Thursday, 25 December 2008

(White) Christmas Lies

Being lied to by your parents is an important part of growing up, teaching us valuable lessons about trust, critical thinking skills, and not reporting everything as cold hard fact to all your friends. It also gives you material to use on your own kids, making up for the CDs they just used to create a mosaic. For example, telling them that a haggis is a highland rodent with two legs shorter than the others, which only ever runs round mountains anti-clockwise and is always hoping to meet one of the lady haggises (haggi?) running clockwise* - this does no lasting harm and gives your kid an ice-breaker for any social occasion.

Christmas lies are more dangerous, particularly those about a mince-pie-guzzling intruder, who ignores the laws of physics, biology, geography and stranger danger (it's ok to sit on a stranger's knee so long as he's got a big sack). I may be overreacting a little here, but once that damage has finally been undone by big school, one warped idea tends to remain long into adulthood; you can write a wish-list to Santa, containing everything from non-itchy school vests to a talking, flying elephant, scribble "Santa, Norf Poal" on the envelope, smear it with jam in place of a stamp, shove it in a post box... and get at least one thing from the list on Christmas morning.

Of course kids don't think it happens by magic. They know that a postman, probably assisted by a cat, takes the letters out, gives them to another postman, who passes them on to another, and so on, until they find the right elf. That's the damaging part. They begin to believe:

  1. that there exists a person or group who have the power to give you anything you want and will do, if you only ask them to enough times.
  2. that there is a network of public servants who will go to all lengths to deliver your Very Important Requests to the relevant official, no matter which bit of the system you threw your requests at.

This psychological damage during childhood is what conditions many people's behaviour towards large, complex organisations. This is why they think that the local mayor should grit the roads on his day off, or that they can shout at a lowly call-centre worker because they don't like the company's new TV jingle. It's also the only explanation I can think of for this, this and all of this.

Happy Holidays everyone.

*thanks go to one of the friendliest, funniest families you'll ever meet