Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Is Santa Appropriate for Our Time?

Lying in my bed this morning, pondering the universe, I got to thinking about the fact that the whole Santa thing just doesn’t really work in this day and age. Oh sure, he epitomises the whole consumerist culture that drives Western economies, but socially he’s a danger to our children.

The idea of a complete stranger coming into our houses would have most of us dialling the police or reaching for our firearms (depending on which side of the Atlantic you live on).

Even worse is the idea of an old man giving presents to our children, especially when he is not known to us. If one of our children came home and said this old geezer tried to give him or her a present, most of us would, once again, be dialling the police or reaching for our firearms (depending on which side of the Atlantic you live on), while asking our child if they had screamed loudly, kicked the old bastard hard in the nuts, bent back his little finger until it snapped and poked him in the eye before running away, just as we’d taught them to do if they were approached by strangers.

When I was little, there was an old man in the village called Harold who kept a pile of boiled sweets in his jacket pocket. Whenever he saw a small child he would reach into his pocket and find a sweetie for them. I guess he was harmless enough, and just enjoyed making little kids smile. Certainly my parents never seemed worried about him. These days, however, he’d be reported to the police as a suspected paedophile.

In our separate lives, where we don’t live as part of the tribe, clan, or extended family, where “a sense of community” is something our parents talk about as something they used to experience, we live out independent lives where we can rely on no one but ourselves.

We house ourselves, feed ourselves, protect ourselves, provide our own entertainment, sort out our own security arrangements, raise our children on our own: in other words, everything humans would originally have shared with their tribe we now have to provide ourselves. We have to go out and work long hours to gain the money to live completely independently.

Previously, the threat from a stranger came from outside the clan, and the rest of the clan were there to help protect you. These days that clan only extends as far as the 4 walls and front door of your house, so everyone is a stranger and therefore a potential threat.

The more independent we become, the more we don’t need to rely on anyone else, the more insular and paranoid we turn out to be. The fear of everyone else is becoming more and more exaggerated. Strangers are potential muggers, paedophiles or suicide bombers.

These days, the guy dressed as Santa at the shopping mall has to follow very strict guidelines about not holding or touching the children that visit his grotto. “Come and sit on my knee little girl/boy” is a phrase riddled with sexual paranoia and fear.

In our culture of independence and self-reliance, there is little room for the acceptance of the stranger. How much longer will the Father Christmas myth last in today’s society?

17 comments:

Gyrobo said...

It won't last very long, I can tell you that much. They did a study, analyzing the facial features of children and their parents at malls.

Turns out, most kids are just plain disinterested. When they grow up, they probably won't care enough to pass it on.

Santa will turn into just another ancient myth, like the English monarchy. Seriously, what's the point of having monarchs if you won't allow them to assert a divine mandate?!

His Majesty said...

Blaspheming automaton! Kneel before the absolute unquestioned ruler of the Blogosphere!

And get me my royal scepter!

Gyrobo said...

Yes, my liege!

Wait, I don't take orders from you. Time for a dethroning!

Asher Hunter said...

I have pondered the Santa issue myself for some time. For me, there is the loss of trust. When a child finds out the truth about Santa, how can he fully trust a parent who lied to him for all those years?

RNP said...

Kim:

There is only one child in my house that thinks there is a Santa, that is my four year old Chandler. Due to some family plans we opened our presents on Christmas Eve. My son CJ was at a neighbors when my oldest child and I carefully snuck the gifts out of the trunk and into the house under the tree.

When I picked up CJ I mentioned to him that I thought I saw someone running away from our house. I thought that I was implying it may have been Santa. Unfortunately, it is not only adults that are aware of the dangers lurking outside one's home.

My CJ quickly said "OH no mom, it was probably a robber" followed by "you better call the police before we go into the house". I then felt awful for needlessly startling him. I quickly explained our house was safe and that it wasn't a robber.

So, needless to say, the whole theory of Santa-yes I am now convinced that a simply harmless tradition a thirty or forty years, or even a century ago, was a rather innocent thing that may need some new innovation.

The world is a rather different place it does seem there is a need to be afraid of older men, strangers, and such.

Such a dilemma isn't it?

Asher: My children have questioned me many times about the reasoning or motivation for posing such a story of Santa to them. I, unarmed with any real good explainations, said it was just a tradtion. We teach our children they should be honest, then we tell them lies-what a position to be in.

Kim Ayres said...

gyrobo and his majesty - have you ever seen "Blazing Saddles"? At the end of the film, the big fight spreads out and bursts into other sets that are unrelated to the original film. I can't help but feel that something similar is going on here.

Asher - it is a tricky one, but I couldn't help but feel that our friends who never did the Santa thing with their kids were missing out on a bit of magic.

Rebecca - what a brilliant story to illustrate the point! The world is changing. However, I think our fear of strangers is vastly out of proportion to reality, and it suits those who would restrict our freedoms and rights to play up these fears.

It's not unrelated to my blog posting about The Dangers of Not Being Anonymous - http://kimayres.blogspot.com/2005/10/dangers-of-not-being-anonymous.html

Karl the Sorcerer said...

I've never thought that Santa should be presented-

Gyrobo said...

I don't think our fights will ever interupt anyone else's conversations.

His Majesty said...

Now, prepare to battle!

Karl the Sorcerer said...

Hey!

Gyrobo said...

Silence, sorcerer!

His Majesty said...

Evil Robo-Bob Dole concurs!

Asher Hunter said...

If I have children, I plan on explaining to them that Santa is not an actual person, but rather the spirit of Christmas giving. I will explain Saint Nicholas, and tell the child that after he died, his spirit is believed to have continued on.

It'll be tougher than just encouraging a belief in Santa, but I think in the long run, better for the child.

Stella said...

What!!!! Are you trying to tell me there is no Santa!!!!!!

Gyrobo said...

I think I pretty much filled up this post with far too many joke comments... so I'll just stick to my first one and wait until the next blogging.

A.K.A. Blogmageddon.

Kim Ayres said...

Gyrobo - I hope this isn't a sign of things to come.

Asher - I respect your decision. You may have to negotiate with your child's mother though...

Stella - Sorry, this posting should have contained a warning too... hang on a sec, you're a 30-something mum...

Chris Black said...

I think you're all being too bleak and pessimistic here ! Long may Santa visit us.


Happy New Year to all.