The first Noel

Aydon Regault chooses his Christmas present at Trincity Mall.
Aydon Regault chooses his Christmas present at Trincity Mall. File Photo - AYANNA KINSALE

Diana Mahabir-Wyatt

Have you noticed that Christmas comes earlier and earlier every year?

It doesn’t, of course. What starts earlier and earlier are the commercial attempts to brainwash consumers into drawing up their Christmas lists; to entice children into planning what they are going to be asking parents and caregivers for what they have been persuaded by clever advertisers that they really need for Christmas; more holidays are slated to the end-of-year bonus time; and Christmas-gift shopping becomes a budget bust if you do and a guilt trip if you don’t.

Hannukah, Gita Jayanti and Kwanzaa are added to Christmas by shopkeepers to expand gift lists wider and wider. It is now "the holiday season" – marketed as a symbolic attempt to celebrate peace on earth, goodwill towards men (and women). There is even a National Housewives Day in the US.

It goes on and on, taking on a kind of quasi-handout for the poverty-stricken, who are usually given food they have trouble chewing, and you are lobbied as well by members of charitable organisations, schoolmates and religious groups (they do not have to be Christian).

Christmas has long since ceased to be a religious event, except for the usual one per cent who actually believe it is meant to remember the first Noel when the angels did sing for the birthday of the long-awaited prophet who was considered by the Roman conquerors of his birth country as unwelcome and dangerous. Which he was, of course. And along with others, as patriots, they really were trying to change their society to make it more responsive to the needs of ordinary people, so they were executed.

One of my close friends, born in Cyprus, who fought with Makarios against the British colonial power, was also called a terrorist, which I suppose he was. When the country became a democracy, he was called a freedom fighter. Don’t believe "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

The Romans, hearing Jesus referred as the king of the Jews, assumed he was a political plotter. The historian Josephus reported that at that time, crucifixion was a punishment reserved for highly feared political rebels and terrorists.

On one occasion, he said, over 100 captured terrorists intent on bringing down the Roman government were crucified together, which was the way dictators frightened men who tried to take over their political power in those days.

Not much has changed in the Middle East. Osama Bin Laden and Jamal Khashoggi are examples of even more brutal political murders in our time.

Here, we are more civilised, and our freedom fighters like Messrs Shah, Lasalle and Bazie face real trials in a real court – win their cases against the State – are set free and go off to state-sponsored university to get advanced degrees and then are welcomed into senior ranks of commerce, journalism and alternative medicine when they return.

So, as society moves on and industrial relations moves from bloody riots and other forms of violence in other countries – on to strikes, go-slows and claims of sickness – the small business community here is crawling to its knees after serial mandatory shutdowns. It takes time to recover, though, from a time when even young mothers, left to care for small children were denied the right to work and were not able to earn money to buy milk for their infants. Post-lockdowns, those small cookshops and other small vending businesses that compete with the large and more established enterprises are now competing for customers.

Being free, they, on limited budgets like the vendors, can start (in September) to attract Christmas shoppers.

In a culture that has become increasingly more dispirited and indisciplined, economic returns shrink for large and small, though. It doesn’t take much to deter for customers, already frightened even to go into grocery stores and banks after the break ins have escalated.

People now avoid shopping in residential areas after even one brutal home break-in where the education-impaired assault and often kill easy victims – the disabled, the elderly and frightened children. It seems the technology has changed but people haven’t. Something failed in our education system long ago and continues failing young people into believing theft is their only way to get an income.

Meanwhile, we are being warned, even by those who invented and built it, against the dangers of artificial intelligence. Those warnings and the fear they generate, as people’s employment disappears in favour of the more efficient and long-lasting artificial intelligence technologies, far less expensive to maintain than us, are real and worth worrying about.

Until then, sales managers are, from this month, scheduling traditional “shopping days” for staff in early December to avoid the holiday absenteeism of the past; discussions are taking place about staff transport for those who work late in retail shops; and shift rosters are replacing traditional work schedules to cope with overloaded traffic, and we continue, in the Caribbean, to be the place where people do not take anything seriously.


"The first Noel"

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