Friday, November 23, 2007

"Oh you'd better watch out.
You'd better not sneer
Be ready to flout
And drink up the beer....Santarchy is coming to town, yes Santarchy is coming to town." -that ol' songstress Mollymew.
This may seem to fall under the heading of "and now for something totally different", but it is not really so. For 14 years now, since beginning in San Francisco in 1994, cities across the world have witnessed an annual "Santa swarm" each year. From its humble beginnings the annual Santarchy invasions of anywhere from dozens to hundreds of Santa impersonators (what do you mean "impersonators"?; if you don the costume you are Santa) mobbing the streets and malls of the city have dissipated the grim business of the "holidays". Wanna know more about this delightful custom ? Check out the Santarchy and Santacon website to find out what it's all about. What can I say here ? The simple explanation is that the "Santacons" are the type of more or less spontaneous gatherings such as the annual "zombie walks" on Halloween, organized via the internet and following few preconceived rules, aside from the fact that participation in the festivities requires that you wear a Santa costume. What's the point of all this ? Very little except to have fun, and that may be all the point that is required.
The "official" site, insofar as such a thing can have an "official" site, says that these Santaswarms are not a protest against Christmas nor against its commercialization. What they are is an unsanctioned occasion to gather as a crowd to have collective fun. In an age of deadly seriousness when the whole idea of "fun", especially minimally organized, spontaneous, "not-good-for-you-in building-character fun, is under attack from both left and right the very act of such gatherings is more of a protest that anything that could be concocted by either dismal leftists or dismal fundamentalists. This is because such events are the precise opposite of "control", something that ideologues of both the left and right get orgasms just thinking about. Molly has reviewed Barbara Ehrenreich's book 'Dancing in the Streets' before on this blog. Ehrenreich is no anarchist, but she is an example of the best of the independent left. Her point is that the whole concept of "collective joy" as embodied in such events as the traditional Carnival, is becoming a rarity in our modern societies. Events such as these Santaswarms are actually direct action by ordinary people to recover this lost experience. Like traditional Carnival they provide joy for both the participants and the onlookers. Unlike most indoctrinated leftists Ehrenreich is not afraid to examine facts rather than abstractions about them, and she is not afraid to advance theories that invoke biology to explain this facts. The need for collective joy is a natural need for pack animals such as humans, and the uncovering of how this need has been denied does more service for anarchism, even if it is done by a non-anarchist, that all the dreary whiny abstractions of primitivist ideologues. Also, unlike them but very much like Molly, Ehrenreich sees and approves of the efforts of ordinary people to recover this natural source of happiness. She doesn't look down a snotty nose at such things. She approves as I do. These things are great, and in the end they may be much more important than the usual protest spectacles.
Few today, and of those mostly the young-who have perhaps the best emotions of us all-, participate in these spontaneous gatherings. But still they are a beacon of the opportunity to recreate community that has been given us by the advance of technology. Most of us come to such collective joy only around sporting events. Here in Winnipeg as I write the whole last week has been consumed with increasing "Bomber fever" as the day of the Grey Cup draws closer and loser. Is this a bad thing ? No !!!!! What it offers is something like the traditional festival of Carnival. It allows people to get outside themselves and their daily social roles, to feel themselves as part of a larger collectivity and to behave in ways that they would be very much afraid to under normal circumstances. Some of this may seem "forced", particularly the photo-ops of the politicians or the somewhat pathetic attempts of the good leftists at the CBC to appear populist. The general feeling that Molly gets from listening to such on her radio as she drives along through the day is the same feeling that she would get from seeing a 55 year old woman trying to dress like a "tweenie". The more popular mass media and their presentations appear considerably less hypocritical and patronizing. Not that self mockery isn't part of, and should be part of such events. It just that some sources find self-mockery as difficult as passing a concrete enema.
But anyhow, I'm getting too serious myself here. This year Santarchy will appear in a great number of cities worldwide. Check the website for a complete listing. Here in Canada Montreal will be swarmed on November 30th. On December 8th the Santa sleigh will touch down in Victoria and Calgary, and once Santa has recovered from that hangover he/she/them will show up in Vancouver, Toronto and Ottawa on December 15th. More events may be added. Keep checking the website for new additions/announcements.By the way, check out the Cacophony Society for other collective events unconnected to Christmas. While the slogan of Santarchy is "No Force on Earth can Stop One Hundred Santas", that of the Cacophony Society is "experiences outside the mainstream".

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