Mixed reactions to the message of Christmas


Friday, December 20, 2013    

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CHRISTMAS is at hand and, sadly, the headlines are more about death than life, doubt and disapproval. It is not the first time that Christmas has arrived amidst Earth's people "getting on bad". So, we are again struggling to project the age-old message: "Peace on Earth and goodwill to those upon whom His favour rests".

Talk of worrisome fiscal policies, a limping economy and a criminal appetite for blood, are blocking the sound of angel songs. Some carols manage to get through as advertising tools. Business is business, don't it?

Tom Lehrer, a famous satirist and Harvard math professor, was noted for parodying topical situations. Of Christmas he used to sing: "Angels, we have heard on high/Tell us to go out and buy", and "God rest ye merry merchants may you make the Yuletide pay". Some will say parodies of Christmas have no place in a Christian society. And we don't hear enough of the cry: "Put Christ back into Christmas", which should be spelt "Christmass".

The December 25 date, which is celebrated as Christ's birthday, remains a source of religious controversy, still fiercely debated by "defenders of the faith". Since I steer clear of religious and political disagreements, I try to avoid that particular showdown. People should be free to believe what they believe.

Christmas customs have changed with time, one such being Christmas cards. These are not the popular communication that they used to be. Now, it is much easier to send greetings electronically. Some persons -- myself among them -- still like the old ritual, however. The designs on cards have also changed, and are not like they used to be. Illustrations of snow and ice, snowmen and all that, are not the choice of "conscious" folk. Despite the awakening, however, the local card industry has not evolved as much as you would imagine. There have been sporadic outbursts of enthusiasm from time to time, but the interest doesn't seem to be consistent. Even the cards produced by charitable organisations, to boost fund-raising, are not seen as much as they used to be. Illustrations of our local landscape are infrequent. We even had cartoon characters at one time, but they too have disappeared.

With a whole new world of graphics and advanced printing techniques it should not prove difficult for local production. However, printing can be costly when other factors like electricity to run presses and the cost of imported ink and paper, etc, are taken into account. I'm a "greetings Bessie" who would rather hunt out cards which depict our national identity than settle for the "Happy Holidays" imports. Oh yes, we talk and talk Brand Jamaica, but how much we convert "talk" to "walk" is another matter.

Back to the talk of another kind. Over in Montego Bay, for instance, Christmas joy is greatly diminished for families who have suffered much at the hands of criminals. We still haven't determined how we're going to live with those who show no mercy. Some persons -- not confined to the Bay -- seem convinced that if we could just fire the minister of national security and the commissioner of police, then all will be well. Apparently the reasoning seems to be that the wicked would then take a hint and go find something else 'fi do'.

So far we have been unable to determine what is behind the current epidemic of savagery, and we're back to arguing about who should be blamed. Is it really poverty and poor social conditions which are provoking the bloodletting or, as the argument goes, because the politicians don't care? Others feel that if we could get all the idle hands working on idle lands there would be instant transformation, and we would live in peace not only at Christmas but for the rest of the year. Is it that simple?

One wise person has reminded that: "Peace is not the absence of conflict. It is how to manage the war." Without a doubt, we are at war with ourselves. What, however, is its true cause, and how should we deal with it? What we do know is that it is painful to be singing of the Prince of Peace while we seem determined to tear ourselves to pieces.

What is more challenging is to offer to the world and ourselves a balance of who we are. We have bad people -- too many for comfort -- and we have decent people who would be a credit to any country in the world. Tessanne Chin is currently making us proud. The other 'pride-makers' have done their best to heal our broken image. All too sadly, those who have no compunction in dragging us all down to the least are lurking, waiting to pounce again. They're not particularly concerned about the view which the world has of us, or we have of ourselves. There are the 'builder-uppers' and the 'mash-downers'.

The masher-downers are the specialists in character assassination via social media. They have already targeted Tessanne, a young Jamaican woman of talent, good sense and sensibility. Her victory in winning one of the most sought-after honours in the global music industry is a much-needed Christmas gift to our nation. As we celebrate with our newest superstar, let's remember her family and share their pride. Only twisted minds would seek to do anything less. Our lady of the moment has enough confidence and sophistication to have the answer to the idiots, "I know who I am and whose I am". Nuff respect, lady.

Talking of light in darkness, one of the most beautiful demonstrations of why the environment is to be treasured is the amazing garden which has sprung up in the Liguanea area of mid-St Andrew. Just up the road from Matilda's Corner, Liguanea Plaza is a modest-sized shopping centre containing the Liguanea Drug and Garden Centre. There now blooms a wonderful oasis of trees, well-trimmed shrubs, flower beds bursting with blooms of all kinds. Gurgling water pours into fountains, enhancing the soothing atmosphere.

All this is the brainchild of June and Tony Wong, art collectors who stage the annual Liguanea Art Festival. They have expended much time and resources to create a place of beauty in the midst of commercial activity. Why? Everybody knows June is a gardening "tetess" -- fanatic, in case you don't speak Jamaican -- and a great believer in getting hands dirty to get the job done. It is evident that the garden has been created not to "run-jostle", but to share nature at its best. Wouldn't it be great if there were more examples like this?

When it comes to making New Year wishes, this is one thing we should wish for -- more consciousness on how to live, sharing our talents with others, and respecting the environment with which we have been blessed.

Joy to the world, peace profound to you and yours in this season of loving and giving.





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