This year, just before Christmas, while I was travelling in some bigger city centres of southern Ontario, I noticed just how crazy this holiday season has become. There were long streams of traffic going from mall to mall and every store I visited had line ups of people at the cash. A normal part of this shopping frenzy seemed to be made up of screaming parents and crying kids.
I could feel the stress on people everywhere I went. Everybody was preparing for the Christmas event and spending money had a lot to do with it. It didn’t look to me that many of these people were happy and most looked like they would need a vacation after this holiday.
Every time I turned on the TV, I saw multiple advertisements for gift ideas and most of them were aimed at children. I guess the idea is if you can get the children to ask for the gift then guilt becomes a big factor in purchasing the right products.
There was an obvious difference in the types of people that were shopping at lower-end dollar stores as compared to medium or high-end malls. Although we Canadians like to pride ourselves as a classless society, it becomes evident at the retail shopping level that there really is a situation of haves and have-nots. I saw many sad scenes where downtrodden parents were doing their best to find something for their children at the dollar stores. Most of these people I saw seemed to be new arrivals from other countries. On the other hand, a more middle class or affluent class of people were shopping at the brand stores in the big malls. They were dressed well and their children seemed to be very demanding.
It occurred to me, while shopping during the Christmas rush, that people weren’t really participating in this because they wanted to.
Millions of dollars is spent on advertising leading up to this time of year to convince people that buying the right gift for their loved one at Christmas will make somebody happy. The
problem is, that I have never really seen any long-term happiness come out of that Christmas gift giving. Over the decades billions of dollars have been spent to develop a buying public. The only gift that I remember receiving when I was young was handmade pair of moose hide gloves from my mom.
All the electronics and toys are forgotten. None of them meant much to me.
Before the coming of the Europeans and their religion, Native people didn’t have these types of focused events where we felt obliged to give anyone else a gift. Life was hard and we lived off the land. We shared what we had to survive. There was no alcohol or drugs. Our stress came from dealing with our daily life in cold temperatures on the land.
I have this recurring dream where I am on a river in a canoe. The water is shimmering like diamonds under the summer sun. I am headed to the shore where there is a community of wigwams and shelters.
There is smoke rising from the fires. Children are running and playing in the tall green grass. There is a smell of sage and sweet grass in the air. Nothing seems complicated here in my dream and I am calm and grounded. I don’t know why I have had this dream all my life. Perhaps it is part of my DNA and it just keeps popping up in the back of my mind from time to time. Maybe it is just wishful thinking on my part to return to a more simple and meaningful time.
Then again it might just be a recurring dream.
With the New Year upon us, my wish for everyone I know is that in some way, they can simplify their lives and be more conscious of the industries at work in the background driving us to be mad consumers. I am going to try and do my best to live a more simple life in 2011. I will try to spend less time at the computer and the television. I will do my best to live my life with some meaning, and less duty. I hope to cut back on a rich and dangerous diet. Maybe some of these changes could make me happier. Happy New Year and I hope you find some serenity in 2011.