The holidays are here. Black Friday is a week away but the big department stores have been furiously advertising sale after sale for weeks already and most trim-a-tree departments have been up long enough to gather dust. The tide now turns well before the last carved pumpkin has been chewed apart by hungry squirrels.
Buy, buy, buy. Spend, spend, spend.
It’s all part of an incredible machine created to keep money moving and changing hands. This year’s hot fashions and the toys with the most buzz were decided upon months, if not years, ago. Sales catalogues arrive with convenient, ready-to-fill-in wish lists. Just check the things you want.
It’s always been overkill – a season of excesses. But the avarice feels even more awkward and out of place this year. For one, we are at war, still, though it is far away and remote for most of us. But if those grim bodycounts somehow can’t cut through the haze of consumption, then surely the economic headlines will.
Lay-offs, foreclosures, downturns and plant closings, even in other states or other communities, echo in the air and hit home with force. Seems we all know someone, some family, affected by this recession.
It’s not just here. I was in Ireland earlier this year, which might be suffering even more from the recession. Worse, it came on the heels of a period of tremendous economic growth and prosperity for that country, one of Europe’s poorest nations not too long ago.
Boom and now bust. I asked people I met if they thought the recession would cause any permanent shifts, if their countrymen would change their ways. To a person, they answered no, that as soon as the economy rebounded, the demand for bigger homes, larger cars, glitzier gadgets and more of everything would return in earnest.
I wonder about that here in the states. Experts say this will be a smaller, less expensive holiday (which is why those department stores already have been advertising so much). The recession will take a toll and alter how we typically mark this time of year. We will travel shorter distances or not at all. We will spend less on gifts. We will eat in more. We may even do some charity work.
I know, we have this engine of commerce to feed, that jobs depend on us spending and on us keeping that money moving – but I can’t help but think that all these adjustments, all these compromises – well, don’t they sound pretty good?
Have a happy, festive and slow season.My Dec. Editor's Note, from the Exchange magazine.