Gift-giving

It is far better to patronize local, in particular sellers of local produce and local artisans.
Gift-giving

With Christmas Day just around the corner, gifts and gift-giving may have crossed your mind so often that you made mental notes about it.

But mental notes may not be enough once you succumb to the socially approved seasonal madness, made even crazier after capitalist-induced commercialism and consumerism devoured the season.

So, you're now preoccupied with drawing up all sorts of gift lists for loved ones, relatives, friends, and colleagues… and your nerves are shot.

Gift lists? It's hard enough to buy just one thing for yourself. And you're now trying to figure out what to get for a godchild whose name or age you can't possibly recall, telling yourself, "She must be ten by now. No, she must be a teenager. But wait, is she married now?"

And, if by chance, while fiddling with your lists, you thought of your thinning wallet, you ask yourself, "do I even have the money or the credit to buy all these gifts?"

But let me sidetrack you from your head-scratching by boldly declaring that we forget how to give presents.

Those with a Christian religious bent know the pitfalls of our present depraved gift-giving, often preaching that the Christmas spirit is all about spiritual giving rather than material gift-giving.

Unfortunately, their earnest homilies and priestly counsel are drowned out by the mesmerizing spinning wheels put up by wily commercial hustlers' lustily booming spiels to buy and spend more on things people actually have no use for.

Battered senseless, you forgo thinking much about the gifts you will buy or receive.

But perhaps re-angling gift-giving in secular tropes instead of religious overtones might give you enough pause to reconsider the significance of the Christmas gift.

Nonetheless, with the greater abundance of goods for gift-giving — within reach even of the poor — talking about the decline of gift-giving might seem immaterial, reflection on it sentimental. Not so, really.

In fact, our aforementioned wily hustlers are but sleekly organized hustling operations in the service of profit. Christmas is still the best season for fattening many a business's bottom line and executive perks and bonuses.

And to think they're foisting cheap Chinese-made goods as proper gifts! It is far better to patronize local, in particular sellers of local produce and local artisans.

At any rate, such organized hustling operations, as noted German social theorist Theodor Adorno saw long ago, leave no room "for human impulses indeed, the gift is necessarily accompanied by humiliation… through treatment of the recipient as an object."

So much so it makes gift-giving degenerate badly into "a social function exercised with rational bad grace, a careful adherence to the prescribed budget, a skeptical appraisal of the other, and the least possible effort," debasing real gift-giving.

"Real giving has its joy in imagining the joy of the receiver. It means choosing, expending time, going out of one's way, thinking of the other as a subject," and never as an object.

Said another way, the idealized Christmas gift is a carefully chosen item that delights the recipient and opens their eyes to new possibilities regarding their life struggles. 

Moreover, gift-giving fosters warm human feelings between the giver and recipient. Gift-giving done with sincere goodwill does foster human warmth.

One old social experiment, for instance, involved Asian and American students — who exerted more effort in gift-giving than others — who said their most important value was having a "warm" relationship with others.

This is because gift-giving not only restores communion between individuals of different cultures and social mores but also, more importantly, allows both giver and receiver to fully see each other's humanity.

Seeing each other's humanity, in turn, promotes trust and undistorted relationships between individuals and, further on, in the communities.

In fact, this is the poignant reason why most people consider trust and faith, freely given or received, the greatest gifts.

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