Friday, November 30, 2012 - Volume 3, Number 22

© Copyright 2012, The Ultrapolis Project.  All Rights Reserved.

The Moral Cause of Thanksgiving Lost

Left & Right Join in Bringing Its Demise


·         Thanksgiving Yesteryear and 2012 Cartoon by Pat Bagley

·         The New York Times Front Page Today Blatantly Misleads on Taxes – Serves Obama


The Fall of Thanksgiving

Left & Right Join in Bringing its Demise

By Marco Antonio Roberts


Thanksgiving Day fast recedes in the rear view mirror, with almost everyone else long past it and highly focused on the now more appropriately called “Holiday Season” that bears ever less resemblance to what anyone would have recognized as Christmas time just a few decades ago. 


In truth, that Christmas time of the mid-20th century was not all that much like the one just fifty years before, and even less like the manifestations we might have seen at different periods in history before that going back to first Christian versions of the winter holiday season, even as elements of each Christmas incarnation have made their way to decorative icons we now replicate in seemingly infinite ways.  Yet, one thing did string all those past Christmas times together, anchored as they were in a religious purpose and meaning – however thinly.  This time around, amidst battles over church and state, the rise of the multicultural and libertine ethos alongside the simultaneous ascendance of profit-maximization as transcendent truth, and a wide-spread collapse of Christian confidence except in its worst forms, what is celebrated widely today in mostly late fall is now almost completely informed by indulgence and profit motives, and nothing else.  People don’t much notice it yet, but we are all slowly going our separate ways.


The final fall of Thanksgiving as a holiday that for years resisted the merchant push to Christmas-shopping-size it, came this year as merchants no longer feared moral reprobation for making people work on a day that most of us over thirty understood to be a day for the company of family and friends in reflection and celebration.  Like the walls of an ancient city that for years held out against a relentless siege, Thanksgiving's cultural walls came tumbling down in a breach, and the hordes of mostly humble and immigrant shoppers flooded in, never to leave again.


The Profit Motive’s Need and Defense


Many have come to defend this new practice of treating Thanksgiving Day as just another opportunity to make money.  Some, because they themselves don’t have anywhere to go that day, so they might as well deny it to others.  Others because they themselves have to work it, so again, why should the rest of the country have this one day of communion?  Still others because profit does justify everything.  Mr. Donny Deutsch, an advertising executive that also is a regular cultural pundit on NBC’s Today show opined this week that the markets were simply serving a customer “need.”  Like when Time-Warner sold vile music glorifying raping women, bashing gays and killing police officers served a customer “need.” Like offering sales specials only in the middle of the night or on Thanksgiving Day, crucial to those of modest means, was a “need.”  Like when GlaxoSmithKline knowingly sold dangerous drugs that killed people was serving a customer “need.” 


Strange, for an advertising executive to deny the power of advertising to influence customer behavior.  Maybe all those billions spent on his trade are really wasted, and do not make a difference at all.


Houston’s local public radio station KUHF ran a local story on Thanksgiving Friday where the only two guests were there to defend the good that employers had done for their employees by asking them to work on Thanksgiving Day (err, not making them work?).  Apparently, employers were helping out their employees so they could pay off their credit cards so they could buy lots of wonderful presents for their families for Christmas (should they have said “the holidays?”).  In their view, retail employees would be “happy” to earn the extra $5-$40 in total premium pay and “pay off” their debts (yes, they said “pay off their credit cards”), instead of actually spending Thanksgiving Day with the people they love.  It sounded like a story from a capitalist version of the old Soviet Pravda.  “The comrades will be happy to surrender their lands to the collective...” 


Some big donor must have made a phone call to KUHF, after hearing radio news coverage of the protests over the new Thanksgiving Day business hours.  The story did not feature interviews with any actual affected employees, or a helpful scientific poll of these people.


One Man’s Self-Interest, Another’s Greed


Guest host Mark Steyn on the Rush Limbaugh show wailed Monday on the recent election and the scandal of recipients of government largess simply voting their “self-interest,” instead of the good of the country, when they cast their votes for Mr. Barack Obama as president.  This, from an ardent advocate of the conservative class that, like Mr. Deutsch, has been preaching unbridled self-interest when it comes to making money.  In an ironic convergence of those who believe in nothing and anything goes, that nothing is morally consequential (except carbon footprints), with those that believe profit-making is the ultimate good, the notion of moral underpinnings for how we do anything, let alone observe any national holiday as a people, is fading.


Continued next column >



The ManiKongo’s Material Plight


This has happened many times before, and will no doubt happen many times again.  In the early 16th century, Europeans first arrived at the court of the ManiKongo, the ruler of the Kingdom of the Kongo, he later known as Nzinga Mbemba Affonso I.  The African king was an unusually insightfully prescient and intelligent man.  He fast became fluent in European languages and culture, and a convert to Christianity.  He desperately tried to modernize his country, correctly foreseeing the mortal danger the Kongo faced if it failed to adapt to the new reality of European merchant powers at its doors.  Despite his efforts, soon the flood of European goods began to threaten his African state.  The ManiKongo pleaded with his royal Portuguese counterparts to stop sending traders and merchandise, and send teachers and priests instead.


These goods exert such a great attraction over simple and ignorant people that they believe in them and forget their belief in God.


But the Portuguese kings were themselves not interested in God or human advancement, but instead were themselves greedy for goods - in the form of slaves.  Ultimately, the allure of European wealth undermined the efforts of the Kongo royal court to restrain the export of slaves (in a way, the Africans’ own milder slave trade paved the way for the more violent and voracious European one), as well as its efforts to prevent prospecting for other local resources that would bring even more European traders - and local traditions, customs, and allegiances were abandoned. It became each Kongo entrepreneur for himself.  After the death of Affonso I, the weakened Kongo state began to splinter, and eventually was gradually totally consumed by the powers that had brought so much material wealth.  Whatever freedom the people of central Africa had left was gone, and so was their identity as a people.


Of course, we are now in a different age, in a different place, under different circumstances, and we are a different people.  Still, it bears considering what it is that holds a people together, and what makes for a good life.  It may pay to reflect on and heed the counsel of the great religions and wise philosophers when they warn of us of the dark power of money and the morally unrestrained pursuit of wealth.


I look back in my mental rear view mirror, and see receding fast not this last American communion in Thanksgiving – but all of them, as we gradually abandon our traditions and all go shopping our separate ways.



The New York Times as Obama Tax Lackey

Today’s Times’ Front Page Story on Taxes Blatantly Misleads


In today’s print edition of The New York Times, a front page headline announces that the tax burden of Americans today is actually lower than in “Reagan’s 1980s” (the online headline does not mention Reagan).  The body of the online and print story goes on to say:


To analyze the total burden, The Times created a model, in consultation with experts, which estimated total tax bills for each taxpayer in each year from 1980, when the election of President Ronald Reagan opened an era of tax cutting…


This line, along with print version’s factually incorrect headline, is clearly intended to suggest that today’s tax burden is lower than those under Reagan’s “tax cutting” presidency.  But Reagan was not president in 1980, Jimmy Carter was.  And, the Times’ charts and numbers clearly start with 1980.  Reagan took office in 1981 and did not get his tax cuts passed until later that year, which led to lower tax rates than those referred to as a point of comparison in the Times’ story.  The errorneous association with Reagan is so plain, either the Times’ staff is utterly incompetent, or more likely, it is intentionally misleading inattentive readers.  Either way, it is an irresponsible dereliction of journalistic duty.



Thanksgivings of Yesteryear and Today

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Thanksgiving Day in Yesteryear


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