Thanksgiving Says: We're Awesome

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A country's holidays indicate its health.

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We can tell a lot about the direction of a country from its holidays. For example, Yemen routinely celebrates successful Al-Qaeda attacks by sacrificing goats to Allah. So it’s no surprise that in 20 years, Yemen is predicted to export more terrorists than Muslims educated enough to read the Koran for themselves.

Haiti is just as absurd, though less threatening. Their Voodoo celebrations involve practices similar to that of medieval barbers---except with more of a human-sacrifice element to it---and they’ve been dying of diarrhea since before the earthquake. Death from the loss of poop must be as confusing as it is sad for a country that thinks the loss of blood is healthy.

And China, a country that’s in a period of transition from dictatorship to individual freedom, has correspondingly mixed holidays; they still pay homage to Mao, but only because people think that his picture at Tiananmen square is a memorial to grandmothers.

It makes sense that there’s at least a correlation between a nation’s holidays and its direction. Holidays are nothing more than a celebration of what we think is significant. A nation that kills animals for Gods will be much more out of touch with reality, and so success, than a nation that kills animals for food. A nation that doesn’t kill any animals ends up like California: not great, but tolerable if it has good weather.

We see this relationship between holidays and culture throughout history. The citizens of Ancient Athens were revered more than the gods or any other symbol of power, and so they celebrated the democracy with orgies. The Ancient Romans also celebrated with orgies even though they didn’t have the same reverence for their citizens, but they killed Jesus, which makes up for it.

During the dominance of Christianity, holidays were a celebration of sacrifice, or at least boring rituals that paid tribute to the sacrifice of ancestors, which of course felt sacrificial (if not artificial).

But since the rebirth of Western Civilization, ever since Thomas Aquinas cracked open Aristotle’s Metaphysics, holidays in the West have increasingly become a celebration of ideas that don’t require us to prostrate. And so in America, which is the culmination of the West, the three most popular holidays are representative of the trend away from servility and towards autonomy.

Halloween got its start nearly 500 years ago. Back then it was a day of actual fearful reverence for the ghosts of the dead. Since the Enlightenment, Halloween has become more about celebrating fun than anything else, and we’ve only kept the ghosts in the celebration because it’s kind of fun to scare yourself when there’s nothing to be afraid of. From this innocence, Halloween has even turned into a night of fantasy. Specifically, girls dress up to fantasize about being sluttier than they are while guys fantasize about doing them.

Thanksgiving now plays a similar role. Until humanity even attempted to implement political freedom, work could never have been more than an empty motion without production or purpose. If you don’t know what this is like, ask an inner-city schoolteacher. In fact, the only people who could have amassed wealth in a feudal economic system were the people who didn’t work. If you don’t know what this is like, ask a lobbyist.

But now that we are free, or at least comparatively so, we can have a holiday like Thanksgiving that celebrates the fruits of our labor, which no longer makes it labor but an expression of our awesomeness. It makes sense, therefore, that the only way a lobbyist can celebrate Thanksgiving without feeling guilty is to volunteer at a soup kitchen.

And then, of course, on Christmas, which is anything but a religious holiday, we make the darkest and coldest time of year a celebration of good will towards men, which can only be done in a country that also celebrates fun and work.

It’s easy to get down on the state of current affairs in America, but for all the stupid things we do, like go to church or try to spend ourselves into prosperity, we rarely celebrate the stupid things that we do. We do them without awareness that they are in complete contradiction to the values celebrated during what everybody agrees is the most wonderful time of the year.

Maybe we cannot yet fully integrate everything good about the holiday season into the rest of the culture, but it’s only a matter of time---after all, every improvement to Western Civilization over the past 300 years has consisted of nothing more than the injection of more fun, productivity, or good will.

As such, our culture’s ever-increasing celebration and so focus on the best within man tells me all I need to know about our future, no matter what the headlines say: we’re awesome.

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PhilosophyMark Derian