Easter, Christianity and the Big Corporate Con

I lost count weeks ago how many times I was asked the question. “Are you doing anything nice for Easter?” people were wanting to know. Family, friends, work colleagues, they were all asking… I hadn’t really given it much thought, but after a half dozen Easter cards from various family members had dropped through the letter box, and I found myself at the checkout queue behind a guy making the most of their three for £10 offer by filling his trolley and bagging 50 quid’s worth, I started to wonder if perhaps I ought to get to thinking. What was everyone else doing?

Days out, egg hunts for the children, generation-spanning family gatherings for roast feasts, couples splashing out on super-sized deluxe confectionery for one another. Clearly, doing nothing was not an option unless I wanted to position the Nosnibor household in that minority bracket of those who exile themselves from society by refusing to participate in any kind of festive activity. In the week and a half before the Good Friday holiday, social networks were aclog with images of fluffy bunnies, cutesy chicks, lambs (all thoughts of slaughter completely dispelled) and people gurgling about their imminent trips away. No, doing nothing was not an option. To do nothing would be to miss out. But on what? And why is Easter such a big deal?

Flick on the news and the BBC New Channel are cutting live to York, where the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, was busy waterboarding some zealots in the street in front of the Minster. Fair enough, you might say: Easter is after all a Christian festival – arguably the most important. The birth of Christ may be cause for celebration, but it’s the crucifixion and resurrection upon which the religion is built. Why not take the opportunity to reinforce the Christian aspect of the religion’s major festival when it’s under threat of becoming just another excuse to cut loose and enjoy four consecutive days off work (unless you happen to work in retail) by revisiting the Middle Ages? Well, the fact that Easter is another example of the Christian religion superimposing its own calendar over the preexisting pagan calender – specifically the pagan holiday of Ēostre – in order to obliterate the worship of ancient deities and nature is one very good reason.

Baptisms

A picture speaks a thousand words, especially when you can’t speak because you’re drowning in the name of Christ

 

Baptism 2

Grinning Christian sadist with a beard and the Archbishop of York reach the apex of spiritual ecstasy while drowning a young girl in the name of God

 

For a full and unbiased report, go to the BBC.

But all of this notwithstanding, what’s curious is the massive upsurge in the popularity and commercialisation of Easter in recent years. Could it really be that the economic downturn that began around 2008 prompted a bunch of cynical marketing companies representing big-money commerce decided the best way to boost revenue was to promote Easter-themed products in order to spur a cash-strapped society to part with their limited disposable income on things they neither needed nor wanted? And, on seeing a bandwagon rolling, the rest of the business world decided it hop on board for fear of being left behind? Well, quite probably.

Could it equally be the case that, depressed by the general shitness of life and working conditions – for those fortunate enough to still be in employment in the wake of the credit crunch – the majority of the population decided that actually, they were drawn by the mass-marketed idea of a celebration that happened to coincide with the slow emergence from a dismal winter marked by long, dark days, even longer, darker nights, destitution and flooding, and thought the antidote to their malaise could be to indulge in a colossal bout of retail therapy? Quite probably.

 

Chick

Multicoloured fluffy chicks: what’s not to love about Easter?

The celebration of spring is noble and something I’m keen to get behind. The springing of new life, the longer, warmer says, the buds, the blossom. It’s truly profound, remarkable, something far greater than human comprehension or existence. And far beyond the great capitalist con. Since when did spending money you don’t have on shit you didn’t need to make yourself feel better enter any kind of spiritual equation? Is this what life’s about now? And yes, that’s a rhetorical question.

Corporate Easter cash-ins? Just say no….

 

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk

The Changing Face of Consumerism XI: Back Down on the Street, or, Going for Bust

So a mere matter of days after my last piece on the struggling high street, I woke up this morning to more news of high street stores experiencing a drop in like-for-like sales in comparison to the same time last year, with HMV delivering particularly disappointing figures marked by sales being down 8.2% in December 2010. It is disappointing, too. Of the bigger chain music stores, I always preferred HMV (although Andy’s records had the edge for a while both in terms of pricing and range). First and foremost, they carried a broader selection with less mainstream releases sitting alongside the chart material. And, while a tad pricey, their range of back-catalogue titles was far superior to Overprice / Virgin.

But rather than work to their strengths and make a virtue of their difference, HMV followed the template of its competitors and having killed off the (albeit limited) vinyl section in favour of calendars and games, continued over a lengthy period of time to reduce the music stock – to make room for more games, DVDs and gadgetry. When the music occupies the smallest portion of a music retailer’s floor space, you have to ask questions. HMV’s struggling is an example of how diversification can be counterproductive, and rather than appealing to a broader customer base, can serve to alienate the one already established. How can a music retailer seriously expect to compete in other markets already dominated by specialists. More often than not, gamers will head to somewhere like Game for games, just as you’d probably go to a clothes shop for clothes, a bookstore for books, an electrical store for electrical goods – unless, of course, they go to the supermarket for the whole lot. After a while, I stopped asking questions and also stopped going in, because each time I did I found myself leaving empty-handed and frustrated because they never had the title I was after in stock. I’d invariably end up purchasing my music on-line because I couldn’t source it anywhere else.

I don’t for a second mean to suggest that I’m responsible for HMV’s declining sales (and I certainly played no part La Senza, the purveyors of slinky lingerie, being called into administration with a loss of 1,300 jobs, prompting headlines such as ‘Lingerie firm goes bust’ etc.), but while my musical tastes may be ‘minority’, there are many other minorities just like me, and collectively, they represent a substantial market.

As mentioned in passing in my previous piece, it’s not just music that I have problems tracking down, and it’s not always obscure items I struggle to find in shops either. As if to prove the point, only this week I decided I wanted to get a desk lamp. As my desk also happens to be the dining table and space is of a premium, I figured a desk lamp that clamps onto the shelves to the side of the table would be the best bet. But could I find one anywhere? Working out of time, my choices on a lunchtime were limited, but there is an Argos superstore and BHS Home Store (yes, British Home Stores Home Store) which specialises in goods for the, er, home, rather than home and clothing. A quarter of the store is given to a lighting department, but unless I wanted a lime-green desk-lamp with a regular base I was out of luck. That is, unless I wanted a ludicrously glitzy lamp shade with dangling glass bits all over it, which I most certainly didn’t. Argos carry a much more substantial range of desk lights, from bendy to angle-poise, but the only clamping ones are LED lamps, which just don’t give off enough light. I’d still need to put on the main ceiling light to see my screen, which defeats the purpose of a desk light I can angle in my corner without illuminating the whole room. Really, how hard can it be to find a simple item like a clamp-fitting desk lamp that takes a proper, regular bulb?

The answer is that it’s not hard at all. Five minutes on-line and I found I was spoiled for choice. Even so, on-line shopping is no substitute for real shopping as it’s often hard to get a sense of the precise dimensions or appearance of an item – you can’t ‘feel the quality’ from a description and photo, however detailed. Thankfully, it transpired that a local independent store I pass on my way through town after work had the best selection of all. Once again, hooray for the independents!

 

-clip-on-desk-lamp-black

A clip-on desk lamp, earlier today

 

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk