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The big bucks: Peter Sherwood wishes you a politically incorrect Christmas

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Repelled by beige phrases like Seasons Greetings and Happy Holidays, Peter Sherwood wishes you a politically incorrect Christmas.

I try to stay in the moment, figuring it’s all I’ve got. Recently I flicked through a pile of my old newspaper columns and books and it struck me that almost none of it would get published today. It’s too politically incorrect. I agree with Monty Python’s John Cleese who said recently that political correctness started out as a halfway decent idea and has become trifling and silly.

A majority of people are literal and pedantically minded, as opposed to those like myself who are all irony. Literal thinkers have won the day, which is why Bill Maher’s popular show Politically Incorrect was eventually canned. Bill moved on to success in cable TV, where he is not subject to the whims of the word and phrase cops.

Soft, politically correct language is upon us with a vengeance. Your bus driver is now a coach captain; part-time staff at your local fast-food joint are a courtesy service crew; garbage collectors are a waste-disposal management team; the assistants at the airport carousel are baggage ambassadors; doctors talk about negative outcomes; and no one dies anymore, we pass away.

Large male reindeers

Years ago, if we weren’t too excited about Christmas, we sent Merry Christmas cards regardless. Nowadays, there are pedants (whose primary function is to make me want to boil them in oil) for whom this greeting is no longer ok. Some, who are not of the Christian persuasion, even find the word ‘Christmas’ objectionable. Its abbreviation ‘Xmas’ can also be the cause of squawking protests, with dogmatists bleating that it offends by taking ‘Christ’ out of the celebration. That just leaves ‘merry,’ and if I go around wishing everyone ‘a merry,’ I’ll be placed in confinement.

There are people crying out for something, anything, to be offended by. And they’re in luck; I’m an equal opportunity offender. In the US, where being offended is a national pastime, greetings card jokers avoid mass paroxysms of righteousness with ‘Seasons Greetings’ and ‘Happy Holidays;’ neat beige phrases designed to limit any religious or anti-religious letters to the editor.

If Christmas is a season, must we now add it to summer, winter, etc., and does this new seasonality include New Year’s Eve? Is it ok to wish someone a Happy New Year? Happy or miserable, New Year is begging for negative connotations among the politically correct, who imagine that wishing someone a Happy New Year violates someone else’s human right to be suicidal.

Happy or merry, Christmas is big bucks (or for the politically correct, large male reindeers), with a December take of around US$3.2 trillion in the US alone. Most countries and cultures are deep into the business of Christmas, through the commercial involvement of millions of people, who wouldn’t know Bethlehem from Bhimavaram, or red-nosed Rudolph from a rhesus macaque.

Meanwhile, from me: Money’s short/ times are hard/ here’s your DB Christmas card. Have a merry!

Peter Sherwood has lived in DB for 18 years. The former head of an international public relations firm, Peter is the author of 15 books and has written around 400 satirical columns for the South China Morning Post.

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