Why do I celebrate Christmas?

chsexy82I don’t.

I celebrate my friends and family.

I celebrate the altruistic joy to be found in lighting up someone’s face with the perfect gift.

I celebrate good food with good people.

I celebrate the fact that the days are going to get brighter again and that humanity has chosen in so many forms, so many ways, to celebrate the simple, cosmological event of the solstice.

It’s just convenient to celebrate it at the same time as everyone else in a tradition that has become broadly secular but has roots in pagan antiquity, Christian appropriation and astronomy.

‘Christmas’ doesn’t belong to you. There are no special rules about who can and cannot share presents or a feast, or take a moment to show their gratitude to the people in their life that they care about.

Videogames is it?

“Videogames make people violent!”

“What?” I replied, distracted from two fingers of the finest scotch by a pronouncement of such gobsmacking stupidity it took my breath away.

“Videogames! With all their shooting and exploding and so on. They’re desensitising people!”

He seemed to really be into what he was saying, spittle flying from his mouth, the thousand-yard-stare of the Priest or the Imam flaring from his eyes like a laser beam.

A sip of the scotch and I gave him my most withering of looks. “Apart from you of course…”

“What?” He spluttered.

“Well, obviously you’ve looked into these games for yourself. Otherwise you couldn’t make such a pronouncement. Yes?”

He nodded vigorously. “Filth! Depravity! Gore! Bloodshed! Crime and prostitution! It’s all fodder to these game makers!”

“Yet… you wouldn’t consider yourself to be a violent man?”

“Oh no, not at all.”

“But you’ve examined these games, played them, to come to your conclusion?”


“Right then, shut the fuck up. You know what makes people violent? Patronising arseholes who don’t rate anyone else as having the intelligence or testicular fortitude they do.”

I finished the scotch.
And glassed him.


The Newtown Go-Around


Heroic teacher Victoria Leigh Soto. Remember her.

Another day, another mass shooting in America. Yet again the rest of the world looks on with blank incomprehension as America ‘wrestles’ with the moral quandry of whether to make it harder for people who snap to gun down masses of their fellow citizens or, in this case, innocent children.

Is there any point me adding my voice to this debate? It’s already going the same way that it always does and it’s massively dispiriting to see the same old rhetoric trotted out yet again. Though I do sense a greater level of outrage and purpose in what passes for the American left I suspect tempers and resolve will fail again, there’ll be some tinkering around the edges of the law and then the same thing will happen again.

It’s all so depressingly familiar. The catchphrases, the rationalisations (not that they’re rational). ‘Guns don’t kill people, people kill people’. ‘The teachers should have been armed’. ‘Right to bear arms!’. ‘This happens elsewhere’. Even ‘It’s a price worth paying for freedom’.

As I’ve intimated before on this blog there are two different kinds of freedom, freedom from and freedom to. For me, a person’s right to life (freedom from harm) definitely outweighs the gun owner’s right to own one.

Under any sot of examination beyond the surface all the excuses and justifications fall apart. You can find that out easily enough yourself, there’s no shortage of statistical analyses doing the rounds.

It is true that gun ownership is not the whole of the problem, there is also the culture surrounding guns, their fetishisation, their worship. Properly controlling the sale, possession and access to guns is a good first step in fixing that cultural issue.

Above all, America needs to have a rational debate on the issue and come to a level of agreed upon change to rebalance these priorities for the 21st century, rather than the 18th.

As we’ve seen with this recent election, with the creationism debate that still rages in American schools and now, with the blame game going around again, America doesn’t seem capable of having a rational debate whether in the public square or in the more rarefied heights of political offices.

Until leaders choose to lead and educate, to risk their popularity to do what’s right and to change people’s minds, nothing is going to change and even an ocean away that makes me sick to my stomach.

This is going to keep happening.


roystonWe like to be smug, on this side of the bond, about how America is hobbled from pursuing obvious political and social advancement by its mythology. The idea of the self-reliant, successful, pulled up by their bootstraps cowboy or the ‘American Dream’ are toxic myths with just enough truth to them to stop the poor and downtrodden working truly in their own interest and demanding things like decent welfare safety nets or medical care.

‘Idiots’ we say, at the parade of ignorant rednecks that congas across our TV and computer screens. ‘Morons’ we laugh at their talk of ‘death panels’ and ‘socialism’ without the slightest inkling of what they’re talking about.

The truth is though, that Britain has its own mythologies that are just as politically and socially damaging. Sure, we share some of those same American values but they’re not as widespread in our culture and never really got traction in the wider society, even in the worst excesses of the 1980s.

No, the cultural myth that fucks us over is older and perhaps more insidious. It’s the ‘stiff upper lip’, it’s the ‘blitz spirit’. Its the idea that there is something noble, wonderful, magical and so DAMN BRITISH about suffering, forbearance and stoicism.

Americans are conditioned to think that hard work and enthusiasm will allow them to ‘make it’, that they’re all ‘temporarily embarrassed millionaires’ to quote Steinbeck. We British are conditioned to worship, idolise and fetishise suffering and sacrifice and that’s how the Chancellor can squeeze and squeeze and squeeze the worst off while granting a 5% break to the most wealthy. We think it’s noble to struggle on, even if our rulers don’t.