Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Cynic?


The news over Christmas is almost entirely comprised of stories about how busy it is at the mall. The tone of the pieces is a mixture of empathy with an "analysis" of what all this buying will do for the economy. The economy is usually portrayed as constantly near-death, and only the heroic efforts of consumers will save it from collapse. Not like an actual collapse, like a couple of years ago, but something...just go buy some stuff!!!

Interspersed with this were reports about the commemoration of the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean, and it occured to me that the massive outpouring of generosity that happened back then was entirely a feature of the timing of the disaster. I mean, if it had happened outside of the buying/giving orgy of Christmas, it wouldn't have become what it did.

This disaster also gave rise to a spate of reporting on "donor" fatigue, that people had been giving and giving, and they just couldn't do it any more - their generosity was exhausted.

There is a self-congratulatory tone to all of it, and yet no one ever speaks of "buyer" fatigue, that people might be tired of going out and shopping. And yet, one only needs to spend 15 minutes in a mall before or after Christmas to see how unhappy people are, waiting in line to buy something that may or may not be less expensive. The sheer overwhelming obligatory nature of the time can be overwhelming.

So perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that people experienced donor fatigue - after all, people might have felt a kind of resentment, that the season of forced generosity actually contained within it a moment of genuine need.

Then the world opened up - an entire world of need! My God, all these godforsaken people! Back to shopping.

There is a dissonance there, and I do not know what the resolution is.

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