Thursday, October 31, 2013

We’ve definitely been tricked

There’s a commercial that was aired frequently during the World Series by some mobile phone company where a family uses some app that shows where the best treats are. The family talks about avoiding a house that didn’t give treats they like, and their eyes light up when they learn what houses are giving whole candy bars.

Greed. Instead of marveling at the fact that we have this awesome tradition where we knock on strangers’ doors and they give out free candy, they bitch about what one house is giving out. Maybe those people are struggling financially and can’t afford to give out whole candy bars, or perhaps they just don’t feel the need to compete for most popular candy-giver. Whatever the case, to bitch about the gift that a stranger has given you is nothing short of greed.

Of course, a little disappointment in your some of your treats is to be expected. As a kid I remember hating those peanut butter toffee things and wondered who on earth would eat them. Then there was the house that passed out apples from the tree in their backyard that had wormholes in them. But generally you didn’t bitch about free candy given to you by strangers. Trick or treat was a community event; we knew a lot of the neighbors and we were generally grateful for all of these gifts (unless we ate too much and got a stomach ache.)

Lest you think this is about “kids these days,” it isn’t. It’s about parents. It’s about society. It’s a theme we see repeatedly in our day-to-day activities: gimme gimme gimme. And how can we not expect these results when for the last fifty years we’ve been bombarded with marketing, which is the systematic art of deception. First it was “buy because you need this” then it was “buy because this makes your life easier” then it was “buy because you want this” then it was “buy because others will judge you for not having this.” Now it’s “buy just to buy.” What I’m noticing is a complete disconnect from other human beings in far too many people, and it crosses cultures and borders. But it started here in America. Screw whoever is hurt in the process of me getting my products! My cell phone causes people to be murdered over conflict minerals in Africa? So what! Slaves made my clothes? So what! Hundreds of thousands of people die every year in wars for oil so I can drive to the mall to buy, buy, buy? So what! It doesn’t affect me Me ME!

Bitching about greedy trick-or-treaters may seem trivial, but it’s these little things that add up. It’s the YouTube videos of greedy children rejecting Christmas presents they don’t like. It’s the woman who rips the Elmo doll out of another woman’s hand on Black Friday. It’s the parents who spend thousands of dollars on their children’s birthday parties to outdo the other parents. It’s the people who vote no on school levies because they don’t have children in the school district that needs the funding. It’s bitching about taxes because god forbid you contribute anything to America.

Greed. The ancient Greek philosopher Plato wrote his most famous work, The Republic, at a time when Greek democracy was in a freefall. His observations were that society had become greedy and individualistic and it was ripping apart Greek civilization. It led to constant wars and eventually the society collapsed. We’ve seen countless examples of this same theme throughout history, and we’re seeing it now in the United States.

We’re about to enter yet another Christmas season, the time when Greed is on full display and marketing whores drink from the cup of abominations. I’ve come to loathe this time of year and reject materialism outright. These days, if you give me an apple with a wormhole in it, I’ll cut it up, ask you if you want some, and thank you for the gift. To those who have been tricked into avarice, how about counting your blessings instead of bitching about not getting a whole candy bar?

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