Angry birds and the Big Social Crunch.
Unless you come from another planet or another time you know how angry birds, the No.1 best selling smartphone app, are catapulted at egg-stealing pigs cowering behind cartoon fortress walls. James Travers in the Toronto Star came up with this brilliant idea: what if the angry birds were a metaphor of the fury and frustration that are surfacing all over the globe? What are political leaders, investment bankers and other grasping elites if not egg-stealing pigs? What are parliaments, banks and multinationals corporations if not soaring stone, glass and steel strongholds protecting the privileged. Played for fools for too long, citizens, taxpayers and voters are hurling themselves at the most visible targets with a vengefulness that is often suicidal. Our old western civilization seems to be on a slippery slope. Its old craddle of the Euphrates, Tigris and Jordan rivers, far from being a safe haven, seems to be where it is rushing for its doom. New powers coming from Asia, South America and maybe Africa are awakening, full of youth, energy and creativity. Meanwhile we are getting older, fatter and stupider. Laziness, selfishness, intolerance, disconnect, boredom, depression, incommunicado and overindulgence are spreading like pandemics. On top of all that, Democracy, our flagship, that was supposed to bring to the rest of the world the treasures of our civilization, seems to be like the Titanic: the orchestra is still playing but the foremost compartments are flooded. And while the upper class can comfortably resume its boring party in luxury lifeboats, the crowds are trapped in the lower decks. No wonder that anger is rising. According to Alexis de Tocqueville, in 1836 Democracy was an irresistible force that moved our civilization in a constant expansion of its ideals of Liberty and Equality. In Europe, at the beginning of the Middle Ages, only a few families owned the land and governed the rest of the people. Then came the Clergy, open to everyone, rich or poor. It took its share of power, leading to a first step towards Social Equality. Then came the Jurists taking opportunity of the growing complexity of human interaction and the need for regulation. The subsequent rise of the Merchants followed the ruinous wars that the kings were waging. With the spirit of Enlightenment came the Scientists and the Artists. And finally came the time of Revolutions and Reforms which eventually gave the power to the People. Democracy was installed. And throughout the 19e and 20th Century it continued to grow with the coming of age of Liberalism, Socialism, Communism and all the other ism. Social Equality experienced amazing progress. Slavery was abolished, Women eventually obtained the right to vote, Privileges were replaced by Rights, taxation was used to reduce Heritage and Fortune discrepancies, education was granted to all, Henry Ford made the car affordable for everyone, yadi yadi yada. It was like a Big Social Bang. Our civilization exploded from its first incarnation of a Sun King surrounded by Darkness to constellations of Solar Systems with their Planets, free and equal in rights, if not in size, ressources and atmosphere. In 1992, Francis Fukuyama announced the End of History. With the Fall of the Wall, our civilization had achieved its expansion towards Liberty and Social Equality. Democracy was at its summit. But Francis Fukuyama forgot that we can't stay at the summit.. We want to go back. And at the summit, going back means going down. Actually the journey back -and down- might have begun a little earlier than 1992. In his July 15, 1979 speech, President Jimmy Carter wrote: "In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Humanity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns". He was right. So much so that Ronald Reagan was elected and history resumed its mad race... in the opposite direction. Liberty, so far, was relatively spared. But Social Equality went down at an amazing speed. Its foundations were sabotaged one by one: education, community, fraternity, religions, unions, independent press, culture, taxation, property redistribution, regulation. Francis Bacon wrote "above all things good policy is to be used so that treasures and monies in a state be not gathered into a few hands...Money is like muck, not good except it be spread." Well Francis, 50% of the global muck is now owned by 2% muckers who, far from being spread, are often next pool neighbors. No wonder that the remaining birds are getting angry to be more and more to share less and less of the golden eggs. Terrorists, Pirates, Talibans, Tea Partiers, Zapatistas, Wikileakers and Don Cherry are the visible tip of the iceberg. But what is really threatening the Democratitanic are the angry submerged birds, because they are the Majority and Majority rules. Make no mistake, the angry submerged birds are no headless chicken. They will hurl themselves at what they want to hurl themselves at, not at what they are told to hurl themselves at. The problem is that they are hurling themselves at everything but the only target that would be worth being hurled at. Take, for example, the War on Christmas. Supporters of using terms such as "Holidays" in place of "Christmas" argue that symbols and behaviors such as caroling, decorated trees, mistletoe, holly wreaths and yule logs have pre-Christian origins. Furthermore they add that public recognition of a potentially sectarian holiday such as Christmas may be seen as non-inclusive or offensive to non Christians or non celebrants in general. On the other team, people like Gerald L.K. Smith claimed that Xmas was a "blasphemous omission of the name of Christ" and that Jews introduced Santa Claus to suppress the New Testament accounts of Jesus and that the United Nations at the behest of "world Jewry" had "outlawed the name of Christ". A very old controversy. And a very stupid one. However, our angry birds recently started hurling themselves again at random non Christmas friendly targets, with amazing results. There were great victories. A bill was introduced in the California Senate to rename the State Holiday Tree the California State Christmas Tree. After threats of boycotting, Sears altered its marketing policies from using "holiday" to "Christmas." The change of policy included the distribution of "Merry Christmas" signs to stores nationwide and also included a "very Merry Christmas" greeting at their website. Kmart opened the 2006 Christmas season with their slogan "Where Christmas comes together", and several commercials acknowledging Christmas, including one with the tune to "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing". In response to the public outcry, Wal-Mart announced that the former "Holiday Shop" would become the "Christmas Shop", and that there would be a "countin' down the days to Christmas" feature. the CEO of Target, Bob Ulrich, stated that usage of "holiday" instead of "Christmas" was a mistake. "Frankly, we screwed up", he said. Of course there were also cruel defeats. Dawn Bryant, a Best Buy spokeswoman, stated: "We are going to continue to use the term holiday because there are several holidays throughout that time period, and we certainly need to be respectful of all of them." A television ad campaign launched by Gap was sung as: "Go Christmas, Go Hanukkah, Go Kwanzaa, Go solstice... go Christmas, go Hanukkah, go whatever holiday you Wannakuh" to which the AFA responded by condemning the ads for references to the "pagan holiday" of solstice. Overall the angry birds succeeded in their quest. Uber Christmas is back in the US with added Santa Power and double dose of Carols. In Canada, the battle is only beginning, but no doubt that with the help of Stephen Harper recent declarations and the rise of new figureheads such as Rob Ford it will be soon won. Meanwhile, Christmas, a great celebration and family moment, loved by almost everyone in the world including people for who it is not a religious holiday, has been slowly turned into a soulless consumerist frenzy for which Canadians spend 30 billions dollars each year, more than the GDP of Afghanistan, five times the GDP of Haiti. I am sure the angry birds miss the good old Christmas Spirit, when people were happier, had more hope, were more helpful and smiled and said hello to everyone they met on the streets. Maybe they could have helped revive This Time Of The Year. Too bad they were too busy hurling themselves at another target. The wrong one. Again.