I wonder how many people have considered committing suicide after listening to Lennon’s tune:
So this is Christmas And what have you done Another year over A new one just begun
He sings 'A very merry Christmas and a happy New Year' like he’s singing ‘If I have one more Christmas of forced cheerfulness, I will kill myself.’
And I understand where he is coming from, completely. I think I used to like Christmas, in fact I’m pretty sure I did. But I don’t any more. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s great for kids. Although since Scarlett is not even six yet, I am going to do my usual ‘dupe the kids’ thing where I don’t tell them which day is Christmas, and consequently they don’t get up early and open presents at four, jump on my bed at five and make me lose the will to live at six.
It is just that Christmas always brings it home to me just how awful this society is that we have created, this so called zenith of human endeavor, this monster called capitalism, where many are exploited so some may be rich. Yes, I know some of you will say, what’s the alternative, do you want to live under a dictatorship or communism? No of course I don’t. Others will say, what are you complaining about, don’t you know how good you have it? Yes, I know how good I have it, and I also know how bad others have it to provide me with this standard of living.
And at Christmas I can’t help wondering, what are we doing, what are any of us doing? Why are we buying our kids hundreds of pieces of plastic junk, manufactured via sweat shops and child labor all over the globe, toys which have no benefit to anyone with their inane bleeping and flashing lights, save to make a profit for some big corporation? Toys that will sit in landfills, bleeding chemicals into the environment? What is the point?
Well, at least I’m not guilty of that. I’m not buying the kids any presents, save a few tiny ones. All I’m saying is, there is no point to it.
When people from Europe first come to America, they cannot believe the state of the place. It is exactly like people living in communist countries who are shown brain washing videos about how great communism is and how bad capitalism is, only in reverse. Before I lived here, I had the usual weird view of America, all sun tans and very straight white teeth and wealth and huge cars and anonymous suburban houses with white picket fences.
Then you get here. It was kind of enlightening actually. Because while at home I would be considered a middle class, pretty well educated person, here I was classed as a foreigner, basically, according to the system, a piece of worthless scum.
Okay, when we got here we were poor and took the bus everywhere. There is nothing wrong with taking the bus, but God, the things I saw. Don’t imagine I have had a privileged background, I haven’t. God knows there’s poverty in England, but this? Streets and streets of empty houses, desolation, grinding poverty, drug addicts wandering the streets. I mean, come on, I asked Americans, doesn’t anyone give a shit about these people? And basically, not many people do. Oh, they should pull themselves together, get themselves a job, is the answer of many. Right.
How can you pull yourself together when society considers you nothing, nobody, a piece of shit on the sole of their shoe? It was kind of interesting actually, when I came to Baltimore. In US society’s eyes I was nobody, nothing. Okay I hadn’t thought it through, and I was six months pregnant, but you would have thought giving birth would have been a fairly simple procedure. Now I know it’s not the hospitals’ fault that insurance policies are the way they are, but can you believe no insurance provider would take me on in Maryland, because pregnancy is a pre-existing condition, akin to cancer? So basically, no one will insure you. So basically, no hospital will take you. They look at you like you are scum and see you have no insurance and talk to you like you are retarded. Well, I cried a few times over all that back then, let me tell you. And this is what a lot of poor people have to deal with every single fucking day.
You want to say, look, where I come from, you may scoff at socialized medicine, but at least everyone gets free health care. And here is it basically, have you got good insurance, if not, you can be treated on Medicare but it will be the crappest treatment you have ever had and if we ever find out that you ever earn any money, we will come round and get it. In the end, I did manage to shell out for some astronomical insurance policy, and I had a horrendous experience with the first birth and the shitty healthcare system you have here. I’m not going to go into details, but it was the usual situation where the hospital fuck up with some medical treatment, cover their tracks, send you a bill for $6,000 and when you try and argue, heck, even sue them, they just re-jig the evidence so you haven’t got a snowflake’s chance in hell of winning.
I haven’t thought about all this for a while, because after a few years of relative poverty we are now (hilariously) pretty well off for American standards (median US income is only $43,389!!), which in any European country would be not well off at all, but for the fact that America is made up mainly of poor and a top layer of rich, with the middle classes squished in between.
At Christmas, I think back over my time here, and one of the main things I have noticed is that hardly anyone cares about those who have nothing. Well, sure, some of you will say you care, you do your bit for charity, but I mean politically, politicians here actually think, most of them, that there are some people who are better than others. That homeless people are not as good as you and I, nor are immigrants, people who can’t speak English etc. etc.
What the fuck’s that all about? I suppose the Scandinavian countries are the gold standard in treating people, well, as if they were humans. I don’t want to say where I think America comes, but it is pretty low down in the list of countries that understand that a person is a person despite his race, religion or socio-economic status.
Which is why I find myself going to church these days. Sorry if I have shocked you, but I am actually quite a spiritual person. And okay, I was brought up Catholic, and I don’t believe that is a good religion, causing as it does, massive amounts of guilt. So now I go to this Presbyterian church, and okay, I can say the people there are too earnest and the songs are corny and all the rest of it. But there is a sense of spirituality there, a sense that there is something - I don’t mean God, I don’t mean there is a God who cares if you have anal sex or covet your neighbor's wife, I don’t really believe that an all seeing God exists - but while you are at church, you feel that maybe, just maybe, there is something more to life, more than our petty concerns of trying to make money, trying to lose weight, heck, even discussing the pros and cons of breast implants. And okay, it is only a drop in the ocean, but the people who go to that church actually do work for charity, they actually help the homeless. They don’t actually think that homeless people are low life scum.
They actually care. And sometimes I find that despite the fact that I want to look away from all the awful poverty around me, I can’t. I find that I actually do care. But I also know there is not very much I can do about it. Which is defeatist, I know. So, which charity should I give some money to, do you reckon, if I'm going to, which I think I am?
Who am I? Displaced Londoner now living in the States with my two little girlies and long suffering husband. Co-author of hilarious parenting book Cocktails at Naptime www.cocktailsatnaptime.com
My mom's an Austrian, my dad's a Brit, which makes me a Britaustrian, or possibly an Austrish?