Friday, December 24, 2010

Jet's festive message


So it’s that time of the year again, and I’ve been asked to write about my well known aversion for Christmas. True enough, I don’t look forward to the season of good will, which isn’t to say I’m ill disposed to good will or seasonal merriment. My aversion is more for the notion, the presumption, the brouhaha of it all.

Whatever else it has become, Christmas is essentially a celebration of the birth of Christ and many of course, do just that, but clearly the majority don’t, and I’m one of them. Meanwhile the commercial world doesn’t give a corporate damn about Christmas. They can barely wait for one to end before they’re promoting the next, but they’re only interested in the profit, and why wouldn’t they be, that’s what companies are there for.

So on the one hand you have a comparative few, the faithful, celebrating the famous birth, and the rest of us, what are we celebrating? Well apparently, nothing!

Sometimes I wonder if we were able to take the ‘Christmas’ out of Christmas, then perhaps it would all become more bearable, but then business wouldn’t give up it’s ride on the gravy train. Instead of selling us ‘Christmas’ presents, they’d be selling us ‘nothing’ presents. Well at least, they would then be showing their true colours.

So what’s so wrong with making the distinction? If I wanted to throw a party, I wouldn’t call it an Easter party, or a Resurrection party. So why pretend I’m celebrating Christmas, when I’m not!

I’m not piqued about New Year celebrations though, so I concur with Scottish traditions on that one. That really is an excuse for a party but it’s also just an unencumbered fact, all years come to an end. It doesn’t have the same clamour, though if there were no Christmas, it probably would.

I hate that one, when you’re out and about and you get asked, "have you finished your Christmas shopping yet?". Oh yuk!.......that is so irritating. Of course I also get viewed very much in that Dickensian ‘humbug’ sense which I really don’t mind at all, and it’s often assumed that I must therefore, be suffused with all the characteristics of Dickens’ miserly Yuletide character, because I have the nerve to manifest my dislike of all that is Christmas. It just isn’t so. Christmas has become vulgar and frenzied and I wish I could just switch it off, but I do approve of festivity.

Now, even to me, that sounds like a monumental contradiction, but somehow there is that social presumption of acquiescence in the notion of the frolicsome festivities that is so offensive. Why do we have to conform because everyone else does?

It seems to me that most of those who are into Christmas, aren’t really Christians anyway, but rather have been swept up in a lifelong tradition without ever stopping to think, why am I doing this? It’s like, London taxis still being required by law - so I’m told - to carry a bale of hay for the horse! Whether true or not, it makes the point nicely. There was a time when it seemed like a good idea, now, it’s pure nonsense.

The more I hear about Christmas and biblical stories in general - the actual rationale behind it - the more implausible it all becomes. Science for it’s part, is slowly, one by one, uncovering more tenable explanations for the pre-historical diegesis we were all brought up to believe. Not, as far as I know, that they are doing so in order to contradict established views, but that is it’s inevitable consequence. Unless of course you are a Christian and a believer, when you would of necessity, have to live in denial of the obvious. The fossil record doesn’t lie, but many people are still preaching the ‘young Earth’ theory as derived from scriptural sources.

Inevitably, that’s another source of vexation for me, belief. Why would anyone want to believe? We live in a world of inexactitude, and we can barely believe a word we hear or read. Our very security is dependant on truth, you can’t believe you’re secure, you need to know. Try and borrow some money - or lend it - without security....huh, it’s an omnipresent necessity. Oh, there’s plenty of truth out there, but it becomes true when it is shown, or known, to be so, and yet, in spite of all that,religion requires belief as a fundamental principle!

If I should ever find myself within the shadow of the Pearly Gates, and in need of an explanation for my life’s endeavours, the obvious question from me would have to be, ‘why on earth would you place people in a world where truth is one of the rarest of qualities, and then expect them to believe in an unbelievable doctrine?’

Of course we often use the word ‘believe’ more as a figure of speech rather than an actual expression of conviction. So it is primarily the religions which instil the efficacy of belief. And they need to, simply because most of their doctrine, is beyond belief.

As you view those TV debates on the great moral issues of the day, that are aired from time-to-time, you will notice that there’s always a church representative present to guide our thoughts, as if the Church of Rome - mired in scandal as it is - were somehow arbiters of moral rectitude.

The church has always had it’s own canon law to enforce it’s power over the people, ranging these days only - mercifully - from prayer to excommunication. At least for the laity that is, for the clergy on the other hand, there is a completely different rule book. The offending priest, or bishop can expect to be moved to a new and comfortable, if inconspicuous location and away from the embarrassing scrutiny of the secular world. Essentially free to continue with their grubby misdemeanour's lest they should ever be publicly exposed.

But it hasn’t always been that way. You only have to make a brief study of the history of the Church of Rome to see the full extent of that, of which it is capable. They have committed just about every crime in the book, although of course, legitimised by themselves. Today’s landslide of revelations about the buggery of the innocents, seems like a vicar’s tea party compared with the murder and torture of earlier times, not to delve too far into the infamy of the Inquisition.

Of course no-one makes too much of it these days, as though it had never happened, has everyone forgotten? Perhaps it was all so long ago for most people, but as the lawyers put it, you can’t contract out of a crime.

One of the early giants of mathematics and astronomy was Galileo Galilei, and one of the first to peer into the newly invented telescope. He discovered that the holy doctrine preached by the church was wrong. The Earth goes around the Sun, not the other way around.

For making his discovery public, he was arrested and tried for heresy, jailed, and forced to recant, but mercifully released in the end. His contemporary, Giordano Bruno, was not so lucky, they burned him alive at the stake for his views on the subject. If that leads to any kind of conclusion at all, it must surely be, that the church has a greater proclivity towards murder, than to the truth and these crimes are no less repugnant by way of their antiquity.

I think Galileo has to be one of my heroes. He is credited with some inspiring statements.

"The bible shows the way to go to heaven, not the way the heavens go"

and,

"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use."

The man was imbued with a profound sense of wisdom and humanity, though it is said he was tactless to the point of jeopardy.

So where does all this fit into the Christmas landscape? Very much, for one thing. Without the church of Christ, it surely wouldn’t exist. So how can you discuss Christmas without reference to the church? Unfortunately, I can’t find much to endear me to the notion that the story of the nativity is likely to be true, and you can’t have a lot of faith in the people who want us to believe it. Three wise men, the virgin birth, the son of God, no room at the inn, the Emperor’s new clothes spring to mind here.

Hans Andersen in his ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’, recorded one of the all-time great literary observations when he crafted his tale of the corrupt weavers and their ‘invisible’ clothes. It so aptly encapsulates the notion of belief in that which is imperceptible.

Religions, have the remarkable ability to devise words to rationalize their unbelievable doctrines. Galileo’s alleged crime was called heresy, a rubric ‘catch-all’ to enable the powerful to exact terrors worse than those of the accused. Widely used and abused to extirpate political enemies. Another gem, transubstantiation, the theological wonder word to explain the conversion of Eucharistic bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ during consecration and the central act of the Christmas Mass.

Since the modern imposition of drink/driving laws around the world, there have been a number of arrests of priests who were found to have exceeded alcohol limits through conducting a sequential series of Masses, thereby pushing their alcohol levels above legal limits.

But wasn’t that wine supposed to have been turned into blood? Oh dear, that rather let’s the cat out of the bag! Surely that reduces the sanctity of the sacramental wine to the realms of, ‘perks of the job’. But even if it were true, who in their right mind would want to consume the bodily remains of a 2,000 year old corpse?

"Oh, it’s for the kids", they’ll say when challenged about the efficacy of Christmas. Well it may be, but it doesn’t have to be wrapped-up in the nexus of Christmas lore. If you want to give the kids a good time, then give them a good time, you don’t need the allegory of the non-existent Santa. It’s completely untrue and most children are confused about it anyway. But more importantly, why would it be a good idea to begin a child’s young odyssey with a lie?

If only religion could find a way, through honesty and truth, instead of fairy tales and mendacious rhetoric, the world would doubtless be a better place. It’s well to remember that those pompous men of the cloth, in their ridiculous, if finely bespoken frocks and their opulent palaces of God are after all, only mere human beings, and we are all flawed.

For those of you who want to celebrate Christmas, I wish you a merry one. For the rest of us, tired of the antiquated and improbable tale of a mortal, if, supposedly, virginal birth, the purpose and logic of which defies reason, please allow us to eschew the seasonal conventions and forge ahead with our celebration of the other 364 days, for no reason at all.

© Jet Black/ December 2010

30 comments:

  1. Well thats made my day, and put into far better words that I could ever do. I would have loved to have seen a televised version, that would really rock the establishment, us plebs are to be controlled not think for ourselves. truly inspired, thanks Jet

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  2. Greetings from Bangkok, Jet! It's even more inexplicable seeing Xmas displays in shopping malls, Santas and reindeers et al, in 30 degree heat! Let's all celebrate the one true miraculous birth which has brought so much joy into our lives - the birth, on 11 Sept 1974, of the Meninblack!

    cassini

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  3. Thanks Jet! A thoroughly enjoyable read! This missive brings to mind your mighty Strangled articles on the meaning of LOVE and other matters.I'm already making plans to celebrate the next 364 days in the same style that I have today [which will probably mean putting on 5 stone by April and overdosing on After Eight Mints and Salted Peanuts.]
    Mathew

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  4. Bang on. A real tonic on Christmas Day. Much better than listening to the friggin' Queen's speech.

    A regular event in the future I hope. Cheers from Germany

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  5. Im at work so thats sums up my mood too !
    Now i know why people were wearing the black santa hats at leamington last december !,the gig on
    March the 19th in brum will be my xmas day !and hopefully the convention if i get a ticket was my best gift

    cheers jett

    NOGGA

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  6. Tell it like it is bro ...that hit the spot......the qweens speach was a joke....i thiught she was gonna leap out of the tv screen and and start f...king joging screaming "Race yer" ...........dave the chef rochdale.....hmmmm convention next year ......definately..........goin.

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  7. Christmas comes but once a year but theres always the sun jet your a living messiah bring on the convention

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  8. Thanks Jet for your message. It was a thoughtful and thought-provoking one. What I would add though is that the birth of Christ can (and for me perhaps should) be separated from established religion. The history and work of Christian Churches are not the same as the birth and life of a 'saviour of mankind'. I don't know what the truth of Jesus's birth was or who he may have been but the nativity story does allow us to stop and think positively about humanity if we only choose to do so. We so often think the worse or choose the darker path but for one day we have an 'excuse' to choose to see a postive side to the human race (and there are many). Surely that is worth celebrating. All the best.
    Nick

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  9. An interesting read Jet, thank you. Brings back the days of your articles in Strangled which were always thought provoking at least. I do not agree with all you write but it made me think, which I suppose is not a bad thing isn't it?
    ALl best, Eric

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  10. You old misery guts whats wrong with getting into debt, eating too much and generally being a slob on the other hand it is a very stressful period for a lot of people, when we really are supposed to be celebrating life.
    Looking forward to all things stranglers for 2011

    Vinyinblackandblue.

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  11. "If you want to give the kids a good time, then give them a good time, you don’t need the allegory of the non-existent Santa. It’s completely untrue and most children are confused about it anyway."

    Cheers Jet! We knew this all along but our Dad insisted that a bearded bloke from Lapland with a flying sleigh and reindeers delivered our presents down a chimney that we haven't got.He's a daft twunt if he thinks we believe that!

    Harry & Liam Spooner
    (Aged 7 & 12)

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  12. Thanks Jet for taking the time to post that , most thought provoking !!!!!!

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  13. It speaks volumes about the human race that we need a special day to remind ourselves to love, understand, and do kindnesses for one another. Sharp piece, Jet. You are and always will be The Man!

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  14. While I share your disapproval of the festive season being somewhat hijacked by the christan church, I think this religious element is now almost a side show. Some hardcore christains do take it seriously as a celebration of the birth of Christ and the 'sunday best' church goers will turn out as usual but to the vast majority of people Christmas is simply a holiday and a time to over indulge in food (you must like some bits Jet?), drink and gift giving.

    The gift giving has now become the new meaning of Christmas as we worship at the temple of consumerisim. This part of Christmas has become somewhat insane and frenetic but with the advent of internet shopping one need not even go near a shop. Personaly I only give gifts to close family members and my wife does the old fashioned thing of actually making many of her presents which saves money and actually is appriciated by the reciptient.

    I do enjoy the food and drink with friends and family. It is an excuse to buy some fine wines, excellent whisky and eat sprouts. Things I cannot afford to do for the other 364 days of the year, for differing reasons.

    Christmas was a festival well before the Christians hijacked it and people have always celebrated the passing of midwinter and the lenghtening days. Nowadays we still have that need to do something enjoyable to brighten up the dark, cold nights and a festive season seems a reasonable solution.

    As for lying to childeren about the existence of Santa Claus, it is a harmless deception which brings happiness to millions, the trick is not to over indulge the little beggers. Some untruths are not necessarily bad.

    Anyway I am off for some home made Christmas pudding, or should I say, seasonal festive produce, and a good gurgle of the festive spirits.

    Best wishes for a happy and healthy new year.

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  15. Graham from RuislipDecember 26, 2010 at 9:45 PM

    Lets make 25th December Blackmas !!!

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  16. Dear Jet
    the quote from Galileo regarding intelligence and reason is quite profound i daresay. still i have to think there is some magical quality to the conception that a man who lived his life in peace and preaching of love God and your neighbor, whilst chastising the high priests of the time for their overindulgences, then sentenced to death for these very preachings - even in a mad world as it was then as much as now, brings some kind of inner harmony. i feel the surrounding folklore of Santa Claus et al, is for children to enhance their budding imaginations with a sense of positive anticipation to the vast wonders and workings of our universe. as far as doctrine, how can an individual of Catholic and Protestant heritage reconcile himself to the bloodied history of the two factions? it is a query i grapple with on a daily basis. cheers to you and your compadres, and a happy new year.

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  17. Have you done your easter shopping yet Jet?

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  18. ...and bah-humbug to you too, Jet. Going against the flow here: I LOVE all the naffness of Xmas. So what if it's fake? I'm off to play with my presents. Oh yes, Happy 2000+11 to all of you!

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  19. Great JET, I like a can of worms for christmas. That reminded me of the famos Derek & Clive sketch where they slate religion and the dead pope gave Peter Cook the horn. Long live The Stranglers, Cheers Jet and hope to see you again in Nottingham Rock City 9th March 2011, Brian Smith in Lincolnshire

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  20. Characteristically witty and eloquent and right up my street. A bastion of sense, reason and truth I think you may have been holding back a bit on the subject of religious dogma tho. A more acid Christopher Hitchens style would have been more JB. Nice one and Happy 2011 looking forward to seeing you at Glasgow and Edinburgh in March. Steeplejackinblack

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  21. Brilliant! Jet Black for president ha, Far too much integrity for that job. A bastion for truth and reason or to put it another way, anything non religious..Happy New Year JB Steeplejackinblack

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  22. Ah - the relationship between TRUTH and BELIEF - that old epistimological chestnut! So So Jet, why is there Something rather than Nothing? A question that at the moment can only be 'answered' within the context of a belief system. Certainly, belief can never approach 'truth'. So yes, our linguistic and culturally determined beliefs are up for grabs. At Christmas, you pays your money and makes your choice! Or maybe, you (the masses) dont think at all and just take on the percieved wisdom of those whose spoutings we admire (such as yourself?). I say, nail your colours to the mast and enjoy the tension of walking the tightrope of your constructed world view.
    WH Smith

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  23. Jet should work for The Sun - he has the characteristics of their reporters i.e. 2% fact (at best) and 98% prejudice and misinformation. The article is poorly constructed and demonstrates a shallow academic style, but without the substance.Proof here, that atheism is the new bigotry. Don't you dare have different beliefs to Jet the famous pop star. You're entitled to your view, and it is a view as Science is a view (one of many), but you don't have the only view. Science has had many successes and loads of failures - and always will do. I certainly won't be putting my 'faith' in it. I'm also open-minded about things that may stand outside my reason, sadly Jet isn't and inhabits the narrow confines of our sick world. Yes, the Catholic church has abusers in it, as does any organisation or any group of people for that matter. The fact that a small proportion are sick and disgusting individuals, doesn't make the whole organisation of the same ilke or mean that it says anything about the philosophy or beliefs they hold. You should look at the many projects throughout the world that the church runs that help the disadvantaged escpape poverty - something that the music industry wouldn't understand as they don't make money out of it. With regard to consumerism, it's a bit rich for someone from the music industry, who shaft the fans at every opportunity, to take the moral high ground. I'm proud to tell everyone that I went to church at Christmas, bought my kids loads of presents and had plenty to eat. I'm sure you were very happy on the 25th sitting in the dark with a piece of coal on your fire. Let me know if I'm still allowed to come to Stranglers gigs (if I can afford the tickets, that is).

    Anderlar the Scripter

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  24. Jet, you're always thought provoking with your eloquent writings. I admire you but often wonder if you're just a little too bitter and twisted?!! As for me, I hate the commercial aspects of Christmas and whilst I do sensibly believe in Darwin's evolution theories (why wouldn't any logical person), I also have Christian beliefs. I'm not what you would call a devout Christian but it doesn't stop me believing the parts that I think are plausible. I've always thought of the Bible as a tool for storytelling and moral guidance, it's dated and therefore doesn't translate well into modern life but the underlying principles are, at least in part, sound. Who knows what/who "God" is? Do you not think there could be some "greater being"? The universe is so unimaginably big that there is more than a good chance of intelligent life elsewhere. I wonder what their "gods" may be like and what festivals they celebrate? Years ago the Stranglers wrote about the MIB long before Hollywood got hold of the notion and you made connections with the Bible. Maybe there is some truth there and you've just forgotten?.......or maybe you've been visited by a MIB...........oh, and one last thing, what might the second coming be? With the state of this fucked up world currently, I think it's well overdue. Not Anonymously, Jez.

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  25. Very thought provoking read.
    Thanks for taking the time to write it Jet.

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  26. Jet should do the alternative Christmas message on TV I think.I have to agree with our philospher in Black.What are we celebrating?it seems to me that Christmas is a confused time of the year with Christian fairy tales,St nicklaus in europe and maybe even some pagan festivals put in for good measure.But the resulting farce is a cynical consumerism led dash of greed,mostly pointless presents and artificial happiness.People pretend to be nice to each other for one time in the year,then its back to normal.The rush in the shops is like a herd of Elephants,all buying goods nobody needs or wants.I dread Christmas and all that it stands for.Its totally meaningless to me.Then on Christmas eve you get adverts for your summer holidays.Christmas is a fairy tale,a corporate creation.I loathe it with a vengeance.Scrooge and proud to be.

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  27. Thanks for this nice read!
    As a product of socialist upbringing, the only thing X-mas in my parents' house was the tree, which was considered pagan, not a symbol of organised religion and therefore to be tolerated, "for the childrens' sake". Church and commercialism had no place with us, and when I was about 7 years old, my no-nonsense montessori school teacher found it was high time to publicly and permanently erase the illusion of Santa Claus from her pupils' minds (no revelation to me, of course), which resulted in some interesting scenes in the school yard with outraged parents, who she, being the hardliner that she was, deliberately had not informed of today's lesson.
    Of course I had to rebel against all that, as a teenager by joining a kabbalistic group (looong before madonna and the likes ever heared of such a thing :-)drown myself in ritual, studying herbs, alchemy and the stars, creating magic amulets (while listening to the Stranglers, what a combo :-), and later, on and off through flirtations with religious ideas and philosophies, but generally sceptic about the establishment(religious or secular) misusing its power for purposes less than holy, seen from the point of simple sense of justice, or even by their own standards of right and wrong.
    Nowadays few rituals mean anything to me, but there's still one rather obvious event that's worth a little celebration around this time of year: the solstice and the fact that the days are getting longer and Spring and Summer will, eventually, be here again. If that isn't science, I don't know what is, Keeping it simple...Eppure si muove!
    Dominique

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  28. I always enjoyed reading Jet's articles in Strangled and his short commentary regarding the Nice affair - 'Much Ado About Nothing'.
    Always controversial, insightful but written with a dry wit.
    How refreshing to hear his thoughts again.
    Jet - write a book - there is still time!

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  29. hi jet! greetings from miami , FLORIDA!
    Great piece of blog here. we both think alike. its funny how people buy into all these religions without having any credibility in this immortal invisible being they calim is real. thank you for your inspiring words and of coarse your music! may you continue to keep playing and heres another 40 years to you!

    I hope one day you guys can come to the states more often and play here in Miami. pleeeease!?
    your music has gotten me through so much BS in my life. and i cant thank all of you enough for it, like the person before me said. write a book! id sure buy it

    james (in black)

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  30. Good rant, Jet!

    I will say this for Christmas, that the history of craziness and celebration around the December time of year is very, very old, and pre-dates it's co-opting by the Christian religion. I like to give in to the 'Can't Beat 'em, join em!' mentality and simply celebrate simply because it's expected, traditional and everyone by and large seems to enjoy it.

    It's so easy to be cynical about everything these days, I feel a bit of a punk sometimes for bucking the trend!

    It's April 1st and a bit late for Yuletide greetings, so I'll just say thanks for posting and THANKS for all the great music!

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