Dec 20, 2013

Christmas Rage

There are two things in this season of peace and joy that throw me into a fit of uncontrollable rage. The reasons behind my fury are actually related, although one is far worse than the other. Let’s start with the slightly more innocent makes-me-want-to-punch-puppies one, shall we?

The Christmas Pickle.

That fucking green glass ornament that gets hidden in a tree for someone to find on Christmas morning. Ok, the tradition is actually kind of cute. I mean, who doesn’t love a family game that results in one person getting an extra present and everyone else silently resenting him/her. It’s what holidays are made of. My beef comes with the “history” of this tradition. It is attributed basically everywhere as being an old German tradition. FALSE. As a half-German (with the citizenship to prove it), I get asked about this every year, without fail. “You’re German, so you know all about this!” it goes. The first time someone asked me this, all I had for them was a blank, confused stare. Huh? Are you seriously asking me if Germans play “hide the pickle”? This is a joke, right? Now I know better (but still make the hide the pickle snicker).

PEOPLE: THE PICKLE IS A LIE. It is absolutely NOT a German tradition. I don’t know what depths of hell this fucking pickle comes from, but I can tell you it does NOT come from Germany. If one more person asks my about growing up hiding the pickle (heh) every Christmas, I may shove that green thing up their ass. If you really need to know more about where this fabricated tradition might come from, check Wikipedia.

Why does this irk me so? Because I don’t like traditions or stereotypes being thrust on unsuspecting peoples. This brings me to the second piece of Christmas rage.

Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas”

This song. Oh this song. Just hearing the first few notes starts my blood boiling and my skin crawling. How in the name of all that is good and holy is this song still a “hit”?? Ok, the purpose of this song was to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia in the 1980s. That’s awesome. Yay relief. But, that was the 1980s. It is now 2013. Where is the money going now?

The proceeds aside, the song is total shit. Have you actually listened to and thought about the lyrics? I mean, they are in line with understandings and stereotypes of the 1980s, but, again, it is 2013. How can people still consider this to be a top Christmas song? It gets played on Christmas stations all the fucking time, so obviously it is still loved by some. Let’s go through the abomination.

It starts off pretty innocent and kind of nice: you’re having a great Christmas, but think about others that aren’t. No harm in that. Then we get to this: “There won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas.” See kids, a good chunk of Africa is pretty close to the equator. It’s like saying “there won’t be snow in Mexico this Christmas.” Big fucking whoop. This is not news, nor is it interesting. Since we’re in the midst of a famine in Ethiopia, commenting on lack of rain is relevant, but lack of snow?

This brings me to my next point. Africa is not a country. The aid and message was specifically for Ethiopian famine. Ethiopia is one of many MANY countries in Africa. This song basically sends the message that all of Africa is one, and all of Africa is suffering. This just feeds the ignorance of considering Africa as a whole instead of a diverse group of nations, peoples, and yes, climates. I remember how people saw Africa and Africans in the 1980s. They were all starving versions of the Himba tribe. As a result, even today, many Westerners are surprised that there are cities, cell phones and clothes in Africa.

You may argue that that may have just been poetic license to make the lyrics fit together. I could almost forgive it on that basis, if the rest of the song wasn’t filled with patronizing, elitist and self-righteous bullshit that is a perfect example of Western attitudes towards the third world.

I’m not going to dwell on all the other horribleness too long, mostly because if I think about this song much longer, I may set fire to my Christmas tree, but some highlights:

“The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life.”  Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this everyone’s greatest gift? I mean, can a fucking Furby compare to the fact that you are breathing and, well, alive?

“Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you.” Wow. I mean… wow. How would that prayer go? Dear God, thank you for deciding to let me live in the world of excess and visiting horror and starvation on them instead. Keep up the great work. Amen. WHO WOULD EVER DO THAT?! Probably the same people who thank God for sending hurricanes and other disasters to punish the wicked. That’s batshit crazy Hillsboro Baptist Church evil thoughts, that is. What a horrible, miserable, mean thing to sing.

Finally, “Do they know it’s Christmastime at all?” Fuck me. I’m going to have to go rapid fire through this one:
1. Not everyone celebrates Christmas. It stands to reason that those that do not don’t give a flying fuck.
2. Christmastime isn’t really about having things, any things. Even if you don’t fly the Jesus flag loud and proud, you have to admit, the focus of Christmas isn’t so much about getting more but being grateful for what you have, be it a mansion and servants, a roof over your head, or yes, simply that you are alive.
3. But ok, sometimes life truly is so bad that Christmas goes on the back-burner. Should being aware of Christmas really be the priority here? Why does it matter that it is Christmas? Shouldn’t we be doing something to ease suffering no matter the season? Is the biggest tragedy here that people are focused more on survival than celebrating Christmas? Really?

I hate this song to the very core of my being. At its best, it’s self-righteous garbage. At its worst, it is an indictment of the paternalistic, sweeping stereotypes of Africa and Africans that serve no other purpose than to make us feel superior and “grateful” that it’s them and not us.

And now it’s stuck in my fucking head.


Ana R. said...

I totally agree with you on the song. I don't understand why it wasn't even allowed to be played on the radio AT ALL. Surely, the brain behind all those U2 songs (though, personally, not a fan) could have come up with something less condescending!?

Rainy Daisy said...

Sweet baby jesus, you're funny. The worst part about that song is that is probably made a shit ton of money from people who though the song was amazing and moving. No, I changed my mind - the worst part is that people NEED a terrible song in order to do something nice for other people half a world away - forget those who live next door but can't afford to eat.