LETTERS: Self-gratification at Christmas

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From Mr Mark Walmsley

Sir: Your leading article "Even a Pocahontas Christmas is a chance to dream" (23 December) suggests that, for all its hypocrisy, the festival remains a net gain as a social institution. But you had to omit certain negative aspects of the "goodwill" element in order to arrive at this judgement.

The media emphasis upon idealised Christian family units can be hugely saddening for those who, for whatever reason, do not share them; and it places great emotional stress on many who do, as indicated by increases in drug overdoses, hotline calls, domestic quarrels, and alcoholics losing their self-discipline. Also, every aspect of environmentalism that one can think of is adversely affected by an increase in consumerism, congestion, and meat consumption.

And - of most relevance to your contention - the greatest part of the spending and giving of, often, frivolous luxury gifts is concentrated within the family or the same social class. This drain on resources, (with long-term effects - January is the peak month for credit-card delinquency) actually reduces our capacity to act on our decent impulses to assist those in need. Inequalities in the status quo are thus reinforced, particularly that suffered by the "woman who makes Nike shoes on a poverty wage".

The notion of sacrifice is in opposition to the overall modern Christmas ethos. Those who claim that "goodwill" is increased at Christmas should consider the implications of what is mostly a matter of self-gratification and an excuse for irresponsibility.

Yours faithfully,

Mark Walmsley

Basford, Staffordshire

22 December