Culture and Economy

              In the time we have spent caring for our grandsons, we have watched our fair share of children’s shows. I have been impressed with some of the very good programming that is available.  At the same time, I am just astounded how the commercials are geared towards making children into consumers.  I recognize that to some extent this has always been so.  But in the early days of television, commercials were shorter and were focused on not only toys but things like children’s toothpaste and household items a mother watching might use.

 Children today are bombarded with commercials that go on and on, all in lovely pastel colors and glitter.  I saw one this week with a clear message about consumerism: two beautiful little girls with baskets full of yummy looking cookies walk over to a playhouse where a child “shopkeeper” greets them. They each give her a cookie and in exchange she gives them each a new baby doll.  They walk back to their child-sized table and chairs and sit wreathed in smiles with their baby dolls.

This topic seems particularly poignant at the holidays.  Children and adults alike are assaulted with commercials advertising not only “perfect gifts,” but also, at a deeper level, “perfect connections,” couples and families so enjoying one another’s company.  The ads seem especially cruel in a year when Covid 19 creates barriers to shopping and get-togethers, and has left many empty spaces at the tables of those who have lost spouses, partners, parents, children, friends to this virus.   

“Any discipline that has to do with human behavior needs to take into account how humans think and how society, history, and context shape this thinking,”  Asli Demirquc-Kunt, host of the 2015 World Development Report on Mind, Society, and Behavior, stated.

“It is a challenge to engage in the spirit of Advent,” I wrote some years ago, “when the prevailing message, the insistent chant from the airwaves, seems to be that it is our patriotic duty to shop, to keep the economy moving forward.”  When we worship at the altar of the Economy, in a manner of speaking, we sell a bit of our souls to the devil.

Terry and I agreed not to buy each other gifts this year. We plan a very quiet Christmas, sitting by the fire, reading, listening to music. The nature of this year lends itself to being reflective.  I hope in some small way this minimizes how society influences this season.  May you find those means that make this a more peaceful, less commercialized experience for you.

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  The World Bank is made up of 189 member countries, staff from more than 170 countries, and offices in 130 locations. The World Bank Group is a unique global partnership:  five institutions working for sustainable solutions that reduce poverty and build shared prosperity in developing countries.