy and do your bit for prolonging the idea that consumption is good for the world, I really wouldn’t mind a Nexus 6 mobile device. In fact my eyes would glitter and I would rub my hands in glee like a six year old opening the gift of a new gaming console. The fact that the Nexus 6 is not available in Namibia absolves me from the sin of greedy Christmas materialism though. That leaves me with little choice but to put away the request for things like my perennial wish for a private, air-conditioned tropical island and a jet to get there, and ask Santa for a better 2015, with far less carnage, abuse and climate damage. I know it doesn’t stand a hope in hell, or Syria, or the Horn of Africa, or wherever hell finds itself for the week, but I am going to ask anyway. I am comfy with that idea. The spirit of Christmas should not be about getting: it has to be about caring for others and hoping that life will be better. Somewhere a child will be taking delight in new clothing or an unaccustomed piece of candy or fruit. I’ll make do with that thought for the Christmas feeling this year.

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