2009-11-25 / Sam Bari

Man the battle stations — the holidays are about to begin

You can’t beat a system you can’t understand
By Sam Bari

Tomorrow officially kicks off the 2009 holiday season that has been conveniently designed to include Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. Due to the streamlining of the holidays to accommodate the major religions of the western world, businesses, schools and governments can schedule closings and work schedules that will keep commerce flowing smoothly, with the least amount of interruption and inconvenience.

Everyone in the U.S. looks forward to the traditional American holiday of Thanksgiving. Families will gather across the country to serve sumptuous meals of turkey, ham or roast beef with mashed potatoes, stuffing, candied yams and heart-stopping desserts. With careful preparation and attention to detail, the meals will be presented with great ceremony and aplomb, and be graciously consumed by grateful guests.

The oncoming weeks until the New Year will then be filled with festivity, shopping and a muchneeded break from the rigors of the workplace.

Although Thanksgiving is a traditional American holiday, it is celebrated in one form or another by many cultures that acknowledge the bounties of the harvest. These festivals, fairs and celebrations all occur at about the same time every year, just before winter sets in.

This sounds like a happy time for mankind. However, I’d like to stop for a minute and examine what really happens on that kickoff day to the holiday season. It might not be as comforting as we think.

Usually, women prepare their favorite recipes for the big meal while the men gather in living or recreation rooms to do what? Watch football, of course. They cheer with gusto for the big men on college campuses as they “do battle” on the gridiron in the final games of the season on Thanksgiving afternoon.

The winners of these games will be rewarded with a bowl game on New Year’s Day, when they can again “do battle” on the football field to decide who is the best of the best. In many countries, that “battle” is fought on a soccer field for the same purpose, but playing a different game.

The point is that the holiday is a reward for people who have spent the previous nine months “doing battle” in the business arena to win business from their competitors. For performing well, these people gather to enjoy their reward, which is taking the day off work to be entertained by teams of large men “doing battle” in a sports arena. There, they are cheered and encouraged by fans.

If football players behaved on the streets the way they behave on the football field, they would be arrested for assault and battery – or possibly even attempted murder. The interesting part is that we enjoy watching it.

People like to participate and watch conflict. Somehow, that doesn’t stand to reason when our governments are always preaching about establishing peace. We can take it a step further. What happens the day after Thanksgiving? The busiest shopping day of the year — that’s what.

This is when shoppers camp outside mall doors, waiting for the opening bell so they can “fight” the crowds in search of bargains amongst limited merchandise. We all know that we’re talking major “conflict” here. Police and security forces have their hands full at malls and shopping centers during the holidays. Stores turn into “battlefi elds” on these days. Ask any store employee; they will confirm our allegations.

The “conflict” concept is most obvious in advertising campaigns that encourage people to “get the competitive edge” and “stay ahead of the competition.” Hmmm...if we want to be brutally honest, I believe it is safe to say that human beings in this day and age are one small step ahead of the gladiators fighting to the death in the Coliseum in Ancient Rome.

As a species, human beings enjoy “conflict” and the idea of “doing battle.” It makes the adrenalin flow, and keeps the heart pumping. That’s why businessmen refer to sales personnel as the heroes who work “in the trenches.” They are being equated to foot soldiers at war. The modern day battlefield takes place in the business arena. This is where “safe” battles are fought on a daily basis. Participants experience the conflict, the rewards and the defeats without the physical harm.

Our mindset is centered around conflict and gaining superiority through “battle.” If that is the foundation of our thinking, how can we ever expect to experience peace? No wonder we live in a system we can’t understand.

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