It’s ‘Christmas’, dammit
This is not going to be one of my ‘explore a fascinating phenomenon’ posts. Nor will it delve into the amazing history and evolution of our species. No. Instead, this post will be more of a rant and has the potential to become both offensive and insulting, although it will not be my intention. After all, I hate causing offence.
On how to begin
Ok, now with the warning done, I’m sort of at loss as to how to begin. I would have liked to tell you all how liberal I am, and how much I appreciate the issues plaguing anyone who’s not white, rich, straight and male, but how can I do that without sounding like I’m making and excuse? Or – even worse – sounding like one of those racists who always start each statement with “I’m not a racist, but..”?*
So I shan’t make any such statement. If you know me, you’ll probably know my beliefs and opinions; goodness knows I’m stating them often enough. If you don’t, then you’ll make up your own mind and nothing I’ll say will change it anyway.
Civilising the human race
In the old days, we had little regard for the less fortunate minorities. Derogatory labels and prejudice was common and viewed not only as the norm but as the way is should be. After all, if everyone is saying and doing the same things, it must be ok, right?
But as our society progressed and evolved, we became more and more aware of how what we said and did was perceived by others. This led to the replacement of a lot of terms and labels to less offensive or at least less negatively charged versions. We called this new concept Political Correctness and it was a tool we could use to make sure that our society got rid of racism, sexism and any other offensive -isms. It was a Good Thing.
So now that we had civilised ourselves and made ourselves aware of how our actions affected others, all should be well, right?
Well.. The problem with revising your behaviour is that once you start it’s very difficult to stop. And how far should we go before we’ve gone too far? There was a story in the Swedish press the other week about a school that had forbidden the use of gingerbread men – both as a condiment and as a character in the traditional Lucia procession - due to potential racist undertones. The kids that had their heart set on dressing up as gingerbread men were disappointed and the Swedish press had a field day with political correctness gone mad. Eventually, the decision was revoked, and the kids could dress up in brown clothes without being accused of racism.
Stories like this fuels the latent xenophobia that seem to be flourishing in most western countries. It seems to be more prominent in countries with high level of immigration like USA, Germany, France, UK, Denmark and Sweden, but it’s present almost everywhere. And with this in mind there’s perhaps no surprise to find that political correctness is viewed as a tool by which the government is trying to destroy the last remnants of the nations cultural history.
But perhaps there’s more to this than just racist/cultural paranoia? Perhaps political correctness is in fact hiding something darker?
Let me exemplify: In many western countries we have stopped using the term Christmas holiday and replaced it with Winter holiday or something similarly neutral. This is arguably in order to make people of non-Christian beliefs feel more comfortable. But if I were to travel to Malaysia or China and even settle down and live there, would I really be all that offended and insulted if they didn’t change the term Ramadan to Diet month? Or Zhonghe to Pancake day? No. I would want to respect their culture and traditions, and as long as they didn’t have a ‘Hate all westerners’ holiday in which they’d burn effigies of my people and ridiculed my culture, I would only see their cultural history and traditions as enriching and fascinating.
So why are we paranoid about our own cultural rituals? Why do we feel the need to rename and water down our main yearly holiday? Who do we think we’re offending by calling it Christmas? Why would people from other cultures feel oppressed by the tradition of a Secret Santa**?
Aren’t we in fact just showing that we think we’re so much better than other people? That we have no issues with handling other cultures, but the poor sods that come to our countries do? That they are somehow less capable of accepting the fact that we have our own traditions? If so, isn’t that really just blatant arrogance on our part?
And in any case, it’s been a long time since the main message of Christmas was a religious one. Sorry all religious people, but Christmas is the holiday of spending and giving and receiving gifts. And eating too much food, obviously.
So I won’t be inclined to start calling my Christmas break Winter holiday. Or Secret santa Secret snowman. I will call it as I see it - it’s ‘Christmas’, dammit.
* For the record, I’m not a racist. At least not consciously. We might all be a bit racist subconsciously, but I’ve covered that topic in my post The economy of racism. (Side note: don’t you also find the phrase “I’m not a racist, but..” really annoying? And it’s completely invalidates the point the person is trying to make, which can be proved by replacing the word ‘racist’. You don’t hear many people say “I’m not a pedophile, but..”
** I don’t like Secret santa, but that’s not because I’m an atheist. It’s because I’m really lousy at buying presents. Also, I’m antisocial and don’t appreciate enforced social interactions.