BY NICO ZINGERLE
We know Jesus, the Messiah, was born on the 25th of December and that’s why we celebrate him now, 2000 years later. We even set up our year count system after this guy, while some refuse what is claimed about him and say most of his deeds are fairy tales. It’s unclear how the exact date of the 25th came up and maybe it was just a confusion with the Roman sungod Sol Invictus, who was earlier on celebrated on the 25th of December. By the way, Isaac Newton, Krishna, Buddha or Heracles are also said to be born on that date.
Anyways, most people would still be happy if it was on another date or maybe even for another reason, because it gives them an occasion to spend time with their loved ones and to make them happy with a gift. The gift part here is very interesting and it mainly originates in the legendary figure of Santa Claus. He’s based on the Greek bishop Saint Nicholas, who was famous for his generous gifts to the poor. But instead of using his inspiration and helping the poor, we did two things:
- We created a Santa, who categorizes the children according to their behavior and delivers presents to the “good and nice” and punishes the “bad and naughty”. This whole story is similar to the “hell-fiction” and instead of educating with value on understanding we use subconscious obedience to rigid rules, which will fall apart earlier or later.
- The image of this friendly and old man with a white beard and red suit has been thankfully picked up by the commercials and has been a big factor in creating the huge Christmas business we now know.
So, what’s happening in reality is that we exchange gifts in the form of products, an act that is marketed to us by big corporations as the only way to prove our love to our friends and family. Millions of parents run around trying to get the best presents for their privileged children, which makes them feel even more privileged and forget about the countless things they’re so incredibly lucky to have. In fact, the glowing eyes transform quite quickly into greed for more and anger if they don’t get it. They are taught that stuff we buy and get and have and own makes us happy, that happiness can be bought or gifted or come from the outside.
But if we take a closer look, we are slaves of the advertising industry and our own self-deception, and we keep conditioning our children in just the same way. We are constantly distracted by shallow things, aren’t informed of what’s important and hide our eyes of how tremendously unfair and cruel the world is, which we dare to call ‘ours’. A world where almost half of the human population lives on less than $2.50 a day. A world where 40 million people are enslaved.
Then, we keep convincing ourselves that these or those are the bad ones and have the fault; never we and our lifestyle. We see relentless consumerism not as relentless, but as normal and not buying or conforming as stingy, weird and unkind. This is how heavily indoctrinated we are. So much that most people who read this, will afterwards easy-goingly drive to the next supermarket to buy plenty of packaged foods, shop for new clothing or new electronic devices. They go hiking and call themselves conscious and appreciating nature, they don’t go out for some weekends and call themselves modest, they take the train once and call themselves eco-conscious.
What if we stopped for a second and took a serious and honest look at our activities? How damaging and how necessary are they and what are the alternatives? What if we took off the pink culture glasses for a second and deeply challenged what’s considered “normal”?
I’m not saying that offering material objects as gifts to people is bad. It can actually be a great thing, depending on what those gifts are and to whom we give them. If we give underserved people things that can improve the quality of their lives, then that’s totally fine. But what’s the point of giving people, who already have so much, stuff they don’t need?
Christmas is when the most beautiful presents sit at the table and don’t lie under the tree.
Having said that, I can come to the real cruelty and sickness. Because the by far the biggest ignorance and hypocrisy takes place in our kitchens and on our plates.
Maybe we’ve donated some coins to a homeless man or an aid organization, seen a lot of loving adverts all around us in the previous weeks, then we sit together to celebrate the Feast of Love, we pet our dog, hug our sister and speak of how wonderful it is to sit together with one’s family and everyone is looking forward to the delicious meal with roasted duck. Seems all great, right? Or have we forgotten someone in all the hurry?
Who is lying in the middle of the table? Did this animal have family or friends? What about his ability to feel, communicate, hear, see, smell, taste, express feelings or his subjective experience of life, which is all he has? What if we think honestly for a moment and admit that he had exactly the same desire for life as our lovely dog?
He is the victim of our inherently cruel traditions, the forgotten victim, whose screams nobody heard.
No duck, cow, chicken, turkey or pig ever had a happy Christmas. And make no mistake, there is no happiness in whatever form of animal agriculture! The second we forcefully take them their life, when they don’t want to and we don’t need to, we commit an atrocious ethical felony. The second we give one euro to the animal industry, we fund and are responsible for the enslavement, rape, mutilation, torture, suffering and especially the death throes this animal had to endure.
We ignore, look away and come up with excuses, but we can never unload ourselves of this responsibility. It’s not our fault, that the world and our eating habits have become this way, but it is when it stays like this.
Scripts can stop and start with you. Don’t fool yourself, this is not just a mundane diet choice! While you spend 5 hours chewing and drinking, talking and laughing on this wonderful Christmas eve, 85.608.032 animals have been slaughtered on behalf of us humans. Not because we need to. Because we like the taste, the look, the feeling. And when you see life as an object of value, it’s hard to see the value in life.
If Jesus was the one people claim, what would he do these days? Wouldn’t he be fighting for the weak and defenseless, human and non-human animals and our planet? He would be an animal liberation activist. Just look at Gandhi, who said that the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man.