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Capitalism, Christmas, and COVID-19

During a time usually marked by cheer, celebration, and abundance, millions of Americans will instead spend upcoming holidays this year in grief and deprivation. In the weeks approaching Christmas and New Years, the pandemic has never been more deadly. Reports show ICU’s across the country under such duress that staff fear a collapse of the American healthcare system in the near future should COVID-19 cases remain as consistently high as they are now. Even with vaccines on the horizon, an estimated 250,000 more American casualties are expected to occur between now and an eventual return to normal. With Biden soon to enter into the office of the presidency, the urgency for a meaningful stimulus package has never been higher. The only way to meaningfully address this pandemic would be to bailout the working people, paying workers to stay home to stop the spread, and cancelling rents.

In a time of such acute suffering and chaos, the crises of capitalism could never be more evident. Amidst massive unemployment and chronic levels of hunger, an unprecedented number of Americans have resorted to shoplifting in order to keep food on the table. With holidays around the corner, a recent report has shown that shoplifting has increased roughly 64% among small businesses and skyrocketed among larger corporations. The conventional image of the deviant thief deserving of punishment crumbles as more Americans find themselves in situations where theft is a necessary last resort. A desperate attempt to secure basic needs reveal much more about the society and state than the individual theft themselves. A legal code which deems a needy mother stealing baby formula and diapers deviant and worthy of punishment is an immoral one. A legal system that protects the interests of the wealthiest Americans during a time of unprecedented poverty is an immoral one.

In true capitalist fashion, the American holiday experience is defined by consumption and materialism. The masses are constantly peddled new sales and discounts to promote yet more spending of money on consumer goods. This year, however, very few Americans find themselves in the spending spirit. What will Christmas and Thanksgiving traditions be without the essential elements of consumerism? During such a critical period in human history, how will we redefine and reshape our holiday experiences? Radical love and support is necessary in a time like this. We must embody values of charity and community in our everyday lives to support one another in the face of violent state indifference to the plight of the working people. This holiday season, we must turn away from the materialism of consumerist society and turn to the materialism of our basic needs. We must recognize the dynamics at play in society and fight to reorient them towards the needs of the people.

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