To question consumerism is to question everything, and what better time to do that than Christmas?
Consumerism is our prevailing cultural and economic modus operandi. It is what we do, to some extent who we are, and it is ideological in nature because it defines our sense of normality. The familiar critiques of consumerism include its deleterious ecological impact, its failure to offer enduring satisfaction and the comical absurdity of ‘spending money you don’t have to buy things you don’t want to impress people you don’t like.’ So consumerism is unsustainable, unrewarding and ultimately absurd. Yet it endures, and it’s hard to imagine replacing it. Why?
The answer seems to be that it fulfills certain emotional and social logics relating to identity, status, belonging and self-expression. We may never create a better world unless we understand these kind of logics better and build news ones. Whatever consumerism is, Christmas puts it under the microscope, or at least it should. Consumerism is particularly rampant at this time of year, but rather than critique it as a seasonal indulgence, why don't we take the chance to imagine alternatives to consumerism more generally? In contrast to consumerism, this is the time of year where many gladly go to church, find the ritual and solidarity rewarding, but won't go back until a year later.
And while Christmas is supposed to be about love, renewal and the experience of convivial homecoming, it can also be a challenging time. The ambient pressure to be happy can be oppressive. Spending time with family can be alienating. Loneliness is felt more acutely. Financial burdens are particularly stressful. And even when the joy in giving and receiving is real, we feel complicit in the shameless commercialisation of the season. No wonder the Samaritans are particularly busy in late December.
If we don't understand what's going on at Christmas, perhaps we don't understand what's going on at all.
Perspectiva’s first event successfully trialled a new approach to enhancing intellectual inquiry through creative group processes. Our second event, also in association with 42 ACRES, will feature a panel discussion with three speakers including Director of Theos Elizabeth Oldfield and Director of Perspectiva Jonathan Rowson, followed by a creative and festive attempt led by Pippa Evans (Sunday Assembly, BBC Now Show) to sketch some new political visions together, inspired by all that is good and bad about Christmas.
There is a distinct possibility of free mince pies.
*Unfortunately there is currently no disabled access to the venue*