Dr. Fraser- Point of View
December 30, 2009
This Christmas Season

THE BIG DAY for which we all waited has come and passed even before many of us realised it and had the opportunity to enjoy it. But what does that day mean to us? Have we stopped to think of this? It is becoming clearly obvious that we are removing or have removed Christ from Christmas and that the day and season are evolving a culture that appears to have little or no place in it for Christ.{{more}} In the same way that in today’s world children have come to identify milk with the supermarket rather than with the cow, so the children of tomorrow will associate Christmas with shopping, with Santa Claus and having a nice time rather than with the real meaning of the day and season about which many of them will become ignorant. The traditional Christmas carols that kept the spirit and meaning of Christmas alive are becoming something of the past and because so many of our children today neither attend Sunday School nor Church, the relationship between Christ and Christmas will become lost to them.

Christmas is now becoming, or perhaps more correctly, has become a shopping experience. Sunday shopping in December is now a cultural phenomenon here, with more people probably coming into town than at Carnival. Scores of people drive into town or take mini-vans to lime, to be part of the action, whatever the action might be. The Prison ‘Concert’ is becoming bigger than ever and soon others will capitalise on the crowds in Kingstown to begin to offer all sorts of shows and different kinds of entertainment. It will all be part of a business culture. The question the media inevitably asks every year is: “How was business this year?” This is now taking on its full meaning. Some business people try to be politically correct by saying, “Not too bad”; “It’s OK”; “It’s picking up”; “Sales are the same as last year.” Others bow to today’s economic reality and tell it like it really is. Business advertisements have now grown out of all proportion, so we are bombarded with advertisements and small talk, especially from some of the bigger businesses that try to convince us that we should buy things that many of us neither need nor want. But it is difficult to get away from them because we are told either that we don’t have to pay anything until next year or persuaded that by buying some item we stand to win thousands of dollars or get some other kinds of goodies. In fact, just by entering their premises we might even win something. We are natural gamblers or have become so and we fall into their trap. In these harsh economic times, they find it necessary to try to out- advertise their competitors by literally becoming nuisances, invading our ‘ear spaces’. They try to outmanoeuvre their competitors to get as much as they can under the circumstances. But they can only do so at the sacrifice of our people, who are also facing the same hard economic times.

So where is Christ in all of this? The Christmas songs are built around Santa Claus who has either found a Vincentian or Caribbean wife or is looking for one. This year Santa has fallen into the spirit of the times and has even begun to rob people. I bet, however, he will never get to Belleisle Hill. We have, however, never been able to make him into a Vincentian or Caribbean person. He apparently still comes from the North Pole. This year I did not see the number of Christmas lights I had seen in recent years. This was particularly so with business places. Vinlec must indeed feel particularly cheated. With all of this, we find that we still have to continue to buy new carpets/linoleum, for those of us who still use them. We feel compelled to throw out the old and bring in the new. I am not sure how many still feel that Christmas is not Christmas without English apples. In the past, some felt that our own golden apples might be good for the rest of the year, but not so for Christmas. It is probably still so. Speaking about the Colonial legacy, we don’t have to look further.

We reached our lowest ebb this year with the robbery of the Salvation Army. What else will we not do! It will be interesting to look at the statistics on house breakings for the season, for this year seemed to have been a bumper year for those who take pleasure in invading our spaces. They fear nothing and enter even when the owners are at home. Quite often their acts are performed in broad daylight. This is, however, not surprising. Christmas has come to be about material things rather than be about love, and family. Everybody is capable of love I believe, but not everyone has easy access to material things, so since Christmas is about material things, they obviously convince themselves that there is only one way to go. Pat Prescod and Dr. Ellsworth Charles are only two of the victims of this sickness, but we had all better take warning because increasingly none of us would be out of the loop. We might even become the perpetrators rather than the victims.

So does the Church have a role in turning things around? Before it can dream of doing so, it has to begin to examine itself and start by reshaping its own image and modus operandi. I am not sure the Church knows what its role should be in today’s society. In the traditional Christian society in which we grew up, there were few challenges to the Church and it was not necessary for it to even bother to define itself. Everything came naturally and there was little doubt about its role. Today’s complex society with the challenges to the institutions that shaped our beings and taught us morality and the meaning of life has brought a different dimension that the traditional churches seem not to have grasped. But what is the Church? Many see it as no more than those persons clothed in priestly garb, rather than residing within ourselves. Re-examining the role of the Church is a task we all have to undertake. Failure to do so would lead us to expect from the Church what it can perhaps not deliver. Even accepting all of this, we always have to remember that those in leadership positions, even within the Church, have a special responsibility to those they consider their customers, clients or part of the flock. The crisis is compounded when those leaders in the Church and elsewhere are found wanting.

So we are making a mess of Christmas. The season is bringing out the worst rather than the best in us. Now we are about to enter a new year supposedly with many challenges. What is in store for us? Can we identify the challenges? A lot obviously depends on us. The magic will have to come from us, unless we still believe in fairy god mothers or fathers. So on to 2010! Our first challenge is the Budget. Will it create the kind of context that allows us to better understand our reality and see ourselves as actors and not as members of an audience looking at what is happening on the stage? This is the million dollar question.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.