I was watching Viva Frei the other day, and he had some complaints about a tone-deaf Montreal “morale” campaign:
Quebec isn’t the only place trying to force you to have Christmas alone. All around the Western world, governments are telling people not to travel, to wear dehumanizing masks when in close proximity to others, and to “socially distance,” which we are told to interpret technically as staying six feet away, but which has proven to more broadly translate as “be anti-social.”
We can debate what the “real” meaning of Christmas is all day long, but I would argue that a core part of the experience of Christmas is proximity to family and friends. That togetherness is perhaps not a sufficient feature of the holiday, but is a necessary component. If that social element is denied, one might argue that in a sense, it isn’t really “Christmas” anymore.
This would mean that government propaganda bits that try to “boost morale” — like Quebec’s on garde le moral — are really attempts to convince us to deny reality. Like pretending that a friend who has died isn’t really dead, even though they are the very person who killed our friend.
What is the purpose of grieving? Of holding a funeral for someone who has died?
Funerals are a ritualized acknowledgments of something or someone passing away. They are a psychological tool helping us transition from denial into acceptance of reality. Ritual grieving is essential when dealing with serious loss because it permits us to acknowledge the reality of loss at a deep level, and to move forward in life without the delusion that what has been lost still exists, which could otherwise lead to all sorts of incorrect decisions and poor judgments. Ritual grief uses our behavior to transform an abstract understanding into a deeper, emotional understanding. Without a funeral, we may recognize that our friend is “dead,” but some deeper, emotional part of us may still half-expect them to one day just walk in the front door and say hello. Without ritual grief, there is dissonance between our emotional expectations and our intellectual belief.
I think that Francois Legault’s propaganda campaign plays upon this dissonance, ineptly urging us to believe our emotional expectations, and not our intellectual belief that — at least for this year — Christmas has been killed. If we pretend that perhaps Christmas can still exist, even without friends and family — with whom separation is not just physical, but increasingly political — then perhaps we will feel less wronged by the state. How can you hate a murderer if you don’t believe the victim is really dead?
But more broadly speaking, the political division that has been imposed upon us, the lockdowns, the mask mandates, the economic hardship we have suffered over the course of the year, have all been tremendously stressful, and have made the support of friends and family more critical than ever. Traditionally, this was always the spirit of Christmas. To require that people stay home, and to inject a feeling of unease into those who don’t stay home, is fundamentally to poison Christmas.
Perhaps it would be appropriate this year to acknowledge this in a ritually-correct fashion.
Maybe this year, December 25th should feature sad songs that are appropriate for the occasion, not traditional cheerful songs which deny that anything has changed.
Maybe this year, December 25th should begin by burning our Christmas tree.
Maybe this year, Christmas should ritually acknowledge the new reality that we do not live in the same country as our Founding Fathers, that — as Scott Adams says — our Republic is dead, and the proof is in the Draconian and unconstitutional impositions upon our religious and familial gatherings.
Things are not normal, and acting as if they are isn’t the psychologically healthy thing to do. Ritually reinforcing the belief that everything has carried on normally emotionally disconnects us from the reality that has diverged from Christmases of the past.
For myself, I still plan on exchanging gifts and on spending time with my nuclear family. But there will be no pretense that this celebration is “Christmas” in the traditional sense. It will be a celebration that we have allies, people with whom we can gather in secret, contrary to the desires of those who have — at least for this year — destroyed Christmas on an international scale. This is a tremendous cultural loss, and it should be acknowledged and grieved.
The imperturbable, cheery optimism that comes with simple certainties can look a lot like naivete at times, especially in the face of serious problems. If my reader is like myself, the sight of these problems, and the sense that you are alone in thinking that there is a problem, can be troubling and demoralizing. There is nothing more lonely than seeing something wrong, looking around, and seeing only smiling faces, denying anything is amiss.Holy Nihilism