Monday, December 17, 2007

Getmas and Civility

Chris Erskine writes a column for the LA Times called "Man of the House." I don't usually read it (sorry, Chris) because its about family life from the dad's point of view. A guy thing.

"Brewster Rockit" is a Tribune-syndicated comic strip by Tim Rickard. I don't usually read it either (sorry, Tim) because its a sci-fi tale about a completely incompetent spaceship captain in the distant future and the humor just doesn't work for me. Another guy thing. Maybe a young guy thing.

However, props must be given to both Erskine and Rickard for their recent offerings that I happened to notice by chance in the last few days.

Brewster Rockit currently features a storyline about "Getmas" in which Brewster wonders if perhaps the upcoming holiday wasn't originally about somethings else -- perhaps "giving." This is a thought worth pondering, especially if we remember that giving doesn't necessarily mean giving stuff.

Erskine wrote a column called "Give the 'tude a holiday rest" an odd admonition, he acknowledges, for a guy who lives in L.A., "the world capital of ego and affectation." He points out that attitude -- that self-aggrandizing superiority that is just a tiny notch below blatant hostility -- is "a slap in the face to manners, class and character." I agree with him one hundred per cent.

I find it amazing that swagger and smugness appear to have become generally desirable traits that, if you believe the ads, can be achieved by purchasing the latest car/clothes/jewelry/etc. I've commented in the past (here and here) about this deadly affliction of "cool" and how it's used as one of the basic motivators to manipulate us through advertising.

Unfortunately, attitude now seems to be almost everywhere in popular culture and it's created a basic lack of civility that has infected our society. I think it's time to call a halt; or maybe I'd settle for a more realistically achievable holiday time out.

So, as the remaining seasonal "shopping days" finally dwindle (is there nothing other than shopping that we could be doing with our time?) and we head into the new year, I'd like to cast my vote for remembering that this is a season of giving, not getting. Let's not let Getmas take over our celebrations.

This is also a particularly busy and stressful season in which a little less attitude would be appreciated. Maybe slow down on the freeway and let the other guy into your lane. Give the checker at the market a break, even if you're in a hurry. And for the sake of sanity, get off the cell phone while you're driving or shopping or dealing with paying a salesclerk. Let's make at least a small effort to be civil to each other.

And let's pause to contemplate Erskine's insightful closing observation:

"[R]emember that the most mythic figures of our time never needed attitude [Joe Montana, Elvis Presley -- Shrek!] . . . For them, talent and skill outweighed posturing. Mostly, they always had the courage to be who they really were. And, really, how totally cool is that?"

It should be cool enough for all of us.

© 2007 Cynthia Friedlob


dB said...

I hate the pressure to buy at the holidays. They try to make you feel guilty, like somehow the national economy relies on your greed.

Rachel & I both have birthdays in early January. I make it a point to buy all our presents after Christmas just to avoid the Christmas push. It's cheaper and less crowded as well. And since we're usually out of town for the holiday, it doesn't really matter when we exchange our own presents.

Cynthia Friedlob said...

I just watched Bill Moyers interview Benjamin Barber, author of Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults and Swallow Citizens Whole. The book just hadn't made it to the top of my list, but I'm bumping it up there immediately. It's quite a call to action for a society that tragically has come to equate shopping with democracy.

Happy early birthdays!

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas! My friend and I used the term "Getmas" yesterday (Christmas Eve) in a jovial way while shopping for ourselves - the clerks were a little embarrassed. Getmas, after all, is a big income producer for them. But for us it was a day to reconnect as friends who haven't managed to find time for each other for several months. And isn't sharing an afternoon with a friend, supporting the local economy REALLY what Getmas is all about?

Cynthia Friedlob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cynthia Friedlob said...

Merry Christmas to you, too!

I don't know, Aphroditely, but it seems to me that you surpassed the meaning of Getmas by adding that lovely element of sharing time with an old friend.

Well done!

(Oops. Had to correct the spelling of your name!)