Joy, pickpockets and gluttony

A woman’s purse was snatched. Stunned, she tearfully held her head as her cash, ATM cards and ID were in the hands of a thief, who ran through the unaware crowd too fast to be apprehended and too desperate to care about the devastating effects of his actions.

He may be uneducated and too lazy to learn a skill or too thickheaded to turn pages for enlightenment. Who is to be blamed when some of them fault the inability to secure honest employment to the system’s shortcomings? And though this may be true to some extent, choosing to prey on the innocent to garner some temporary salvation is not the correct thing to do.

But the common thief is not the only thief. For in all social classes, dishonesty and thievery are common threads. However, the scene of pickpockets during the peak of the Christmas season is quite common for they too feel the need to relish in the excesses that occur during the holidays.

The city police strutting down the pavements in their whites and blues seemed more like a spectacle to me than agents to help keep the city safe during this season. Some of them appeared to be teenagers, not too long out of school and they in no way alleviated my fears of being in the city during this time of year. Could they really prevent or stop imminent danger?

But it is not all dread in the city at this time. The masqueraders, flouncing and honestly earning their portion bring joy to many. There are also drums and music blasting from men pushing music carts in the midst of raindrops and sun. As I hurried along the pavements, I was reminded how much I hate crowds.

Vendors asking for sales can be quite creative and amusing. I always wonder if everyone earns enough as many of them sell identical items. Is it all sold or year after year put back into storage until another 12 months race by and we are a year older again, wondering what happened to the time, what we accomplished, if those resolutions were met.

These thoughts are temporarily replaced by the musings about the meats for the pepperpot, the black cake and the elaborate menu for December 25th as many experience what is called the ‘Christmas spirit’ and are happy to spend on things they do not need and cannot comfortably afford. Many spend all their earnings during this season –  bonuses and even remittances from relatives abroad– not thinking about what will happen in January and February, which have been branded “hard months” because many people struggle through them due to the lack of finances. Being a person who is always concerned with putting things in place for tomorrow so that avoidable struggle is not met, that culture is something I cannot subscribe to. But I suppose the Christmas season’s insanity is accepted because it has been declared the time of joy, goodwill and peace for all mankind. The Christian community is supposed to be celebrating the birth of their saviour, but Christmas is universal and characters such as Santa Claus are far more visible as commercialism thrives more than the religious aspect of the season.

There was a time when I too adored this season, but as I matured and my perspective changed on many things, I realised that the excesses that occur during this time—the desperation for money to shop, the gluttony—though they have long been accepted as the norm, may have devastating effects on those who may not be able to afford the luxury of giving their homes a makeover or buying and/or receiving expensive presents or eating delicacies. For the children who may not receive what they desire in a world that is mainly about materialistic possessions, we must wonder what the long term effects are and examine the backgrounds of those adult thieves and what their childhood Christmases were like.

As I pondered on these things, I concluded that this season not only encourages unnecessary spending, overconsumption, robberies and such, but also exposes the inherent need we have as human beings for happiness, peace, love, comfort and belongingness, even if it may occur by way of objects and food. For some of us, this is the only time of year we feel that others care. The only time of year we let go of our inhibitions and are happy. Many feel compelled to share. Orphans are visited, though it would serve them better if the visits were year-round; the sick and the old are brought joy through carols and food, though it would also serve them better if it were not only during the Christmas season; neighbours exchange treats and family and friends enjoy each other’s company and this too would serve the community well if it was the everyday norm.

Judging from the year we have had as a country—the horrible stories that headlined our news daily, the murders, sexual assaults, pregnant children, and accidents too gruesome to recount—we remain a hurt and troubled people in many ways. We have had to observe the fumbles of the government and opposition, petty fights and race issues again. This season, short-lived as it may be, provides the type of illusion that may work as therapy for many affected.

Personally, the loss of a few people this year made me question life. Many of us would like to live forever but we are constantly reminded that our time here is transient. Sometimes pondering on life and death has made me question the point of it all. Why do we exist only to die in the end, leaving everything we have worked for, loved and contributed? Even the questions as to what happens after are still mysteries with many theories.

Though I am not a person who celebrates Christmas, I do believe that it is good to use the time to reflect on the year we have had, to think about our relationships with family and friends and how we can better understand each other and form healthier relationships. If we put into practice the good things about the ‘Christmas spirit,’ such as caring and sharing every day that we live, the season will not only serve as a temporary escape from harsh realities for many, but many lives would be improved. Maybe even the common thief will not feel the need to snatch someone’s purse in the middle of the day because he too would realise that there is love and someone cares and our integrity is far more important than the material things.

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