Oh the joys of Christmas... or to be more accurate… the utter joylessness of it all.

December 22, 2016

 

It was all brought home to me when I visited one of London’s biggest book stores to buy gifts: something to bring a little seasonal cheer.

 

The Sellout (the Man Booker Prize book of the year) set the tone.  A biting satire about a young man's isolated upbringing. Scores of other titles in the best-sellers list dealt with cynical characters living in an uncaring world… people trying to rebuild lives after tragedies…. software replacing people…. pollution and over-population… plots about ruthless bosses… books about political greed… social collapses…. emotional breakdowns…searches for purpose in a meaningless world… terrorists… corruption… madness… bitterness…vindictiveness… Almost all the titles were unified by the reoccurring theme of lost identity.

 

Standing next to another book browser, I asked if he could spot anything that was simply funny.  He shrugged despondently, shaking his head.  I asked booksellers for advice on books that were just humorous – no political satire… no dark commentary on how awful modern life, through one way or another, has become... nor sarcastic stabs at our grim processed world.

 

 “To be honest most simply funny books, with no political undertones were written ages ago.  Today’s best sellers are usually about turmoil in one way or the other,” he replied with a wink.

 

And I guess that’s where we are – judging by commissioning editors out there – where we aim to stay.

 

 

It’s easy to understand – you’d have to be blind not to recognise the desperate combination of inauthenticity, division and general distrust out there.

 

Beyond books, in my profession -  branding - around this time of year most Tweets and LinkedIn pieces concern new year content trends aiming to convince consumers with strategies showing ‘social’ ‘listening’, ‘sharing’ corporations are in business for any other purpose than to make as much money as possible. (Which is their purpose – really sorry to break that bombshell to you).

 

 

Children's books for attention-deficit sardonic adults 

 

 

Despite start-up marauds of Millennials insisting things are so ‘awesome’ and sophisticated today, perhaps thinking about it, things in 2016/2017 are not that different than they ever were. Take Walt Disney - one of the greatest influencers on 20th Century culture. Commenting at the time on Disneyland and his films, some of the Press ridiculed him for painting an inauthentic brightly coloured picture of the world.  They lambasted Disneyland for being safe and sound in a world that was anything but.  Yet decades after his death, Disney movies are still kid favourites throughout the world. Was there something in what his interpretation of stories gave: hope – however schmaltzy?

 

 

But, I am straying too far away from where we are right now….

 

Time to stick with the programme.  So  in keeping with 2016/2017 season … what with dead-end jobs… being underpaid and over worked…poverty... class differences…homelessness… jealousy… addiction… anger… self-loathing… self-pity… Big Brother big data … Brexit belligerence… unceasing software updates…fragmented corporate governance… screaming babies on flights… sarcasm… anxiety… faithlessness… lost love… behavioural vs. demographic marketing strategies… disappointment… useless battery endurance…loneliness… credit card bills… depression… emptiness… cultural breakdowns… corrupted leaders… broken dreams… wrecked relationships… banal Christmas adverts… infuriating new year sales commercials… customer satisfaction feedback forms… loss identity… manufactured branded happiness – now available in cans, bottles, boxes and software (because you are so worth it) …. illnesses… deaths… being unemployable if aged over 33…. neglected elderly… abused youth… bullies…virtual alternatives to harsh reality… dumb viral crazes… broken infrastructures… global warming… food waste… phoney online influencers… clickbait headlines…incompetent management… social currency… trolls… overcharged and over congested transport… Pokémon Go… no time to breathe…  wars… unscrupulous business partners… pretentious colleagues… idle co-workers…murders… slavery… thieves…torture… abusers… fandangle working initiatives… evaporated ethics… products that do everything except what they promise…. endlessly waiting on helplines… guilt… wickedness…. chocolate deficient Toblerones… taxes…. Uber drivers who can’t function without ‘Waze’… predictable superhero movies… manipulated desperate people… German supermarkets that have convinced consumers to shop at places reminiscent of 1970s Soviet Russia…desperate reality TV…  the lost middle-classes… commercial hype… Selfies snapped in the hope that at least one picture reflects some genuine happiness in your eyes… insincere friends… attention deficit… iPads ‘baby-sitting’ toddlers –rather than toddlers held by parents… horrid neighbours… narcissists… plain stupid people…parents blaming teachers for a child’s attitude… people judged by score cards rather than creativity…  savings being worthless… food tasting like plastic…. never getting what you want and never being happy with what you need… discrimination…celebrity superficiality…false promises... fake news… shit-shaped emojis… the yearning for success; despite any damages… lack of recognition as a person…. tribal differences...the UK spending an estimated £42bn on food and accessories for a meal that lasts - at best, two hours out of annual 8766 hours… and to top it all – enduring people you spend all year avoiding who join you to pull an overpriced cracker and wear a tatty paper hat …

 

…the setting couldn’t be more apt. 

 

 

So, have a thoroughly miserable Christmas – after all, judging by the best-sellers in the stores - who would honestly want it any other way?

 

Jonathan Gabay

Jonathangabay.com

 

 

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