surviving the holidays

I am not a big fan of Christmas. It's not just that I'm not a Christian, it's all the baggage that comes with it.

For as long as I can remember, the whole family get-together thing has been fraught with stress, and featured tears before bedtime for someone, usually me. As the only child, and even only grandchild for many years, I was both the focus of attention and the rope in the annual tug of war between in-laws that had little in common and no incentive to find any such thing. Apart from me.

Spoiled? Yes, at least showered with gifts, some of them actually quite nice. No complaints there, provided there were plenty of books. Overfed, too. My female parent would on the one hand offer endless goodies and on the other accuse me of gluttony and ask when I was going to lose weight. Something wrong with this picture? D'oh. Then there were the grandmothers. They agreed that I didn't attend church enough, although they differed as to which one. Both Protestant. Music was ok but discourse was so laced with hypocrisy I gave up church even before I had read the Bible and realized what a dreadful tome it is. People who take it literally simply cannot have read it. But, I digress.

Nobody in our family would dream of inflicting physical abuse, apart from the occasional well-deserved swat on the seat of the pants. They just went in for sarcastic comments and galloping perfectionism, focused inevitably on me. It was required to "view" the presents given by & to each family member, whether to foster envy or disgust was never clear to me. Failure to effuse sufficiently was punishable by solicitous enquiries as to the state of ones health. Throwing up wasn't an option, even if overfed. In a nutshell, everyone disliked each other and competed over the child, since Christmas is for children, right? Spare me.

So, although I learned to cook all the festive dishes, and now do so for my entire ageing family (thank goodness I produced no offspring myself), and although I learned a huge repertoire of carols so I could be the pianist for the obligatory sing-along, I really don't care for the season.

Next year, I'm doing something entirely different. They can have their Christmas at a restaurant.


Have these people never heard of martyrs?

The ubiquitous wailing & gnashing of teeth in the international media over the "case" of one J. Assange and his organization, WikiLeaks, continue to astound me.

In particular, his arrest and bail denial on what may or may not turn out to be a proven charge, one that some might say was all too conveniently timed, have garnered publicly flaunted satisfaction in both media and diplomatic quarters, not to mention international security forces and others alarmed by the success of whistle-blowers in publicizing "sensitive documents".

Never mind that the "sensitive documents" are, generally speaking, mere confirmation of what a cynical public has long supposed about the purveyors of power. Never mind that these same power-brokers have many more intact secrets that may well exceed the imagination of public cynicism. After all, none of us wants to imagine that we might be living, not in our cherished (if mythical) democracies, but in incipient totalitarian states. Forsooth, that could never be!

Evidently those in power and their media lapdogs have failed yet again to learn from the history they have mostly used to their good advantage. It's true that the public attention span is short when it comes to public wrongdoing, whether political, religious, or financial. It's also true that the public memory is extremely long when it comes to situations where an individual (worthy or not) is sacrificed in the name of the powerful. One might cite the putative execution of a proselytizing carpenter circa 2000 years ago as a case in point.

This Assange fellow has an organization, and followers. Mirror sites already abound. These folks know how to work the Internet. If I were a betting person, I'd lay heavy odds that those in power themselves find the Internet too useful to take it down all over the world. The time appears ripe for creation of a martyr and a grass-roots mythology that will continue to nibble at the heels of those currently holding the reins and writing the cheques.

I wonder who will be first against the wall?