There are a thousand and more instances, examples, of how Christmas is devalued by commercial usage of its importance; its occurrence; its potential. Little I can say on it that I and many others have not said and are yet saying and which demonstrates this.
In the same way works once considered artistic triumphs are seen to be harnessed by commercial interests into the service of promoting sales; thus are these artworks too in the harnessing likewise devalued by their being used thus.
As the old chestnut goes: ‘Who cannot think of ‘The Lone Ranger’ when s/he hearing the William Tell overture?’
Commercialism has that anti-Midas touch about it; in that whatever of value it touches; it devalues; and yet whatever goods and services of no special value it touches, it attempts, and often succeeds in, fabricating value for them out of nothing but hype. Some of this hype might fancifully be seen as being a direct transfer and transformation of artistic and/or sacred value – i.e. of Christmas and of artworks – into value which has been fabricated for goods and services – to the loss of some of that once untainted value from the sacred and/or the artistic.
Samuel Johnson, a great literary man of the 18th century, complained bitterly that ‘the race of poets’ which he was the first to term ‘metaphysical’; and which included John Donne and Richard Crashaw amongst their number; that they had ‘yoked together by violence’ images and conceits which they had ‘ransacked nature’ so as to find and use them.
St Paul in The Letter to the Philippians says of the Lord Jesus that He is that One ‘Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself’
Here then we have the ‘metaphysical’ poets ‘ransacking nature’ for any strange and curious thing to use in their art. Here we have also the Lord Jesus ‘subduing all things to Himself’.
The first is then a search which is thorough and universal and willing to select any item no matter how incongruous or alien. The second is the Almighty Power of Godhead bringing everything in earth and heaven under one unity of order and of dominion.
Did I not say; have I not said many times that our commercial life is antichrist? And here again is evidence which leads us to such a conclusion. Just as Milton in his poem ‘Paradise Lost’ has his character Satan build in the fires of Hell – whereabouts he and his rebel angels have fallen into after their defeat at the hand of the faith-abiding Angels of The Lord – Milton has Satan build a replica of the heavenly places from which he has been ejected eternally. And just as there is a Chinese conception of Heaven as being a Divine replication of the tiers, departments, and ranks of the Chinese Civil Service administration; so too Satan in Milton’s poem replicates the forms, arrangements and structures of his lost Heaven; by his building his diabolical city of Pandemonium in the fires of Hell.
At once this is a diabolical mockery, parody, of Heaven itself expressing evil and pointing also Satan’s to hatred towards his victorious Master; it is also an imitation which is ‘a form of flattery’ to the original. It attempts to establish Satan as being a viable alternative to God because Satan’s kingdom now matches in its vastity and architecture the size and mightiness of the Lord God’s – or so Satan would have it.
But Satan’s great capital city Pandemonium, as a mirror image of Heaven’s ‘cloud-capped towers and gorgeous palaces,’ it represents and is made of substance which is innately and irretrievably evil; just as Heaven is made of substance and structure which is wholly and eternally good.
Satan in Hell has himself attempted to ‘subdue all things to himself’ in the servile and backhand flattery of malicious imitation. For Satan has a breast housing the essence of all vices; he wants his capital city, he wants it to outshine heaven; he is jealous and envious and is proud and vies for supremacy over a Divinity whom which there is no higher or better. Thus Satan is the keeper of the Lost Cause par excellence.
Why all this ‘mythological stuff’ about Satan, you ask. What has it to do with commercialism and with commercialism being antichrist?
Well the fate of works of art and of sacred things such as holy days like Christmas which are collected by and ‘subdued’ to commercialism’s self; and throughout which commercialism ranges to ‘ransack’ and so ‘yoke together by violence’ any items it finds amongst these divine treasures; the fate of these treasures is to be inverted, into a mirror image of their true selves; by way of their expedient mercenary usage and so suffer a subsequent devaluation as art or as divine thing.
Commercialism is the dark art of backhanded imitation; made by way of its distorted replication of the divine and hallowed things it purloins to its own ends.
Just as the essence of Satan’s city Pandemonium is that it is being built for Satan to be able, at least in his twisted mind, to vie with God; this emulation means that Satan’s existence is defined by its oppositions; by his inveterate opposition to God; and so by this opposition to an entity which is all-wholesome and which cannot be defeated; an entity which depends upon no oppositions for its existence and purposes; but which is in fact ultimate reality because good in itself; and unchallengeably so. Were Heaven able to ‘disappear’ then Satan’s reason for being would also disappear; he would not be contented with the field left his all before him, and as it were ‘won.’ His joy is in what causes him his pain; in opposing ultimate right and the good; and without this opposition being available to him he is destitute of purpose and of intention. Becalmed. Beached. Stranded. Not victorious.
Whereas were God to abolish Satan and his crew, Heaven would be unaffected, unaltered, still functioning as a fully fulfilling place of abode. God is not defined by or altered by Satan’s existence in any way.
‘Thus spake Seraph Abdiel faithful founded
Among the faithless faithful only he’
How might this bear on commercialism? Well, commercialism ‘borrows’ ‘ransacks’ ‘subdues’ all things to itself – it has been said to be a key characteristic of Capitalism that it brings into its fold eventually all things which raise up so as to oppose it. The countercultures of the 1960s; the Internet; the IT hackers; the factions in Ireland and in Saigon; the slaves of Southern USA; the Latinos there; Iran by Obama; Libya under Gadafi; Rock and Pop Festivals; all kinds of things it offers its 30 pieces of silver to join the dance; and lo, all who accept the 30 pieces do so to the loss of their own original aims and intentions; and become one of the club of sell-outs.
These things which sell-out are often born in the first place to oppose commercialism – hippydom; militant Islam etc – but commercialism is not the final rock of arbitration such as is our Lord God. Commercialism depends on those finer things it exploits to which humans are able to respond nobly in their lives; indeed the very finest things. Honour; truth; love; faith; virtue; kindness; forgiveness and so on; but commercialism is like a blight which likes to ‘ransack’ and ‘subdue’ all such things to its own ends – the ends of ever more buying and selling for profits.
In the course of commercialism doing its ‘subduals’ and ‘ransackings’ it destroys little by little these fine items it makes ulterior use of – for its buying and selling. Commercialism feeds off humanity’s finer things; and like The Merchant of Venice’s jealousy commercialism ‘mocks the meat it feeds on’. Commercialism pays its ‘homage’ to its pilferings; a ‘homage’ which is its blight, and which is the active force by which the item of ‘homage’ receives a lingering death sentence.
Commercialism comes to us in fair guises, like Mephistopheles first comes to Dr Faustus in Marlowe’s drama; and it hides its ugly faces from our enamoured and fawning eyes. It comes to present itself to us like all evil at its first view; coloured fair to look wholesome and potable, digestible and good for us; but hiding, disguising its deadly effects and conclusions.
Beneath commercialism beneath the ‘borrowed robes’ it ‘dresses itself in’ are the Bangladeshi clothing sweatshop warehouses (yet still!); the Chinese semi-slave factories (of suicides); the loinclothed and bowl of rice a day Ethiopian coffee farmers (who grow for the West exotic luxury goods to be able to subsist in poverty); the US penitentiary inmates and their unrewarded toils (a nation which emancipated its black slaves; then the next century began imprisoning them in penitentiaries – where they do slave labour – today as I write); all of these and a host, a mighty host and many more of sordid and cruel abuses of human beings sit beneath our loaded stocked shelves and our gaudy effulgent upmarket shop windows.
It is an indubitable fact that in regard to material objects supply of them is finite; is environmentally and capacity-wise restricted. The economists call this ‘natural scarcity’ (There is constructive scarcity also; which is an even worse terrible thing). It follows irresistibly then that in the world of goods and services my gain is another’s loss – somewhere along the chain of production and consumption.
When I buy something, that something is no longer available to someone else to buy – that model maybe is – that brand maybe is – but not that particular object. Thus when I buy a lot, or too much, I am depriving someone elsewhere unjustly. I am literally wasting money and resources also. It is without question true and unassailable also that were those persons, who are like nearly all of us in Britain, to say ‘pass’ on purchase of this gadget, or to forego that ‘perk’ there would be a response by commercial producers to shift their production into other things than those we resisted ourselves buying unnecessarily.
Were we to get this money we did not spend to those in the world in need – and in our age this is not so straightforward a task as its simplicity suggests – since I am convinced of the ‘rake-off’s’ and ‘commissions’ extracted without care or compassion at every petty level of administration through which such monies normally pass to get eventually sorely depleted to the persons in need – were we able to actually see to it that the well-fed and fattened officials do not add to their greasy personal fortunes by way of our generosities, and that the monies, the spending power, actually went to those in need of basics; then the producers would – since they are mercenaries and follow the money always – shift production and delivery towards those products persons in need who now have money primarily require. Simple. Why do we not do it?
Because commercialism is a seductress and a liar and it is all the evils under the sun antichrist; and so commercialism ever oversupplies us, ever coaxes us, lures us; temps us; and in the process it is destroying us also; even we who own that we have too much and who have a world of supply at our very feet. So do not think it’s a shame for the persons in need, but yet I myself am on a roll and can get anything I like from the shops. Selah!
Commercialism will destroy us all. It will destroy the people in need by preventing supply of their lacks; and it will destroy also the people like us who are ridiculously oversupplied; because of its steady and unstoppable erosion of our minds, by which this commercialism is parasitic, and upon such an erosion it depends for its continuance and for its ever greater expansions.
This erosion of our minds will take place; has taken place and is taking place; because the value of artworks of finer feeling and the appreciation of their beauty; the values of sacred things and of holy festivals like Christmas; all stay the same objectively regardless of our (lack of or loss of) apprehension of their beauty or fineness or sacredness diminished. It is us who are the object which change and not these finer things which very fine minds and the Lord God himself have provided to us as sweetness and light; it is us whose minds are inch by inch being parasitically debased and made ever more craven and mercenary and up for the main chance and ever-grasping – by the examples set by commercialism and the people who advocate and condone it; and by the opprobrious usage by commercialism of sacred and fine things for its ulterior and expedient purposes – either as parody, homage, straight theft or whatever; so as to build a commercial Pandemonium here on earth.
Were these sacred and fine things able to disappear – as from appreciation in our minds they shall do one day, when commercialism will have ‘used up’ our Western and many other parts of the world’s heritage completely; so will it have received its mortal wound and commercialism will fail. Just like Milton’s Satan depends upon God and on His beauty love and goodness for his evil existence, his mission and his raison d’être; so without God he would lose his meaning and reason for being; and so too commercialism will fail once it has clubbed to death our senses of fine feeling and of sacred apprehension.
Yet, take heart; as St Paul says, triumphantly and indubitably correctly, in 2 Timothy;
if we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He will also deny us; if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. Remind the believers of these things, charging them before God to avoid quarrelling over words; this is in no way profitable, and leads its listeners to ruin.…
Likewise as God ever-remains and remains ever-faithful, even though we all should deny him; the fineness of fine things remains as does also the sacredness of sacred things; regardless of our apprehensions of them being dulled and blunted to a nothingness.
Our Lord Jesus tells simply and reliably: ‘A man cannot serve both God and Mammon’.
To finish I want to ask you please do not walk away from having read this article a little uplifted, a little impressed maybe, but feeling in your heart that ‘it’s all theoretical’ all ‘hypothesis’; thus it has for you no practical application. Nice, enjoyable, fresh air; but unworkable, in the clouds.
Love and the engendering of and spread of love is about changing minds. When the will is engaged to do something; something will be done. Enough wills willing and things get moving. I am no organiser; I am even against organisation and organisations. Yet mobilisation at a personal level whereupon enough people are mobilised to act; is able to work to fulfil its aims and deeds without use of formal organisation. Simple Chinese Whispers. Pass it on. Spread the word. Rouse the feeling. Appeal to our hearts.
Just as the values we hold which are in danger of gradual depletion and attrition at the hands of those who rule the earth; those whose ambition for gain and increase leads them by their noses to dusty death; and thus those who maintain and prosecute commercialism as their life’s object; just as our values are being assaulted are also indwelling within us in our mind’s hearts; so to then are also the solutions to this terrible enduring crisis of spirituality and of attrition against the best things in humanity and in human life. And such a ‘sea-change’ in enough hearts would see a solution to commercialism’s resultant and no less dreadful deprivation and depredation of so much of the world of humanity who are lacking even the basics for life.
I saw in a mental hospital a long time ago a sign: ‘If you feel well; you are well’. When your mind’s heart is in the right place; then one is enabled to act rightly – but always and only under God’s direction and in His service.
And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. Matthew 21:22
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