In the US, where I live, Christmas has become a commerical feast, marked by people buying lots of goods that we don’t need - goods made in China without the worker and environmental protections that we require in our own country.
And yet, Christmas is also still a religious feast, one that celebrates the birth of an ultra-poor baby, the son of homeless parents. We live with that irony somehow.
There is nothing empowering about poverty. I’ve been lucky and I haven’t had to worry about my children going to bed hungry, or not having medical care, but I have a sense of the nightmare that that must be for parents.
But there is also nothing empowering about consumerism, being marketed to, having sophisticated advertisements targeted at us, being urged to spend money on more and more things.
There is joy in simplicity, in being happy with enough and not wanting too much. Few people have expressed that idea better than the American philosopher Henry David Thoreau, who said “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.”
Saving is not just a financial service. It’s a way of life. It’s a path out of poverty for the very poor; for the not-so-poor, people in my country, it might also be a path out of insanity, the insanity of unsustainable consumption.
Merry Christmas dear readers. I hope that you and I will be lucky enough to have what we need in 2013, and not worry about what we don’t need.
Originally published December 25, 2012.