Critical Thinking and Current Events in Society Essay

Pages: 5 (1474 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Family and Marriage

Critical Thinking and Current Events in Society

Last week, Black Friday marked the traditional start of the annual holiday shopping season in the United States. Malls across the nation are already packed with shoppers and just finding a parking spot is enough to dampen the spirits of someone unlucky enough to have to take part in the shopping ritual before entering those malls. In the better part of an entire hour that I waited for parking at the South Coast Plaza Mall this past Saturday, I began thinking about the entire holiday shopping phenomenon from an analytical perspective.

On Black Friday, a brawl broke out at the Upland Wal-Mart, and in all likelihood, the situation in Upland was no different from similar situations taking place all across the country at retail outlets with long lines of shoppers waiting outside all night for sales on (mostly) non-essential purchases. Luckily, at least this year, nobody was trampled to death by stampedes of shoppers hoping to save money on video games or I-Pods. I waited long enough for a parking spot to consider several specific issues analytically.

The Commercialization of Christmas and Other Holidays

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Traditionally, holidays always had some specific historical or cultural significance: Veterans' Day (originally Armistice Day), for one example, was a way to celebrate the end of World War I in 1918 and later, to commemorate World War I veterans and a way to recognize the personal sacrifices of all American Armed Services veterans. Memorial Day, (originally Decoration Day) for another example, was intended to remember the fallen members of Union soldiers after the American Civil War, and later, of all American soldiers who gave their lives in the service of this nation. Today, those traditions have largely been relegated to little more than commercialized sales mechanisms for retailers to move quantities of household goods, furniture, and bed linens.

Essay on Critical Thinking and Current Events in Society Assignment

Christmas still has a significant religious connotation, but that aspect of the holiday has been almost completely overshadowed by the social rituals of gift exchanges and seasonal parties. In principle, there is certainly nothing wrong with the concept of giving gifts; ironically, the annual gift exchange ritual undermines much of the spirit of giving instead of exemplifying it. Consider the fact that the average person typically regards the holiday shopping ritual as more of an obligation to be fulfilled rather than as an enjoyable occasion or a genuine expression of affection and appreciation for others.

If nothing else, the obligatory reciprocity negates the value and spirit of gift giving. Generally, most people create a holiday gift list that includes family members, close friends, neighbors, not-so-close-friends, acquaintances, and work associates, many of whom (particularly in the last three categories) are only on the list to avoid the insulting implications of omitting them from the list rather than because the gift-giver really wants to include them. Moreover, people tend to consider the relative value of the gifts they expect to receive from others in determining what to get them. Decisions about how much money to spend for each recipient determines what gifts one purchases rather than any genuinely thoughtful concerns for what each recipient may actually need or appreciate the most.

Even with respect to people in the first categories whom we may genuinely love, the mere fact that gifts are exchanged in a ritualistic manner detracts from the whole point of bothering to make the effort. Logically, it would make much more sense to spend the total amount of money on one's gift list on ones' self every holiday season; at least that way, it would ensure that everybody got what he or she most wanted and eliminate the miserable ritual of returning unwanted gifts for refunds and store credits. Naturally, suggesting that to anybody would undoubtedly result in accusations of not sharing the "Christmas spirit," but that ignores the central point: what undermines and contradicts the "Christmas spirit" is the obligatory and reciprocal nature of gift giving, not recognizing the obvious futility of the modern ritual that no longer bears much semblance to the actual sentiments the holidays are supposed to represent.

The most genuine spirit of generosity through gift giving would be unexpected gifts at random times, for no specific reason other than genuinely wanting to do something nice for others, and without the expectation of receiving reciprocal gifts of as-close-to-the-exact-same-monetary-value as possible according to a calendar.

The Myth of Holiday Cheer

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