Opinion | Making 'the present' the present

BEMUSED: "What amazed me ... was that the last spending binge had only just ended two days ago, during the great and annual Christmas splurge." Picture: Joe Armao
BEMUSED: "What amazed me ... was that the last spending binge had only just ended two days ago, during the great and annual Christmas splurge." Picture: Joe Armao

Years ago now, my family decided to do away with what is the craziest aspect of Christmas Day.

That aspect which, every year, creates the most stress.

That aspect which, in the main, creates much frustration.

That aspect which is basically, in spirit, anti-Christmas.

That aspect which creates only more landfill. It is, of course, the aspect of present giving.

Present giving – in many cases, if we are going to be honest with ourselves – for the wrong reasons.

When we put this idea, of doing away with the presents, into practice, the tensions dissipated at once.

The true peace of Christmas returned to our household.

Amazingly, like that, the present became the real present.

This takes me to the word “present”, as in “gift”.

I am always reminded that in the Dutch language of my forefathers, as well as in German, the word “gift” actually means poison.

And since that contained a warning, we took heed.

On the way home from such a present-less blissful Christmas celebration, we took the Calder Freeway.

Then, just outside, Melbourne we were forced by a series of road signs to slow down to 40km/h.

The reason for this interruption in our journey was the passing of an unusual parade.

Thousands and thousands of what almost seemed to be sheep driving cars were getting off the highway, onto a service road near that row of factory outlets on the edge of the city.

There seemed to be no end to the parade which filled up the service road and spilled over onto the freeway, literally for miles and miles.

It was the day after Christmas, and here was car after car, shuffling obediently to the call to spend. 

Mindlessly along the path of compulsive consumption to spend, in the main, money that they don’t have on things that they don’t need.

They were all shuffling obediently, on their way to the cash register to be relieved of their cash.

That hard-earned cash, in jobs I am sure many of them disliked.

Here we are able to observe the new religion of “Saint Spending of Corporate Greed” in full action.

Where once the people would line up for a church service, they now drive to the factory outlet to pay homage to the almighty dollar god.

And where once the church had its way of relieving cash from the devoted flock with the principle of tithing, the new retail religion of shopping has a much more subtle – and successful – way of relieving its followers of their cash. 

In the main, this is achieved by offering useless trinkets in return.

Something that they obviously learned from the missionaries.

What has changed?

There were still thousands of cars waiting patiently in very long lines to enter the factory outlets to offer their cash.

What amazed me about this was that the last spending binge had only just ended two days ago, during the great and annual Christmas splurge.

It was as if the punters, unable to shop for one day, felt deprived and as a consequence had to go shopping with a vengeance. 

Christmas being only just over and here they were, on Boxing Day, back at it. Consuming.

One would think that after the mania of Christmas shopping, people would have enough of it for at least a year.

But no, more stuff momentary wanted but almost never needed. Wanting never stops.

Petrus Spronk

Email: art@petrusspronk.com