All I want for Christmas is the end of late stage Capitalism?!
There is an inherent tension that arises for me at this time of year. Without fail, as the holidays arrive there is an enormous cultural pressure to perform the “spirit of giving” (aka rampant consumerism) in the most grandiose ways imaginable. So, where does that leave us radical folks who genuinely value generosity and are also appalled by rising economic inequality, the crushing destruction of our planet, and the profound exploitation of workers (to name a few)?
I have tried every iteration of a modified, less commodified holiday season; no gifts, some gifts, gifts with one person, white elephant, donations in the name of friends and family. No matter how I approach the season, I’m eventually overwhelmed by the pressure to outperform my previous Christmas. Each year must be newer, shinier, bigger, and there must be more of it.
With access to the internet and an understanding of the audience reading this, I know I’m not alone in this feeling. The holidays can be a beautiful, magical time full of family and friends and quality time spent together. They can also be incredibly lonely, exhausting (we see you seasonal employees), and full of emotional and practical challenges.
I’m no longer looking for a super simple solution that somehow allows me to celebrate this season in complete and total alignment with my values without getting carried away in performative holiday-ing (of course, if you do have a magic solution, I’m all ears). Instead, I’m writing this as a reminder (largely to myself) that just because the reign of Capitalism isn’t ending tomorrow, doesn’t mean we can’t embrace the power of both/and.
- We can partake in holiday shopping and be aware of how hyper consumption hurts people and the planet and take steps to build alternatives.
- We can be both critical of the Capitalist system we’re living in and participate in it.
This is a gentle nudge, a little light in the fog, to say that the focus of profits over people continues to put many communities at risk in favor of extractive economics. The small things we do:
- shop small (👋 bye corporate giants)
- support Black, Indigenous, women-owned, gender-expansive businesses
- eat local (shop the farmers market, dine in your neighborhood)
- give back
All of these things help shift resources in the direction of justice. And we have to continue to do our part to change the rules and the culture so that our society is one where people are housed and healthy, where we have the care we need for our minds, our bodies, and our spirits, where no one has to make impossible choices between paying for childcare or paying for groceries.
There is nothing quite like the holiday season to highlight the realities of unbridled Capitalism where the scarcity mentality reigns supreme and we hyper-focus on the accumulation of stuff (Black Friday anyone?). Yet, I know many of us have tasted what an abundant life really is — a life full of real connections with family and friends and the natural world, a pace and a practice where we do, create, and make beyond our jobs, a sense of self and security that makes growth possible.
What if we publicly challenged the notion, rooted so deep in this fiercely individualist culture, that everyone should take care of themselves? What if we believed, and acted as if, we have a responsibility for one another and that together is the only way forward?
That is part of what I see born out across this Women’s Foundation California community – that together we are stronger, braver, and more brilliant. That we can and do take care of each other. That the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
In this season of darkness, let’s be that light for each other.