If ever the people were in the need of an opiate, it’s now. According to uncle Karl, 170 years ago religion was there to alleviate the hardships of capitalist economic exploitation and divert the proletariat from their revolutionary destiny. Today it’s more of a security blanket that offers comfort to those in distress.
Christmas is looming large in the government’s headlights as it’s pandemic response lurches from one crisis point to the next, zigzagging between the polar opposites of scientific advice and backbench demands on behalf of small businesses. I regret to admit that I’ve got to a stage now where I don’t believe much the government tells me about Covid-19. For too long its priority seems to have been how to maximise its own sense of self-importance, pass backhanders and create lucrative jobs to their chums, and devise a smokescreen of bluster and hyperbole to conceal the approaching reality of Brexit.
The expression long covid doesn’t just describe the debilitating fatigue experienced by some who have survived the virus, but might also define the malaise experienced by many of us as we enter the 10th month of preventative measures, cancellations, limited travel, social distancing, quarantine, facemasks, antibacterial hand gel, closed pubs and queues for shops. In this context Christmas has emerged as a symbolic light in the middle of the tunnel – not so much as a destination in itself but just a diversion from the continuing gloom. There are plenty of houses round here that have their displays of Christmas lights on already as the afternoons grow dark after 3.30pm and online stores report that their stocks of artificial trees are already depleted – and it’s not even December yet.
I guess what Karl didn’t factor into The Communist Manifesto was the resilience of the human mind against the logic of economics. Whether it’s naivete, sentimentality, nostalgia, or some other psychological process, we find solace in the familiar and will filter out any inconvenient realities. There might be excitement and eager curiosity about the new, the novel, the unfamiliar, but there’s comfort in recognition and reminiscence. We all have our own versions of an idealised Christmas and it’s not just for material reasons, it’s for the personal engagement with people we know well or like being with; it’s for closing a chapter on the year and turning towards a new start; it’s for doing it better next time than the ways it happened badly in the past
So, Merry Christmas. And stay safe, so you can enjoy it in future years too.