Aging in an Age of Innovative Technologies, Global Changes to the Economic Paradigm, and Quebec’s Uniqueness

 

By N Oji Mzilikazi

The full keynote address I delivered on Saturday 11 November at Montreal Caribbean Social Organization 40th Anniversary Celebration

Ms. Corbett, Thanks for the warm introduction.

Madame President, Guests of Honour, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Greetings in name of everything that’s Good, and a Pleasant Good Evening to one and all!

My name is N Oji Mzilikazi.  I am a board member for the Council for Black Aging Community of Montreal, whose office is in this very shopping plaza, opposite Super C.

I’ve put myself in a position this evening to undertake a duty, which I generally take great pains to avoid—that of giving a speech. And to know I must do so before the esteem members of the Montreal Caribbean Social Organization, and its friends and guests at its 40th anniversary grand celebration.

Allow me to explain: I was hanging out at the Office of the Council for Black Aging when Mr. Errol came in to inquire about a speaker for this very function. Without a second thought—and insanely arrogating unto myself the full authority of the Board and Association, I told Mr. Errol to consider it a done deal.

I never foresaw myself as the designated speaker. After all, the face of most organization is usually the Executive Director and/or the President of the Board. I am just a member of the board with no portfolio whatsoever and desirous of none. I’m contented to be ordinary. And so, for my brashness (I’m only kidding), I’m the one you’re saddled with, and the Council president, my president, Ms. Wilma Alleyne is seated at the head table to ensure I don’t bring the Council in disrepute. (Only Kidding.)

My task this evening is more than just delightful. It is an honour and a privilege to stand before you and with you.

I emigrated to Canada in June 1978. Since all I’ve ever known was songs of Black Power, Black empowerment, Black Liberation and songs of Freedom, and living in LaSalle, MSCO was the first Black organization I visited. Then, it was located behind the City and District Bank at the corner of Newman and Dollard.

Militant—in my mind, Revolutionary—in my mind, I didn’t want to align myself with or join any sort of social organization. Hence, I didn’t become a member of MSCO.

My next visit to MSCO, then located in the LaFleur shopping centre was sometime in the late 80’s or early 90s.  I was hired to Dj at a hip-hop/R&B New Years Eve dance by a promotor I knew quite well, and I did it as a favour.

My politics prevented me from partying in businesses located in basements, especially when the entrance and exit are the same. I equated that to acclimatization to the cargo hold of a slave ship, and I don’t cater, even if President Barack Obama would be there. That’s me, that my politics. No disrespect to any of our business located in basements because of economic factors and the like.

A little over two months ago I was introduced to Mrs. Doreen food service on a Friday in this very locale, and since then, I’ve stopped cooking on a Friday.

With that in mind, can I claim being an MCSO regular, an MCSO supporter?

I was thoroughly impressed the first time I walked through the door of this Association, and it is all because of the photographs and memorabilia on the wall.

One is hard-pressed to find in English-speaking, Black, West Indian, Caribbean organizations photographs of their progenitors, photographs of their Board members for any given year; in short no memorialization of those that built, served, sacrificed, contributed to an organization storied history; no memorialization of those upon whose shoulders we stand. Progeny is thus left to say my grandmother, my grandfather, my aunt, my uncle, my father, my mother served community, and there is no visual proof; no photographs or names engraved on plaques in tribute or as validation.

Madame President, your organization deserves a round of applause. Give yourself a round of applause.

I’ve been in Canada for 39 years. MCSO has been around for 40 Years. We have both experienced a world of things, and if you would allow me a bit of conceit, we have both aged gracefully. And this leads me to the subject this evening:

Aging in an Age of Innovative Technologies, Global Changes to the Economic Paradigm, and Quebec’s Uniqueness.

In December 2004, Statistics Canada released a report that stated, “Canada has changed from a high-fertility society where women had many children during their lives to a low-fertility society where women are having fewer children overall and at increasingly older ages.” And with the current birth rate, in 25 years, the population of seniors 65 and older could be more than double the number of children under 15.

In October 2005, Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew said that Canada’s population must rise to 40 million from its current 31, to compensate for an aging population and retiring baby boomers.

Days before Quebec’s 1995 Referendum, Lucien Bouchard, the leader of the Bloc Québécois stated, We’re one of the white races that has fewest children.” The implication: White francophone women must have more children if Quebec is to ever achieve its dream of sovereignty.

In 2001, Quebec recorded the lowest birth rate since 1910. (The low birthrate of white francophone women is at the heart of the fears of French language and French culture dying.) Per government reports, Quebec’s population is aging faster than the rest of North America.

What does a low birthrate have to do with aging?

Workers pay taxes. Taxes gave municipalities and governments the revenue they need to afford the wide range of public and social services and pay salaries. Without a replacement population to ensure a continued and sizeable tax-paying workforce, an aged population will burden our currently free health-care system. Health-care already takes a huge slice of the budget.

The maintenance and enjoyment of wealth necessitate having to feed as few mouths as possible; having fewer people using up resources. Consequently, the more affluent, developed and progressive a society, the fewer children it produces. Canada is an affluent nation.

Add to the mix, the availability of birth control and other non-reproductive technologies, abortion, sexual choice, the financial independence of women, female empowerment and freedom from domesticity, plus the decline of the Church in controlling lives and lifestyle, and it’s impossible to confine women to the home or demand they produce babies.

The Canadian birth rate is well below replacement levels. (Population projections show that by 2030, “net immigration may become the only source of population growth.”)

Per a 2010 Canadian Parliamentary report: “A birth rate that is below replacement level over the long term would make the government’s ‘current fiscal structure not sustainable.’ If it continues its downward trend, there would have to be a sharp rise in taxes and major cuts to government services.” (Major cuts could include pensions.)

The latest census data shows for the first time in Canadian history there are more people over the age of 65 than there are under the age of 15.

Compounding matters—the ability of Federal and provincial governments to continue to amply cater to the needs of our increasing aging population as well as maintain its current pension payouts, much more increase it, to keep pace with the cost of living—are the effects of globalization, outsourcing, computerization, automation, free trade and non-stop advances in innovative and information technologies and their industries.

For all their advantages, they are not job creators. They do not spread wealth or support social mobility. (Just look at the devastating impact of Whats app, Facetime and email on the postal service.) They made numerous long-established occupations and skilled trades obsolete, closed factories, laid off million of workers, created widespread employment unavailability/job shortages, and are directly responsible for impoverishing communities, the increase in poverty, homelessness, people on welfare, the increase in drug usage/drug addiction, gravitation to crime, social systems under siege, youths unable to envision a bright future, and government cutbacks; towns, cities and municipalities no longer having a large tax base of workers—adequate financial resources to deliver as well as adequately service the basic needs of the population.

Work enriches both people and society. Work alleviates poverty and is the first step towards prosperity. Work puts time to beneficial use. In doing so, work minimizes criminal pursuit, and by extension, contribute to social stability.

Work; being employed, bestows a positive outlook on life. Work allows one to plan a course and dream of brighter, better and bigger things. Work inspires, engenders self-esteem, the sense of pride, and the sense of worth and accomplishment.

Despite the upsides to work, business do not care about the human condition, their employees’ financial obligations or aspirations, or the negative ramifications of their policies. Business is all about maximum profitability.

To that end, business is continuously looking for new ways to hire labour cheaply, cut expenses, increase profits for themselves and their shareholders, limit legal accountability as well as limit corporate responsibility.

Manufacturing jobs are labour intensive. For decades, factory work/manufacturing jobs was the source of stable employment. They allowed school dropouts and the poorly educated to earn a living, provide for family, own a home, open their own businesses, also ascend to middle-class status. And even though automations, technological advancements and computerization forced reductions to the workforce, manufacturing was still labour intensive; still employed vast numbers of workers.

Blinded by tunnel-vision pursuit of mind-boggling profits, western business elites closed factories and companies, and outsourced—apportioned entire industries and thousands of jobs to countries with less-developed economies and an abundant supply of cheap labour.

In those markets, there are no unions, no minimum wage scale, no employment, health or insurance benefits, and very weak to no worker and environmental protection laws. Monthly salaries do not come close to the daily wage paid to an employee in a rich nation like ours.

Since competitiveness determines success in the global marketplace, outsourcing cannot be reversed. Besides the prohibitive outlay of capital necessary to return those jobs, western nations cannot compete with the cheapness of labour in outsourced markets and the cheapness to which life is held in those countries. As such, industries and jobs exported to Asia, Southeast Asia and other less-developed nations are permanently lost, regardless of the rhetoric from the likes of Donald Trump about “bringing jobs back.”

The unavailability of jobs and competition over jobs have undermined worker protections, benefits, job security, the power of unions, and cheapen the price of labour. Workers can no longer afford to tell an employer to F–off, and easily find a new job. Workers must contend with having to work and produce more for a lesser salary and with less to no benefits.

And so, technology, advancements in information, automated systems, automation and its role in the loss of skilled, as well as labour intensive jobs, a global marketplace, the inter-relatedness, co-dependency of economies alongside competitive pressures from globalization have irreversibly changed the economic paradigm.

Historical forces of power, racist ideologies, white supremacist education, racist attitudes and practices, and racial, economic and social exclusion accounts for Aboriginals and people of African descent as the premier impoverish and discriminated ethnicities in Canada. As noted in a 2011 report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Wellesley Institute,a ‘colour code’ is keeping visible minorities out of good jobs in the Canadian labour market.”

Things are worse off for Blacks in Quebec regardless of French language proficiency, having French as their mother tongue or being born in the province. For, for all the language and culture wars between Quebec’s white francophones and white anglophones, they are able to accommodate one another, unite to oppose and oppress non-whites—and separately and collectively discriminate against Aboriginals and people of African descent.

A 2010 McGill University study, based on a comparison of the 1996 and 2006 census results, found things have gotten worse for Montreal’s Black community: “University-educated blacks had 10.9 per cent unemployment, which was on par with jobless numbers among non-black dropouts.”

What does it say about the society when a white high school dropout is on the same level as a Black person with a university degree; when educated Blacks and uneducated whites are equal in employment opportunities?

Since we as Afro-Canadians, Black Canadians, Black Quebecers, West Indians, Caribbean people, Black people and overall people of African descent  live in an overwhelmingly white society of two linguistically and culturally different founding and competing colonialists; the English and the French, and whose economic, cultural, social policies and institutional practices are geared towards them, and by extension sustaining exclusion, discrimination, racism and white supremacy, the slightest social or economic earthquake devastates the community regardless as to how educated or gainfully employed members are.

Economics is at the heart of racism. Cheap labour and the exploitation of people and resources are intrinsic to capitalism. Keeping folks’ underemployed, poor, educationally bankrupt, financially illiterate, politically excluded and socially segregated, and more-importantly, self-assisting in their own self-defacement and dehumanization, when combined with an absence of visionary leadership ensure an unending pool of two-legged beasts of burden.

Here we are celebrating MCSO’s 40th Anniversary, all put together; well-dressed, money in our pockets and purses, radiant, beautiful, handsome, sexy, educated, brilliant, confident, and quite the professional, and being complemented by others, and quite possibly angry or worried because our life sucks, underemployment and the lack of financial knowledge have us unprepared in retirement,  our loved one is in a nursing home or we face going to nursing homes that do not address our needs, especially culinary. Mannish water, cow foot soup, ackee and saltfish, palau, roti and patties are non-existent—and no one knows it but you.

Only you know what you had to do, what you had to put up with or what was done to you to get to here—where you are. Who knows what you would’ve been, what you could’ve accomplished if hurt and pain didn’t befriend you, if you weren’t betrayed by those who were supposed to love and protect you, or abused and exploited by those who claimed they loved you?

Who knows what you and I, our community could’ve accomplished if racism and discrimination didn’t plant their boots on our face, and there was visionary leadership?

The aged and aging in our community face many challenges. Many, in their younger days, found themselves trapped in dead-end and low-paying jobs without any benefits whatsoever, especially if without papers. Equal numbers were “paid under the table” by employers looking to get over by not giving the government their due. Only to realise that upon turning 60, they have no Quebec pension to collect and must wait until age 65 to collect Federal.

Ignorance as to the benefits of paying into the system as well as permanently struggling business have some of our entrepreneurs in the same boat when it comes to Quebec pension. Vast periods of unemployment have others in the same jar; entitled to little or no Quebec pension.

Many in our community worked hard, made the requisite sacrifice so their children can exceed and excel; have an education, attend university and with gainful employment, acquire the best things in life. Quebec couldn’t facilitate their dreams. They had to migrate to greener pastures. Parents now live alone and must contend with infrequent visits as aches, pains, arthritis, high-blood pressure, diabetes etc cetra advance their aging.

There are many seniors in our community; single mothers and battle-scarred grandmothers who paid their dues and who deserve being served but are under stress, in distress as they are forced into service; forced to drag tired bones to parent angry, manipulative, technically savvy, indiscipline, self-absorbed, troubled, damaged grandchildren/siblings; children orphaned by neglect, abuse, mental illness, drugs or incarceration and who need respite.

Aging in this age of innovative technologies, global changes to the economic paradigm, and Quebec’s uniqueness is fraught with complexities. The Council for Black Aging Community of Montreal exists to assist seniors in navigating this minefield.

The Council advocate for elders, provide information on the wide range of subjects that affect the elderly, encourages elders to maintain their autonomy and independence for as long as possible at home, interpret legislation from all levels of government that affect elders, and respects the wishes, decisions and confidentiality of your information.

The Council organizes activities to maintain as well as improve quality of life, activities that foster socialization, prevent social isolation, have seminars, conferences and workshops, plus lectures by health professionals, do call-ins to persons that are shut in, and perform friendly visits.

The Council for Black Aging is partnered with many associations. Madame President, I believe it would be mutable beneficial for the Montreal Caribbean Social Organization to partner with the Council.

Before I take my seat, I would like us all to raise a glass to the health and continued growth of MCSO.

Thank You

 

 

 

 

 

The Shamelessness of Jennifer Lawrence, Carrie Fisher, Michael Douglas

By N Oji Mzilikazi

27 December 2016

Wealth, celebrity status and popularity allow their owners to adopt a different value system; get way with behaviour and acts the ordinary would be impaled for, as well as access, a lifestyle and quality of freedom most people cannot begin to comprehend.

Unfortunately, the great mass of plebeians in embracing their beauty, the fame of their on-screen roles/performances, accomplishments on the field, stage and in the field of music or notoriety fail to recognise their privilege, elevate them to role models, follow their every move and lap up their utterances as if they are a well-spring of intelligence – when they are far from. The perspicacious are dispassionate and not afraid to call them on their shytt.

Hunger Games propelled Jennifer Lawrence into the famous actress and lovability stratospheres, as well as opened doors for magazine covers, awards, to choose roles, command a hefty salary, and have box-office clout. (In August, Lawrence was named film’s best-paid female star for the second consecutive year.)

Box office clout allowed Lawrence to publish “Why Do I Make Less than My Male Co-Stars?” in an October 2015 issue of Lenny, a feminist newsletter.

Box office clout allowed Lawrence a salary of $20 million for Passengers, though her role actually is somewhat secondary to Chris Pratt, who is being paid $10 million.

Movie critics found Passengers a disappointment.

While in England doing press for the then not released Passengers, Lawrence revealed to the host that while filming Hunger Games in Hawaii, she disrespected the directive to not sit on rocks that are considered sacred to native Hawaiians.

Regaling in white arrogance, Lawrence laughingly recounted that not only did she sit on them, but she used them for butt-scratching, prompting a landslide. “One rock that I was butt-scratchin’ on came loose… I wedged it loose with my ass.”

I’ve lost all respect for Jennifer Lawrence. I wouldn’t be watching any of her films. She has to be in a film with Denzel Washington, Samuel l. Jackson or Don Cheadle for I to even contemplate watching her.

The lifestyle, freedoms and financial independence that comes with stardom present single as well as married celebrities, especially males, with unrelenting sexual temptation, unlimited opportunities and access for sexual encounters with fellow celebrities as well as casual copulation with fans; willing females or males per preference, and to explore the full range of human sexuality among other things.

For the famous and moneyed, while being faithful/monogamy and/or maintaining a long-term relationship is doable, the many pressures that come with status makes it is extremely difficult. Not everyone has the fight and wherewithal to be disciplined. Thus, the rich and famous are known to engage in extramarital affairs, have short-lived affairs, marry, divorce, separate or break-up as soon as problems arise, they become bored with their lover or they find someone better/new; someone that is younger, more beautiful, more exciting, have more money, or is even more kinky, and for having serial marriages.

Still, there are certain truism in regards to the sexual life of males and females:

  1. While women would always find a man with a good bank balance attractive (It is proof positive they can provide.), females are immediately attracted to alpha-males, males with a high degree of testosterone, the handsome, the rugged, tough, strong, and physically active (Active males have high testosterone levels.). Those characteristics inform the female that the male has good genes to father children (A great gene pool/good genes ensures the best survival of offspring.), he is strong, healthy, able to engage in prolonged intercourse, and he can protect as well as provide for family. (And we still wonder why good girls love bad boys or jocks gets the prettiest girls in the school.)
  2. Hard-wired for casual sex/sex without intimacy, the ability to divorce love from sex and breaking down women to body parts come easy for males. Thus, a male in a relationship can sleep with a female and consider it nothing, or like a female just for her lips—to perform fellatio on him. Women, on the other hand, have an inner craving for intimacy. Sex comes with a lot of emotions and they tend to have a list/views on the kind of male they would or wouldn’t sleep with.

Despite all the qualifications in a man women demand/want in a relationship, women would have a secret list of alpha-males/celebrities they would drop their panties for at the drop of dime, irrespective to them being married.

Sometime in the late 70s, perhaps 1979, I saw Richard Pryor, Patti Labelle and Teddy Pendergrass in concert at Carnegie Hall.  When Teddy started to sing, women began throw their panties on stage. I’ve seen anything like that since.

  1. Sexual encounters between celebrities and fans are only meaningful to the fan. Coitus or whatever sexual play they engaged in often the highest point of their life; a mental or emotional trophy and a cherished experience, while not even a memory for that celebrity. Nonetheless, casual intercourse can turn around and bite the rear of well-known.

When Bill Clinton was the president of the United States of America, he was the alpha male of the world. As is known, intern Monica Lewinsky gave Clinton head. Rather than swallow his ejaculate and hide the evidence, semen landed on her dress. Rather than burn the dress or send it to the cleaners, Lewinsky kept the semen-stained dress—as trophy. Perhaps for a future tell-all book and irrefutable evidence. After all, how many females can boast about having performed fellatio on the most powerful man in the world?

As degrading or morally corrupting as many tried to make Bill Clinton out to be, Monica Lewinsky was not the victim of a lecherous and powerful man. If Lewinsky is to considered a victim, it should be to the pull of the hormone estrogen. Estrogen imparts on females the characteristics and wiring that define them. Since part of the hard-wring in females is to feel honoured to give it up to the male that is king of the hill, Lewinsky submitted. Her keeping of the semen-stained dress shows she had ulterior motives as well as the encounter was extremely meaningful for her.

Monica Lewinsky did not suffer when her relationship between Bill Clinton hit the fan. She was rewarded for sucking Bill Clinton’s dick. She was paid millions to write a book and became a television spokesperson for Jenny Craig. The company had no problem using her notoriety sell its product and be a role model.

After tennis legend Boris Becker lost a Wimbledon singles match in 1999, he went drinking to drown his sorrows. Wimbledon was the seat of his greatest triumphs and he was on a come-back. The loss was devastating.   A woman stepped to him and Becker had sex with her in the janitor’s closet of a Japanese restaurant in London. Years later Becker is in court facing a paternity suit. The was Angela Ermakova, Russian model. Even though Becker lamented that the intercourse was just “five minutes,” DNA evidence proved that he did father the child. “Five minutes” in a closet will cost him child support for at least eighteen years.

This brings me to Carrie Fisher, the actress known for the iconic Princess Leia role in the Star Wars film franchise. Last month Fisher revealed that she and Harrison Ford had a three-month affair while filming the original Star Wars in 1976.

Sex between consenting celebrities/adults on a movie set or elsewhere is to be expected. Naive me expects that celebrities of all people would understand the need to be more circumspect and to keep things on the downlow as revealing could devastate, especially if either or both parties are married or are in a monogamous and committed relationship. Fisher was 19 and single, while Ford was married with two children.

While “what the heart don’t know, the mind cannot grief,” revelations of infidelity regardless of the passage of time can still hurt. Yet Fisher had the temerity to say, “How much longer could I wait… it’s not like anyone’s deeply affected by it anymore.”

I guess Carrie Fisher never heard about taking things to the grave… Then again, it could be all about money and Fisher’s need. Hence, the publishing of her adulterous relationship with Harrison Ford in The Princess Diarist, and its highlight in interviews—to sell the book.

Perchance, it was also because sleeping with an alpha male superstar over a three-month period was the biggest high in her life, and she had this insatiable desire to share it and make her contemporaries who lusted after Ford, and weren’t able to bag him feel jealous.

Carrie Fisher’s revelation brought flashbacks to Barbara Walters.

To coincide with Barack Obama’s rise to power, and ostensibly to lay claim to some kind of insight into the Black psyche as well as to sell the book Audition, Barbara Walters outed herself as an adulterer.

Without any sense of shame or care as to repercussions, she memorialised that in the 1970s she had an affair with a Black man, former U.S. Senator Edward Brooke.

Increasingly, women who ought to know better have no qualms about divorcing themselves from the grace, dignity and fearlessness of conscious femininity, and gladly kiss and tell just to make a dollar.

Diagnosed with throat cancer, actor Michael Douglas revealed that it was caused by HPV (human papillomavirus), contracted through cunnilingus. In other words, oral sex was responsible for his throat cancer. Douglas also made it known that if you have that cancer, “cunnilingus is also the best cure for it.”

I thought Douglas rather brave to admit he loves cunnilingus; he likes to eat pussy. Men do not readily admit to doing it, much more reveal their love of it.

In a Q&A session in London in October, Michael Douglas said that actor Val Kilmer, his co-star in the 1996 film, The Ghost and the Darkness was battling cancer, “dealing with exactly what I had, and things don’t look too good for him.”

Kilmer denied having cancer.

Even if true, what business was it of Douglas to put Kilmer’s alleged illness in the public sphere?

The fact that Douglas mentioned Kilmer’s cancer was akin to pointing out that like him, Kilmer loves eating pussy as well.

In pointing out that Kilmer’s alleged cancer was exactly what he had, Douglas wanted people to know Kilmer loves eating pussy as much as he does. And the only reason he did so was because he must’ve regretted disclosing the cause of his cancer.

Consider: Michael Douglas is married to Catherine Zeta Jones. HPV is a sexually transmitted disease. Ergo, Zeta Jones must be infected since Douglas contracted it in his throat. (That was my first thought when the news broke in 2013.) If Zeta Jones didn’t have HPV, who was Douglas eating? Not that I’m interested.

Shame on Michael Douglas for running his mouth on Val Kilmer.

Have Christians Finally Succumbed To Christ’s Extraction From Christmas?

By N Oji Mzilikazi

25 December 2016

In 318 AD, the Roman Empire supposedly put their pagan Gods to sleep and accepted Christianity as their official religion and Jesus Christ as their one true God and saviour.

How could a people that prosecuted and tortured Christians, even feeding them to lions repudiate that history and maintain the masses on their side?  The answer is quite simple—and brilliant.

Assisted by the ruling machinery of the Roman Empire, the Catholic Church employed tact, compromise, and sleight of hand bordering on light-weight cosmetic surgery in order to manipulate the masses and keep the followers of centuries-old deeply-embedded pagan rites, rituals and religious beliefs as well those of newly-formed Christianity happy.

They penciled in religious Catholic festivities or Holy Days immediately after “pagan” high days so adherents of their fledging religion wouldn’t be envious, jealous or feel they are missing out on good times. They also did so with the view towards their new Christian traditions eventually supplanting those pagan festivities.

Thus Lent, the forty-day period of fasting, penance, and prayer commences the day after Carnival, All Saints Day and All Souls Day follow Halloween, and Christmas comes after Saturnalia, the Roman harvest festival that pays tribute to Saturn, the God of the harvest.

Per the Bible, Jesus’ parents did not have any social standing nor were celebrities of any kind. As such, Jesus’ birth was typical of the common man—an ordinary affair with parents, relatives and friends the only interested parties. Consequently, there was never a known birth date for Jesus.

Jesus’ birth was thrust into prominence only because King Herod heard from the Magi (Balthasar, Melchior and Gaspar, the mythical Three Wise Men/Kings) about the birth of the foretold messiah that would rule the world; in effect, supplant him or his heirs. Herod only heard about Jesus’ birth two years after the fact.  Hence, his edict that all male children under two years of age must be put to death—as a surefire way to ensure the death of the infant Jesus.  So why was December 25th positioned as the birthdate of Jesus?

In the Roman celebration of Saturnalia, December 17-23, schools and law courts were closed. There were lavish feasts plus the exchange of the gifts.  Celebrating Jesus’ birth on December 25 allowed the followers of Jesus/Christians to throw their own party. However, their gift-giving was reserved for January 6, the Twelfth Day of Christmas known as the Feast of the Epiphany, and a designated children’s holiday—that seems to have disappeared.

Catholic tradition is that the three Magi brought the gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense for the Christ child. Hence, Epiphany is the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi. And so “Christmas” gifts for children were laid out the night before Epiphany.

In Latin America, Epiphany is known as El Día De Los Reyes or the Three Kings Day. Filled with pomp, ceremony and parades, Three Kings Day is huge, wildly celebrated holiday that is deeply- imbedded in the heart, soul, and culture of its peoples.

Growing up in Trinbago, Epiphany embraced the Feasts of the Holy Innocents or Innocents Day that commemorated the massacre of the male children by Herod. We would take our toys/gifts received for Christmas to mass to both get them bless and to show them off to friends and others.

Some Western churches celebrate Innocents Day on December 28. Eastern churches do so on December 29.

Although December 25 is not an accurate birthdate for Jesus, it has been celebrated for centuries as if it is—and I have no problems with that. Sadly, though Jesus is the reason for the season, Christian churches have stood idly by and allowed the fat red-outfitted Santa Claus rather than Jesus to dominate and be the face of Christmas.

For all the popularity of Three Kings Day in Latin America, the global marketing of Santa Claus has it losing serious ground. Latin American children are increasingly not willing to wait for January 6 to receive gifts when the rest of “Christendom” are getting theirs on December 25.

The rise of Santa Claus and dearth of Christmas carols, Christmas songs, and the telling of Christmas stories, especially in regards to the nativity in communities, homes, in schools, on the radio and in churches now has Christmas divorced from Christianity. In fact, one could say that the two “s” in Christmas now represent dollar signs.

Since Christmas is a period people are conditioned to spend money for; to give gifts, to eat sumptuously, uptake their consumption of alcohol and other drinks—engage in merriment and gluttony, businesses look forward to Christmas for the great profit it generates as well as to get rid of their poorly-selling goods and old stock.

For businesses, Christmas is annually their biggest and highest-grossing period of the year, especially when it snows. The psychological response to deeply-entrenched idyllic and picturesque imagery of a “white Christmas” causes people to shop—and spend more.

The social pressures of Christmas consumerism force people to spend money they don’t have—get into debt with credit card companies, loan sharks and others, and even abandon personal values and morals in order to provide their children with a “good” Christmas.

Would that the Christian Churches call for the period of Christmas to become symbolic of the rebirth of Christ in its followers lives and enjoin more prayers, even fasting to aid in such a spiritual rededication.

“Unto us a child is born, unto us a child is given.”  Would that we could see the Christ child in all children, treat children better, demand better treatment for children, oppose child labour and the abuse and exploitation of children.

Gifts to children can never replace parental love, affection, a safe environment to live and grow up in or children feeling they are wanted, loved, cared for and are protected. The newness of toys eventually wear away, but the pain of hunger, abuse, neglect and abandonment leave deep scars that last a lifetime.

While Christmas is indeed the most wonderful time of the year, Christians ought to guard against its out of control commercialism, otherwise it would be spiritually bankrupt and meaningless.

Merry Christmas!

Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz: A Life Well Lived

By N Oji Mzilikazi

26 November 2016

Thanks to you and Cuba for the training of hundreds of Blacks (perchance thousands) from former colonial territories to become doctors when western universities in England, Canada, the USA and elsewhere refused to look twice at their credentials, much more accept them.

Fidel Castro (August 13, 1926 – November 25, 1926)

Rest In Peace Brother Fidel.