This Christmas you might feel encouraged to think of those less fortunate, the lonely and afraid. You might feel a vague sense of worry at the commercialisation of the Yuletide – concern at the rampant corporate greed that demands ever increasing levels of consumption on the part of you, cherished customer.
Well I say what about the rampant corporate greed of Santa Claus?
“St” Nick, as he’s known to his vulture capitalist amigos, works one night a year (for which he pays himself a huge bonus on top of his generous salary and perks package). Ok, it’s a long night, spent zipping around the planet conferring gifts on the deserving boys and girls. It’s a high pressure job, even without the nasty subtext of a rich old white guy, bulging sack in hand, creeping round the bedrooms of children. For legal reasons, we must stress at this point that St Nick’s is an entirely above board pursuit. He much prefers prostitutes.
But in this day and age, certainly in parts of the west, all it takes is for the innuendo to be made, preferably on Twatter. And before you can say “public figure, he had it coming”, the court of public opinion has spelled finito for your professional livelihood and peace of mind.
Now at this point, someone out there in the ethereal realm known as internetville might be saying “Come on, he can’t work just one night a year. He’s got to tally all the good and bad kids, oversee the wellbeing of the reindeer. Then there’s the need to keep the sleigh maintained. Not to mention, y’know, make sure all the toys are manufactured and properly allocated. It’s a tough gig so pipe down.”
It is a tough gig, but Anti-Claus doesn’t do it. No, he believes in the art of corporate management – he delegates.
It’s the elves doing all the work, making the lists, doublechecking the lists, the repairs and maintenance and the feeding and the mucking out of caribou shit. And that’s the lucky ones. For the rest: 20 hour shifts in a holly-strewn sweatshop, churning out microchips, dolls, videogames, action figures, you name it. Crammed in there elbow to elbow, barely enough room to work, let alone stretch out for their contractually-mandated breaks for cigarettes and lunch that were cancelled back in 1978 and never reinstated.
Big Daddy Christmas claims to consider his elves to be his children, which means he doesn’t need to pay them a reasonable living wage, or give them access to a pension scheme or health insurance. No, they simply get a father’s disappointment.
Every now and then one of the elves tries to start a union.
He or she is never seen again.
That’s why they sing – to keep a rhythm going to their work (increases efficiency), to release tension. It’s not the holly jolly tunage you see in the movies though; it’s a low keening, blues-infused. It’s the music of the enslaved and downtrodden. It’s to rebel in the one small way they can.
And to add insult to injury, the food is just appalling – the staff canteen provides a thin gruel made of mashed up candy canes and whey protein. And have you any idea how hard it is to find a decent tom kha gai in Lapland?
Now, about those reindeer. A factory manufacturing goods and toys for such a vast swathe of children across the world is gonna’ create a lot of waste in need of disposal. Some of it is toxic. But proper disposal isn’t cheap. And why eat into the profit margin when there’s a handy river nearby and shareholders to placate?
There’s a reason why Rudolph’s nose glows neon red.
But by and large the reindeer live like kings compared to the worker elves, toiling endlessly until their eyesight is shot and their fingers twisted and crabbed. And when they fall off the pace? When their injuries are too great to meet the quota?
There’s a reason why you never see old elves.
But to be fair, Santa’s running a company, not a charity. Although he sometimes wishes he could be running a charity – you should see the tax rebates on those bad boys. Giving feels good, especially when you’re giving to yourself. Father Christmas’ motto.
How do I know all this? Let’s just say it’s no coincidence that I’m under 4ft tall, have curly shoes and a penchant for brightly coloured tights.
So this year, when you’re chowing down on your turkey dinner with all the trimmings, please, think of the elves.
And give generously.