Merry Christmas? I don't think so

WHAT WE need is a good money-making scheme or it's going to be a cold, hard Christmas. Oh dear! Oops! It's going to be a cold, hard Christmas anyway, under a fortnight to go, with bastards (Group A) moaning for their money like bleak midwinter and bastards (Group B) resolutely refusing to pay me. So too late for anything this year. It'll be turkey burgers, all web and wattle, and pictures from the Sunday Sport stuck up as decorations, and me huddled round the solitary guttering candle remembering years gone by: the groaning board, the rich odours of meat and claret, the sound of homeless people singing carols in the frosty streets and the sharp scent of anticipation from my silken servitors ("Merry Christmas, vicar; help yourself to one of these women").

How times move on. When I was little it was a tremendous treat to come up to London to see the Christmas lights in Oxford Street and Regent Street, and rightly so. To a child's eye they were magical, and blurry old photographs suggest that, even to an adult's eye, they weren't so bad. But this year ... Look down Regent Street and you see the seasonal message "'Tis the Season to be Tango'd"; look along Oxford Street and there is the gnomic utterance "Bird's Eye".

A recent newspaper "survey" announced that the shopkeepers of Oxford Street are "bracing themselves" for a truly lousy Christmas, and frankly they deserve it. The best thing we can hope for is that everyone who agreed to this shameless exhibition of skirts-up, knickers-down, up-against-the- wall display of moral and aesthetic short-time knee-trembling ends up bankrupt, evicted from their homes and trudging the streets with the cries of their starving children ringing in their frostbitten ears.

You might argue that anyone who drinks Tango (a rather sickly, chemical- tasting range of fizzy pop advertised, last time I bothered to turn on the television, by an orange person in a loincloth hitting Tango-drinkers in the face, a fate which they richly deserve) or who eats Bird's Eye frozen food (unpleasant stuff sold to the poor at inflated prices on the promise of some ill-defined "convenience") is so far gone in tastelessness as to be immune to any further assault.

You might also say that only the aesthetically destitute ever go to Oxford Street anyway: growling ogres in combat trousers and anoraks, jittery swivel-eyed tourists in Burberry underwear, wondering why it's all so horrid, tense, pale suburban families in thin chainstore leisurewear, hard-faced teenage trollops, National Lottery players, off-duty traffic wardens, epsilon-minus semi-morons shouting at their children, mad people with heads like nodding bulbs, the gullible, the monosyllabic, the deracinated, the ugly.

You might therefore conclude that this lumpy aggregation of fools and swine - shoppers and traders and Bird's Eye vulgarians and Tango-pushers - are terribly well-suited, have found their collective level, and that the rest of us should rejoice that the Oxford Street/Regent Street nexus has turned itself into a sort of leprosarium or commercial charnel-house which we can improve the quality of our lives no end by simply never entering.

You might, however, be asking for a smack in the face, which, having little better else to do at Christmas, I would be only too happy to pop round and administer ("Merry Christmas, madam. Kindly step aside as I have to punch your husband's lights out. Ho ho ho"). Because the trouble is that, although we may believe we live in a postmodern society, fragmented into shifting and ill-aligned cultural sub-groups, adrift on a turbulent ocean of media pressures, the truth is that we are as homogenous as ever, and all that Mr Toni Blair and his exciting new government have done is find a new demotic form of rhetoric with which to articulate two of this country's oldest and most over-arching philosophies. The first is the great commercial motto best expressed as "Give us the money. Now fuck off," while the second is the ancient doxology of the snob-disguised-as- democrat, "The proletariat are happy as they are and don't like thinking for themselves."

Combine the two and you have Bird's Eye; you have Tango; you have the National Lottery and the Millennium Dome; you have everything for sale and nothing sacred (in the old sense of set-aside, excluded from ordinary use or depredation); you have market research and focus groups; you have Oxford University Press being told by the University to close down its poetry list to save money (enough to keep every shrivel-prick don who voted for the measure in Tango and frozen fish fingers for the rest of his miserable life); you have ... you have, in short, the entire miserable package of New Britain, its public culture reduced to a matter of slogans, sponsorship and statistics.

I was lucky, and have remained so. Once you pass a certain level of educational attainment, people stop patronising you, and instead offer you things that you might not like or understand, at first on the assumption that you will probably be prepared to have a go and possess the ability to do so. Our public discourse makes no such assumptions; our proletariat is there to be patronised, fleeced, kept docile with television and consumer goods (the one symbiotically driving the desire for the other) and, above all, not to be got excited or given Ideas.

If there's anything resembling a Christmas ethos in our post-religious world, it must be the exact opposite: that the common man is not to be treated as a milch-cow for money-maddened corporations, and that his soul is not for sale or even offered for sponsorship. The prophet whose birth we celebrate whipped the money-changers out of the Temple. Now we whip them in. Perhaps we should amend our ways, and as a small oblation to the gods of civilisation, next year's Oxford Street illuminations should have as their theme a collection of mains-wired Bird's Eye executives, Tango marketing men and greedy, vulgar traders, fizzing and crackling prettily as they twitch and shriek 50ft above the festive street. !

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test