2009-12-24 / Sam Bari

Upgrading Santa to a modernized version

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

For nearly three centuries, Santa Claus, Kris Kringle, St. Nick or whatever you want to call him has maintained a certain amount of dignity in his lifestyle, respecting long-accepted traditions. But recently, the way he conducts his life and controls his environment appears to be at risk.

The idea of the jolly old elf having established residence at the North Pole, where he runs a non-profit, non-union toyshop, is going through a not-so-subtle change – a modernization, if you will.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Santa was held accountable for violations of minority hiring practices and political incorrectness for the way he manages his team of artisans, who work for the love of their craft.

Additionally, since he has traditionally powered his legendary sleigh by reindeer in extreme weather conditions, I am certain that the SPCA will soon be involved.

After all this time, the dear old philanthropist is being, shall we say, put under the magnifying glass for his questionable behavior and personal work ethic. Modern parents are looking at his girth and bowl full of jelly belly as sending an improper message to children suffering from weight issues.

And the elves — how can he spirit off this extreme minority group to the desolate frozen North Pole, where they rarely see the light of day and spend every waking hour slaving in illequipped factories, working under harsh conditions? The region lacks governance.

Consequently, sweatshops can operate with impunity, and everything from inadequate safety measures to below-minimumwage compensation practices can go undetected. The tabloids purport that readers want answers to these pertinent and timely questions.

The charm of the original fairytale, where solidarity amongst the elves has long been the watchword, shows evidence of crumbling before the media spin-doctors, who are depicting the elves as victims of a cruel and unjust system.

The latest cartoons portray the elves in futuristic factories, calibrating robots on an automated assembly line as they solder solid state circuitry in X-Boxes and Playstation 4s. State-of-the-art studios lined with computer banks manned by elves that design and program video games are the images that today’s children have of the North Pole toy factory.

The media, on the other hand, paints a portrait of suspicious activity in questionable surroundings that warrants investigation, intervention and accountability on the part of Santa and Mrs. Claus. “Santa has avoided scrutiny for too long,” they say. “Why should he be treated special?” is a question that has yet to be answered to their satisfaction.

“Is Santa taking proper care of his employees?” is a headline in certain tabloids. Feature articles question whether the elves have benefits, retirement plans and proper medical care.

And Santa — look what has happened to Santa. A few days ago, I saw a couple of little girls texting him. They were approximately six years old, and they were on their cell phones connected to the Internet, where they clicked into the Santa Claus website and chatted with Santa via text message.

They filled out a questionnaire featuring a fingerprint-activated spyware device that revealed whether they were naughty or nice. That certainly is not the Santa Claus of my childhood. These little girls put in their toy order via cell phone as if the North Pole were an e-commerce website.

I shudder to think what publicity agents and branding companies are going to do to Santa’s image. Will a 1,200 reindeer-power rocket sled replace the traditional hand-carved wooden sleigh? Will he go zipping across the sky at supersonic speed and cross oceans in nanoseconds as he distributes the latest in electronic and digital wizardry? Perish the thought.

I fear that a power drink and a protein bar will replace the ham and cheese sandwich I used to make for him with my little sister.

I don’t want to see a sleek, buff Santa, with a meticulously shaped two-day growth of stubble looking at me through piercing blue, laser-corrected eyes.

That’s just wrong.

The mystery of Santa Claus is seriously at risk. The days of letters written by hand in the middle of the summer and addressed to the North Pole have been discarded.

The merry old elf and his flying reindeer could be put to pasture, replaced by a non-descript, multi-cultural Santa who is in good shape, computer literate and politically correct.

I will miss the old Santa, who represented the charm of living in a fantasy created by a system we can’t understand.

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