Tuesday, December 27, 2011

'Crassmas' comes but once a year

Phil Burpee

Phil Burpee, Columnist
Isn't it about time somebody unionized Santa's Elves and got with the times? Does he even pay them? - specially for that heavy shift work leading up to the Great Seasonal Glut? Do they have segregated toilets? (do they use toilets?) What about difficulties arising from repetitive strain injuries? - imagine the carpal tunnel problems that might result after knocking out a couple million Justin Bieber Action Figures. And never mind the psycho-emotional impact of having to wade through endless piles of Tele-Tubby DVDs - the mind recoils. I'm not even going to the X-box 360 Kinect.......

     These are not small matters. Horses and bulls at the Calgary Stampede work within a very strict labour code - health and dietary regimens, workplace safety regulations, maximum working hours, time off,  accredited pasturage, quality grooming and foot care, lots of outdoor exercise - you name it - it's covered. But I'm frankly quite worried about the potential for sweat-shop excesses at the North Pole. Do the Elves even know that we have child-labour laws? Who exactly knows how old any given Elf is anyway - 5 years? - 50? - 500? - it never shows. They're not the same as us - and that might be the problem. Let's be blunt - is Santa's Workshop a slave camp? I'm sorry - It has to be asked.

Let's look at some hard facts. Santa himself has gotta be at least three or four hundred years old - maybe more. He's been in the game longer then Regis! Apparently he is an Elf too, conscripted into the service of delivering toys at Christmastime. But this big boy comes with some odd baggage. Santa Claus is, of course, a garbling of the name Saint Nicholas, who is the patron saint of children (although I am not sure if he has technically survived recent down-sizing purges of B-team saints by the Vatican). Fable has it that he got this job by providing dowries for the three daughters of a poor family, thus saving them from shame. How gallant. So, it came to pass that he became the provider of gifts for children, under whose protection they broadly nestled. But just how an Elf scooped this job is a bit of a head-scratcher. I'm thinking false pretenses here, and a possible fudged curriculum vitae. For Elves are anything but reliable creatures.

Historically, Elves are roughly divided into two camps -  the white Elves, who are comely, well-formed and symmetrical, and who go about their work up in the light of day, sometimes in the form of Fairies - and the black Elves, who tend to be ugly and misshapen, often referred to as Trolls, and typically toil at their forges underground, or lurk under bridges waiting to exact a toll. We begin, then, with a racist precept, and proceed from there to some highly questionable contingencies. Both camps are possessed of various killer apps - powers of divination, legerdemain, trance-induction, and they both also delight in bringing mischief amongst human beings if they are disturbed. They are notable for being able to toss over themselves the Cloak of Invisibility - the better to move amongst us and cause minor havoc. Old Saint Nick himself is apparently of the white tribe, an over-eater ("Hey, Santa! Call Jenny!") who has engendered a reputation for irrepressible jolliness, a reindeer wrangler, a long-standing purveyor of Coca Cola products, and the CEO-cum-dictator of a polar manufacturing conglomerate capable of producing several billion 'toy products' every year. He is also possessed of an over-arching mandate to pronounce judgment on children - the much-vaunted Naughty or Nice. Naughty gets, of course, the lump of coal ("Thanks for nothin', doofus."). Nice gets the dolly, or the shiny tin soldier (and, presumably, a future in sales). All have wheedled for booty in their pre-Christmas letters to the Jolly One.

"Garry Krimble, everybody"

So look - how did we hire this guy? And what about his workers - the little folk? Are these in fact indentured servants drawn from amongst the denizens of the pit? I think we need some clarification here - maybe some DNA testing for starters. And some documentation indicating a valid business licence wouldn't be entirely out of place. Perhaps Jason Kenny, our cuddly and crusading Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, might look into this situation. These guys could all be 18th century Schwarzwalders or something, or some kind of otherworldy Scandihoovians, and I would be frankly surprised if they had valid citizenship or working visa papers. And should the man in the red suit suddenly bolt for Mexico, the bureaucratic nightmare that would result from Santa's Helpers suddenly applying en masse for refugee status would bog the federal government down for years. There could be thousands of these pointy-eared little tinkerers. Better to be pre-emptive on this kind of stuff. But perhaps the worst aspect of the whole thing is the crass sullying of the most ancient and sublime of human observances - the Feast of Mid-Winter. Around here, in recent centuries, it is generally called Christmas, in celebration of the birth of that revolutionary thinker, teacher and unemployed carpenter from Nazareth. But it is in actuality the solemn astronomical sacrament of the Returning of the Light - that moment at the bottom of the year when we see the Sun cease its decline into the southern sky, and begin its return back into our lives with ever-lengthening days. It is the Winter Solstice, and it is so deeply knit into the collective consciousness of the human race that its resonance is virtually genetically wired in to our most ancient of perceptions. It is the ultimate statement of faith - that the Dark and Cold, which anyway await us in our graves, are, with this Feast, banished yet again by the  candle-lit victory of  Light and Warmth. Around the Tree of Life we dance and lay our gifts. Voices are raised in song. Hallelujah, indeed.

But now we have this milk-and-cookie-sucking Elf flying around in service to materialism and covetousness, flogging the dreary wares of corporate junk-mongers, replacing sugar-plums with MiniPop Kids #8 and RC Stelth Rides Power Tred Military Sets. I say again - who hired this guy? I'd like to see a contract. And what about those Helpers? Does Mrs. Claus turn out the dogs to keep the little folk contained when Santa's gone? Do they get medical attention? -  statutory retirement? - pensions ? We might be looking at a Ponzi scheme gone rogue here - an exponential explosion of captured labour and retail madness. It's a mess. Something's got to be done.

The solution is simple enough. Santa must be brought before a Special Committee of the Senate, where aging hacks such as the venerable Mike Puffy and the now slightly dough-headed Pamela Wallin have been put out to red velvet pasture as agents of sober reflection. Jolly Old St. Nick's plump little pink wigglies must be put to the fire. He must be made to feel the heat and passion of our concerns: -  "Who are you working for?! What really happened to Rudolph's nose?! Why does all the crap you bring break before lunch on Boxing Day?! Was kissing Mommy consensual?! Are you, or have you ever been, a member of the Conservative Party of Canada?! Why did you bring Johnny a lump of coal?! Didn't you realize he would end up in a recidivist spiral of social alienation and egregious behaviour?! Why are you laughing all the time? - that's not nitrous oxide you've got behind the seat there, is it?! Where were you on the night of September 27th, 1643? - the night when the REAL Saint Nicholas was reputed to have never returned home after being out delivering sandwiches and dowries?! Answers! - give us answers?!"

Ah, but if only we could expect such incisive behaviour from our bleary old Senators. More's likely the wily Elf would simply don his Cloak, vanish, and reappear as the Steward of the Senatorial Lounge. Thence would come the merry libations, and all the learned and revered Members would devolve into their customarily jolly stupors of ineffectualness and dopey geniality. Much back-slapping and choruses of  'For he's a jolly good fellow' would be heard echoing down the halls of Parliament, and Santa would be seen slipping the scene, pocketing the hors-d'oeuvres and sundry royal trinkets along the way.

So, I don't really see things changing much. I figure the old boy will continue on in the same vein, being the HO HO HO 'ho' for crass consumption. Fortunately, 'Crassmas' does come but once a year, and despite the best efforts of the hucksters and the profiteers to snuff out the light, good will generally prevails. So be it. Put another log on the fire, then - deck the halls, string the lights, haul out that old vinyl 45 and let the Jingle Bell Rock. All's right with the world, peace is in the hearts of men, the cup of human kindness runneth verily over, and all the children are asleep in their beds, sweet as angels.

Yes, all is calm, all is bright, Santa's been pulled over on a D.U.I.   -  and to all a good night.

Phil Burpee
December 24, 2011

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