I’m not a fruitcake. I don’t live in a hovel and only come out to shake a fist at the rest of the world. I have never actually killed anyone involved in advertising, nor do I intend to. In most respects I’m a normal human being, despite this blog being apparently written by someone with only a passing familiarity with sanity.
I shop at Tesco and I love driving fast cars and I eat meat and I’m probably a hypocrite in the things I rail against. It’s basically modern life. You can’t realistically escape sanctioning – even in a tiny way – egregious things through your wallet. Forget voting – in this day and age the money in your pocket and what you choose to do with it is realistically the most power you have. But there’s little doubt I probably buy clothes made in sweat shops, eat food grown on the other side of the world and burn petrol more eagerly than most. That’s life, frankly.
But it doesn’t mean that I shrug my shoulders at this stuff. It doesn’t mean that I don’t try to mitigate my impact on the world: to support local business, put out the recycling and turn the lights out when I leave the room. I don’t eat foie gras, I buy The Big Issue, I try to avoid the companies I find most distasteful and I sign petitions. I’m probably rather quaint in that I try to boycott companies I know do bad stuff: News International, Shell, Amazon, Russell Howard… In my own way I do my best to be good person.
These are tiny acts of protest against a world increasingly geared up to turn its own natural resources into cheap, tacky shit and then burn it. To turn leopards and rainforest and puffins into DVD boxsets and burgers and Beats By Dre headphones. And there’s not a huge amount more than any one of us can do. But I’ve hit upon a realisation in years past that makes me a lot happier with the insanity of globalised capitalism.
I don’t need anything else. I don’t need any more DVDs, I don’t need another car, I certainly don’t need more clothes and I’m not going to but that Dolce Gusto coffee maker. Why? Because I’ve got everything I could possibly need. And getting more things doesn’t make me happier. It doesn’t make you happier either. It just doesn’t – and this is perhaps the most important realisation you will ever make. Because this realisation, inversely, will make you feel happier.
I don’t ask for anything at Christmas. When people ask what I want, I tell them I don’t want anything. Let’s put the money towards a nice meal or a day out instead. Or save it for a weekend break or next year’s Summer holiday. But I don’t need a thing to prove to me that other people care about me. Apart from Adidas trainers, but we’ll gloss over that.
I’m not stupid though. I’m not blind to the idea that other people might not feel the same way – that we’re used to seeing the giving of gifts as an expression of love. That’s fine by me, because I rather like giving people presents. But the idea that I will give someone an electrical device, a box-set of Game Of Sodding Thrones or an item of clothing they almost certainly don’t want or need seems, to me, totally bonkers.
I like giving people books, food and booze. Second-hand books particularly that I know – I know – someone will love. I like giving people ornaments or curios from little craft shops – I bet you know one in your town struggling to keep its head above water. Gift memberships. Stuff that has been handmade, just for them. Art, music – or just a memento. I make sloe gin and I make jars of chutney. I know an independent wine merchant and buy amazing plonk from him. I know independent brewers and bakers and will be paying them a visit. I especially like giving to charity in their name. There’s probably one or two people on the receiving end of this stuff who think I’m a self-righteous tightwad, but these are the sort of things I find that people really appreciate.
So those are the things I give. And they’re the reasons I find adverts – especially adverts at this time of year – so obnoxious. Their reason to exist is to stop us being more thoughtful, more considerate. And to make us drop £50 on a load of old shit. Have you seen the shit they sell at Iceland? The high-stacked dross you couldn’t possibly need at Aldi and Lidl? And the sheer amount of leather gloves, novelty olive oils and decorative… things. These habits are hard to break – but if we don’t break them we will destroy this planet and everything in it. The new WWF advert spells it out in appalling, terrifying and shameful statistics. All that fucking rubbish you have piled up in your house has been made by burning the planet.
You can make yourself feel a bit better – or make someone else feel a bit better – by chipping in a few quid here and there. A tiny blow against the modern world, against a military-industrial complex that we know is as mad as George Osborne, with his little Roman Emperor haircut and glinting eyes, is all you can hope for. But it’s better than nothing. And it’s better than an ironic Minion lunchbox.
Show someone you care this Christmas – don’t buy them anything.
• Here are five amazing gifts – or places where you can buy them – this Christmas
Give nature a home through an RSPB gift membership
Adopt an endangered animal for someone through the WWF
Buy a meal for a homeless person through Crisis
Help ensure our National Trust parklands don’t get sold off to developers with a gift membership – or help preserve our best and oldest buildings