Tuesday 23 December 2014

Not so Jolly Midst the Holly

It's that time of year when dull columnists get the chance to put a festive spin on their navel-gazing. And so Zoe Williams of the Guardian gets to answer the all-important question, "how can I write 500 words of egocentricism that have something to do with Christmas?"

Important to start with a false dichotomy in these things.  In Zoe Williams's world you can be spiritual, or you can be consumerist. But you can't be both. And, with the exception of Zoe Williams herself, you can't be neither. 7 bn people on this planet and you'd imagine she's the only one to achieve both of these. Here's a Venn diagram to help you.
A lonely intersection?

A lonely place to be. 

But the dichotomy is, as I say, false. For people who can be both spiritual and consumerist, I would like to refer you to the United States of America. Many of them spiritual to the eyebrows, and yet ardent churchgoers. What about members of the Prosperity Gospel movement?  And then, there are plenty of anti-consumerist, unspiritual people. Stingy b*ggars, we call them. There you are, Zoe Williams - you've got some friends!

Not pleasant friends, obviously, but friends. And then there's good news!  She has family as well. But there's a problem....
"But having kids has tipped me over the edge. It isn’t their spiritual wellbeing I’m worried about – they have grandparents for that."
Now I'm sorry. But this woman has kids, and presumably thinks they need spiritual wellbeing. Which is interesting, because she doesn't have any spiritual side herself at all. Now, either she has a spiritual side, or she doesn't. If, as she says, she doesn't - then why on earth does she want her children to have one? Or, indeed, a spiritual side each - we are not the sort of community at the Beaker Folk to wish spiritual homogeneity on anyone - even children with such an unpromising parent. But if she thinks the kids need spiritual development - what sort of irresponsible woman outsources the spirituality of her children to somebody else? Is this the brave new world the Guardian is pointing us to?

Of course it isn't. In the Guardian's ideal world, we would outsource the spiritual side of our children to the State. They would be indoctrinated in Pollytoynbeeism, joylessness, atheological yoga, breathing exercises and dodgy beards. By outsourcing her children's spirituality to their grandparents, Zoe Williams is showing a reckless private enterprise that, properly cultivated, could lead to a decent consumerism. There is hope for her yet. And also, in the deep worry she has about throwing away batteries - surely that's down to a form of environmentalism. And if you care enough the environment to fret over throwing away batteries - isn't that spirituality? Albeit a watered down, surrogate form of spirituality, expressed only through fretting about portable power supplies.

The article finishes in the following, deeply worrying, way:

"I have no ideological home in this season. But I do love the drinking." 

I'm a consumerist with a spiritual side, Zoe Williams. Nothing like a frenzied shopping spree in the West End followed by Mass at All Saints or some tree-hugging on Primrose Hill, if you ask me. But a word to the wise - taking those two sentences together, are you sure you haven't found your ideological home and just not realised?

1 comment :

  1. To be honest her incoherent article reads as though she'd been drinking before she even put fingers to keyboard.


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