Today, Boxing Day is a mega shopping event, part of the December – January consumer-spending frenzy. In Canada, it is the busiest shopping day of the year. However, Boxing Day used to have a very different meaning.
Originating in England in the Middle Ages, Boxing Day was traditionally a time for wealth redistribution in a manner benefitting the least advantaged. Although its exact origins are unknown, there are several theories:
• Every Church had an Alms Box which was used to collect donations for the poor. This box was always opened and its contents distributed on the day after Christmas.
• Servants had to serve their masters on Christmas Day, but had the next day off to visit their families. The lords and ladies of the manor would give each servant a box containing gifts and leftover food to take home.
• Before every voyage, a priest would place a donations box on every great sailing ship. To ensure a safe journey, members of the crew would put money in the box, which was sealed up when the ship set sail. If the voyage was successful, the box was given to the priest who would distribute the contents to the poor at Christmas.
CONSUMERISM – IT’S KILLING US!
A consumer society equates personal happiness with the purchase of material possessions. It is a widespread cultural belief in capitalist societies that more and more STUFF brings happiness and well-being.
A culture of consumerism consumes – uses up, destroys, squanders – the earth’s resources: resources that make our lives possible.
• The manufacture and transport of all that stuff we buy requires plenty of energy. Most of that energy comes from fossil fuels which pollute the earth’s atmosphere with CO2 emissions. Rising CO2 levels in the earth’s atmosphere are the main cause of climate change.
• Fossil fuel production, as well as the manufacture of goods, pollutes water supplies.
• Vast rain forests are destroyed to make way for cattle ranches, plantations, and mines, the products of which are sold mainly to North Americans.
• Much of the stuff we buy is tossed out shortly after purchase, and ends up in ever-expanding landfills.
ALTERNATIVES TO SHOPPING OR HOW TO FIND TRUE HAPPINESS
Studies show that, after basic needs are met, real happiness comes, not from all that stuff we buy, but rather from such things as ●fulfilling social relation-ships ●intellectual engagement ●community involvement ●creative activities ●simple exercise ●mental and spiritual enrichment ●contact with nature.
We can get out of the rat race by putting a stop to unnecessary shopping.
REINVENTING BOXING DAY
Our culture of consumerism has brought about an environmental catastrophe. One way to turn the situation around would be to reinvent Boxing Day.
At one point, Boxing Day was about wealth redistribution as a way to a more equal society. Let’s stop shopping and take back that earlier version of December 26. Then, just as retailers are keen to do for the sake of profit, let’s make every day of the year Boxing Day in order to save the planet.
A QUIZ FOR SHOPPERS
5 QUESTIONS TO ASK OURSELVES EVERY TIME WE GO SHOPPING
1. Do I really need it?
2. How long will it last?
3. Could I borrow it from a friend or family member?
4. Can I get it second hand?
5. What resources have been used to produce it?
A MORE EQUAL AND A MORE JUST SOCIETY
Like England in the Middle Ages, our society suffers from massive inequality. Shockingly and shamefully, today 1 in 7 Canadian children lives in poverty.
A reinvented Boxing Day/Year will address this issue. But we need to update the charity model of wealth redistribution used in the Middle Ages and replace it with a 21st century justice model.
What the federal government can do:
● Restore the income tax rate. 30 years ago the top federal income tax rate for the wealthiest was 43%. Today it’s only 29%.
● Restore the corporate tax rate. 20 years ago the federal corporate tax rate was 36%. Today it’s 15%, the lowest since 1938.
● Develop a long-term national program to create and maintain affordable housing and provide it with adequate funding.
● Provide proper funding for First Nations education.
● Introduce high quality universal early childhood education.
What you and I can do:
● Join a group working for environmental and social justice. Studies show that activists are healthier and happier!
HELP FOR THE RECOVERING CONSUMER
BOOKS – available at Regina Public Library
●Kingslover, Barbara. Flight Behaviour (novel)
●McQuaig, Linda. All You Can Eat: Greed, Lust and the New Capitalism (social criticism)
●Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping
●The Compact, a movement to buy nothing new beyond necessities for one year.
Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed. – Mahatma Gandhi