Christmas and New Year 2005

~ Wonderful Advent reflection ~

The Economist is feeling apocalyptic

The banning of the C-word

The Spectator Christmas double issue.

Irreverent Private Eye

And how about some dazzling forecasts/thoughts/radical ideas/reflections/resolutions for 2005? We would love to hear your latest ideas.

~ Wonderful Advent reflection ~

Those who sow in tears
will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.
PSALM 126:5-6

1. The Economist is feeling apocalyptic in sensing that “The end of the world” is nigh. Apparently born-again Christians believe that an event called the Rapture is coming soon. This is when Christ will return and whisk believers away to join the righteous dead in heaven. There are many apocalyptic tracts in the Bible giving credence to this thought. Men have been making the same appeal since before the birth of Christ. Apocalyptic belief renews itself in ingenious ways. New apocalyptic creeds have even sprung from those sticky moments when the world has failed to end on schedule. End time beliefs endure for endless reasons and social scientists love to set about this question with earnest study of the people who subscribe to such ideas.

Properly, the apocalypse is both an end and a new beginning. In Christian tradition, the world is created perfect. There is then a fall, followed by a long period of moral degeneration – and this culminates in a decisive final between good (the returned Christ) and evil (the Antichrist). Good wins and establishes the New Jerusalem and with it the 1,000-year reign of Jesus on Earth.

Norman Cohn, a British historian, places the origin of apocalyptic thought with Zoroaster, a Persian prophet who lived between 1500 and 1200 BC. The ancient Egyptians and some earlier civilisations had seen history as a cycle, which was for ever returning to its beginning, in which “all things would be made perfect”. This basic drama shapes all apocalyptic thought.

The apocalyptic narrative may have helped to start the motor of capitalism. A drama in which the end returns interminably to the beginning leaves little room for the sense of progress which, according to the 19th century social theories of Max Weber, provides the religious licence for material self-improvement. Without the last days, in other words, claims the writer, the world might never have had 65 inch flat-screen televisions.

Science treasures its own apocalypses, but the writer claims that the modern environmental movement lacks a sense of redemption and is therefore destined to remain in the political margins.

Futurologists have noted an exponential acceleration in the pace of technological change. The “knee of the curve” thinking is gaining credence as a sort of last-days set of circumstances in which, in the near future, the pace of change runs quickly away towards an infinite ‘singularity’ as intelligent machines learn to build themselves.

In conclusion: the apocalypse is the locomotive of capitalism, the inspiration for revolutionary socialism, the bedrock of those who, like The Economist, champion the progress of liberal democracy.

Perhaps deep down, says the writer, there is something inside us all yearning for the New Jerusalem, a place where, as a beautiful bit of the Revelation puts it:

“God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away.”

2. The banning of the C-word – CHRISTMAS

Mark Steyn found out when he went to the town in America called ‘Santa Claus’ that Merry Christmas had not been allowed. The pressure has led to many schools and organisations in America banning all religious symbolism for fear of legal action and instead employing bland generic terms such as “holiday tree”, “winter concert” and banning hymns such as “Silent Night”. In Italy this Christmas, apparently, towns and schools have banned displays of the nativity as they might offend Muslims.

Little wonder, then, that Tony Blair has sent half of his cards with the traditional’Merry Christmas’ greeting and the other half with the watered down ‘seasonal greetings’.

Mark Steyn concludes that the elevation of the right not to be offended into the bedrock principle of democratic society will, in the end, tear it apart. His cheery endnote is: “Merry Christmas to all”.

3. The Spectator Christmas double issue. Perfect with warm mince pie and glass of port to hand.

The Jolly spirit of “Christmas Merry-Making” is highlighted with a selection of seasonal news, reviews, opinions, weather reports and poetry from Christmas of The Spectator, from its foundation in 1828 to the end of the 19th century.

For instance an entry in 1837:

“It is quite surprising how one’s wants increase at Christmas time, and what a tide of generosity suddenly sets in: the most close-fisted folks relax their grip, and yield to the genial impulse. Gay-coloured scarfs, embroidered reticules, and all the supernumerary items of female attire, suddenly become necessary articles of dress; and smart caps and bonnets look irresistibly becoming. Velvets and satins are the only wear; their rich hues carpeting the counters, and the parterres of artificial flowers blooming on every side, make Waterloo Houses fairy bowers…”

wonderfully pre- p-c- days!

Then in 1861 on the death of The Prince Consort (Albert):

“Christmas was as dismal and silent as that most melancholy of eras – a London Sunday…The same tone was, we think, perceptible in the expression of grief for Prince Albert… the weather being excessively cold, London kept itself in-doors, and succeeded, consequently, in assuming an aspect of woe-begone misery which rather exceeded than fell short of the occasion. It is nevertheless a defect in our social organisation that we should observe the day of a great funeral and Christmas-day in precisely the same manner.”

Wonderful vignettes.

4. As ever, irreverent Private Eye, seeing off the Blunkett jokes once and for all:

Q: Why is Mr Blunkett like a high-speed train?
A: Because he went on the ‘fast-track’ and hit the buffers!

Q: Why is Mr Blunkett like a stuffed goose?
A: Because he got well and truly trussed up for Christmas! (my own here!)

Q: Which member of the PCC likes to pull a cracker?
A: Mr Blunkett (geddit?)

I feel this is as far as we go for Christmas/New Year for now.

Now to you – with your illuminating thoughts and views.

Every blessing and have a fab New Year.

25 thoughts on “Christmas and New Year 2005”

  1. Hey Melissa, very interesting post, “Those who sow in tears, will reap with songs of joy.” I love that quote too!

    I think what I would really like to see in ’05 is a change in attitude of the major western governments towards the developing world, I’d like to see the day when someone realises that for the price of one of their missiles, they could feed starving children, or pay for medical care for some of the millions dying in sub-saharan africa, or if they wanted the money to stay in there own countries, they could educate, they could provide care for the under-privlaged, not in the form of benefits, but in a real way that helps get rid of the root of the problems. (sorry! I do go on!) But, I can’t see it happening, so I’ll go for wanting to see Blair out of power, and Sunderland back in the Premier league 😉

    Have a fab Christmas and New Year!

  2. My prediction for 2005 is that the ECB will finally stop meddling in English cricket, and apply itself more rigorously to the management of the European currency…

  3. Happy new year everyone. My prediction for 2005 is that over the next few months I will find a route through Plotinus, to Augustine and Aquinas, while getting back to Montaigne without losing my head. And that Nichole Kidman and Sarah Michelle Geller fall deeply and undyingly in love with me.

  4. Thought provoking stuff. There has always been someone out there giving dire warnings of the apocalypse. I have even met some, and they are, by and large, utter loonies who I wouldn’t trust to look after my bike, let alone my worldly goods and the future of humanity.

    In the midst of all this who’s-got-the-most-tacky-and-tasteless-lights-on-their-house madness, I was shocked and stunned to see a front garden with nothing but a nativity scene illuminated by a single spotlight this week. Nice work, those people, whoever they are.

    Um… Happy Holidays. Christmas. CHRISTMAS!

  5. Strange to see this sentiment suddenly cropping up both sides of the Atlantic. I can’t think when was the last time I saw someone being persecuted for being a Christian (as opposed to just being an arsehole).

  6. No Lori, it’s not strange at all. It’s yet another Karl Rove scheme to rev up the base by convincing them they’re a persecuted minority and therefore have a right to persecute others. The US was filled with all the usual Christmas decorations and celebrations, but most people (and ministers) prefer to see nativity scenes at churches and private houses. Those most interested in putting ostentatious displays on government-owned property usually turn out to be corrupt officials seeking a cover-up and distraction. I enjoyed the column by Max Hastings much more – he’s a responsible adult, and there aren’t many left.

  7. Tom, could you let us know the salient points and your views on the Max Hastings column? that would be interesting.

  8. Scaryduck, alias world broadcaster

    You wowed me with your nativity scene and single spotlight image – that would knock me down too for its utter stunning simplicity

  9. I’ve eaten too much turkey. And likely to have another Turkey sandwich for lunch. Happy new year every one. I may run out of turkey by the middle of next month. But then again, by that time, the turkey may have joined the EU.

  10. Nick – as long as the turkey, or Turkey in the EU, doesn’t stop you being your perky and healthy self. We need your ongoing riveting input here.

    Wasn’t this apocalyptic comment portentous with all the flooding and massive tidal waves around Thailand and the Indian Ocean? Quite eerie – feel we are but mere specks of dust on the globe.

  11. It is both seductive and strangely comforting to believe that some devine intelligence orchestrates our world – that is why faith/religion is, if it didn’t exist we would have to invent it. The latest tragic disaster reminds us that the awful power of this world is far greater than anything we have manufactured and we should be both humble and mindful of it – for it may just happen. However good little boys and girls we are, it may just happen. Perhaps God has placed us on the most perfect and beautiful rock there is but a rock is still a hard place and at times we need all the strength, generosity, intelligence and friendship we can muster just to cope in this paradise.

    In 2005, whilst I am sorry for others plight and more than willing to help with what I can, I think WE should concentrate on removing the plank in our own eye before we concentrate our efforts on healing another countries wounds whether they be political or actual. Of course we should help with this short term disaster in the indian ocean, but we should bring our troops home too.

    I would like to see fewer clever thoughts and words (generally, not accusing boz) and more actual behaviour and REAL problems solved. When I was paralysed from the waist down and had broken my neck I was ejected from a hospital without an x-ray. It is a miracle I didn’t die. My MP didn’t want to know. No-one did. It would have made me feel a lot better to have heard ‘sorry’ from the hospital. Things like that do matter. The health service were CRAP! But folks, I’m the lucky one, through negligence my beautiful friend died.

    When there is no disaster, you are in a developed country, England, why do you lot, you Britain, not seem to care that people all over this country are literally being killed by this stupid administration. I know you might switch off now as jaqs on her soapbox again but I think that every mothers child is important, it doesn’t take thousands to make me care. So please, in 2005 let us please get rid of this bloody awful administration and vote for ANYONE BUT LABOUR!

    It may sound boring and not clever or witty of me but I really, genuinely think it matters.

  12. ‘Nick – as long as the turkey, or Turkey in the EU, doesn’t stop you being your perky and healthy self. We need your ongoing riveting input here.’

    Many thanks uber M it looks like it’s going to be a wonderful new year. As for ongoing and riveting in put it’s the case of no more in-laws for the year yeaaaa….and the turkey has been disposed of well eaten and digested! Now I’ve got to finsh off all the brandy that’s left over from Christmass. Its going to be a hard job and some of us might not come back alive but some one’s got to do it. Over and Out. Maintain radio slience we are going in.!?!

  13. Lori – ‘It is both seductive and strangely comforting to believe that some devine intelligence orchestrates our world – that is why faith/religion is, if it didn’t exist we would have to invent it.’

    Just a quick sentence on your statement here. I came to the conclusion a long time a go that maybe us humans are so culturaly programed to belive in a god of some type or another that we have never shaken to concept off. And that the whole idea may well haunt us for thousands of years to come. It’s very much a fact of human history and life around the world. Where the root of the whole idea is, is any ones guess. Lost in the sands of history.

  14. Nick, please reread. I didn’t say that, Jaq did. I’m currently ambivalent about religion, but I’d not call myself an atheist as yet.

    On another note, I was sent the following link by a friend and this seemed like a great place to share it. Talk about inspiring politicians, check out the former mayer of Bogota:

    I think we need forums, because I’m feeling a little guilty mailing all of this discussion to Melissa, but it’s SUCH a great article 🙂

  15. Lori – your recommended items are amaaaazing :

    1- really whacky Hansel and Gretel type house completely covered in lights and Christmas decor. I’m amazed the family can step out at all, it looks so wired up.

    2- as for the academic Colombian Mayor (who served for a year). Well he is something else – perhaps we can learn from his theatrical displays and extraordinary experiments to help people learn about law and order and get them to contribute voluntarily to the public purse. What style in changing hearts and minds; I give him the thumbs up.

    Thanks for highlighting these – great job Lori.

  16. Lori – sorry about making that mistake – to much brandy and mince pies over the past week. It must be admited that attepting to think logicaly has been surpressed by these items – it’s that time of the year after all.

    By the way the idea of the fourms are a most wonderful idea. But may be we should be carful not to freak Melissa out at this time of the year.

  17. Greetings Melissa,

    Lets hope the two voices that caught my attention over the Christams period will not be lone voices in 2005 …

    In this holiday season, I love to hear the voices of bright, feeling people. I might not always agree but I enjoy the thinking. These “learnings” from Maya Angelou struck a chord:

    — I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.
    — I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage and tangled Christmas tree lights.
    — I’ve learned that making a “living” is not the same thing as making a “life.”
    — I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.
    Kevin Salwen on Making a Difference

    Fr. Timothy V. Vaverek sends us tumbling back toward the future of a apocalyptic reality… We should heed his advice. As far from attaining a better life, consumerists experience alienation and fear. Always wanting more, their sense of accomplishment is ephemeral and they are strangers to contentment. Always in danger of losing what they have but do not own, a sense of urgency and futility are their constant companions.
    Surreal Reality

  18. As I have blah’d on about in my own blog, 2005 is the Chinese year of the Rooster. Since both Bush and your fellow Tory, Blair, are guaranteed at least part leadership in 2005, I think we should tell it like it is. The year of the cock.

  19. >– I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage and tangled Christmas tree lights.

    loved that quote Jozef! so true

    Interesting comment from Miss P Dubya about year of the Cock – only hope those roosters don’t get too cock-a-hoop

  20. Another – You can tell a lot about someone’s character from their undercurrent of comment while doing DIY that doesn’t always work

  21. BTW, Mockus was mayor of Bogota for almost 10 years, not for just one. At least that’s how I read the article. He served two terms, but it stated how long a term is…he was elected in 1993, and apparently served until January 2003 or 2004 (it isn’t clear which).

  22. I recall Birmingham City Councils pitiful attempt to rebrand the Christmas period winterval.

    We do not need to look far away for this type of politically correct madness.

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