How to have a merry and moral Christmas

Forget ‘going ethical’ by buying overexpensive organic gifts you can’t afford. Be moral this year instead.

Rob Johnston

Topics Politics

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‘The Ethical Man knows it is wrong to cheat on his wife; the Moral Man does not cheat on his wife.’ Gandhi, Mahatma*

‘Ethical shopping is easy. Moral shopping is hard.’ Spice, Posh*

Any and every old publication and website has a guide for ethical Christmas gifts or a ‘green’ festive season. The Guardian Weekend suggests a laptop bag made from recycled Swiss Red Cross blankets, just £140 (1). features a spectacularly ugly £10,000 Fifi Bijoux gold and diamond ‘cuff bangle’ (2). If Anya Hyndmarsh has a seasonal atrocity it will be listed everywhere as ‘ethical and green’ – a phrase that deserves to be bludgeoned to death by a ‘moron’ wielding a heavy, blunt ‘oxy.’ These gifts may be ethical, but they sure ain’t moral.

Back in the days when people wrote, and read, dictionaries, ‘ethical’ and ‘moral’ were almost synonymous. Now, however ‘ethical’ means ‘cynical and manipulative’, and ‘green’ just means ‘described that way in the press release’. The new frontier for living the examined life – starting this Christmas but going on forever (soon to have its own Foundation with approval processes, stakeholders, stickers and celebrity endorsements) is… Morality!

Here, for the first time and for free (just this once) is your Guide to a Moral Christmas and Moral Gifts, starting with the perfect present for a poor African:

1) A bullet and a packet of curry powder. To shoot the Oxfam goat as it’s unloaded from the truck. Plus spices to cook it and feed the entire village – before it can eat everyone’s crops, snack on replanted forest saplings, scarf the grain stores, and grub up the deep grass roots that hold a muddy hillside together and prevent a landslide.

2) Stuff turkey. Buy a joint of Irish pork or New Zealand lamb. Help the Irish pork industry recover from the bogus dioxin scare (‘If you eat just 50 tonnes you could get acne … shock!’). Reward Kiwi sheep farmers for unsubsidised lamb, cheaper and with a lower carbon footprint than lamb from Wales (even after freezing and flying to Tesco). And… it tastes better; sorry Land of My Fathers, I savour that Moral flavour.

3) Buy clothing gifts at Primark. The Indian children who work in Primark ‘sweatshops’ know there is no ‘rural idyll’ from which they were snatched by greedy capitalists. Their parents experienced such poverty in farming that suicide or escape to a city seemed the only options (3). In clothing factories, however horrendous they are and however horrendous is the fact of children working in the first place, conditions are, at least, monitored. No one did ‘ethical audits’ when our fairly recent ancestors worked in Lancashire cotton mills from the age of four or were sent (like my granny) at age 11 speaking only Welsh to be an under-under-scullery-slave at a posh Liverpool mansion (perhaps for a Melchett, Goldsmith, Parker-Bowles or Meacher). My granny and almost everyone else’s non-nobility forebears worked so that their children and their children would have a better life. Thanks, Gran.

But there are signs in India of a true rural renaissance: 80 per cent of Indian cotton is GM with up to 40 per cent greater yields, vastly reduced pesticide use and less need for child labour. Life for the rural poor is improving and children are going to school. Soon, we should hope, an urban sweatshop may seem less alluring.

By purchasing Moral Primark clothes you take trade away from evil ‘organic’ cotton. Moral consumers must avoid ‘organic’ cotton at all costs: it uses twice the virtual water, releases twice as much greenhouse gas, releases twice as much nitrogen pollution, uses twice as much fossil fuel, and needs twice the workforce, including huge amounts of child labour for hand weeding.

Style & Ethics journalists are ego-massaged to quivering intensity by a trip to the Highgrove House of Ecological Horrors. Or by a PR pack from the Soil Association featuring the lovely Sienna Miller (‘I’m a desperately keen eco-warrior: I put my central heating down one degree when I’m in London, and wherever my private jet lands for my next starring role I insist the local peasants turn down the air conditioning’.*)

4) Make a donation to the new Oxford Animal Research Centre. The animals have a better and longer life than their relatives in the wild – or elsewhere in captivity for that matter. Of the two million animals used in experiments each year, 1.8million are rats and mice; they lead warm, pampered lives, free from predation or infestation with any one of a number of unpleasant insects that can lay eggs under the mouse’s skin and then grow and eat the mouse alive. Other mice and rats are found in any reptile shop frozen in bundles of 100 for feeding to snakes (100 frozen rat pups just £59, 100 frozen mice just £32; hamsters £1.95 each) (4).

Anyway, Britain’s 10million cats alone kill 300million rats, mice and birds a year – in much more unpleasant ways than a pain-free inhalation of sleeping gas.

5) Buy Schwartz Bacon Flavour Soy Bits Salad Topping. For all your vegetarian meat-flavoured salad-topping needs. Anti-GM nitwits boast that this is the only GM product sold on the shelves of UK supermarkets (as proof of their effective anti-GM campaigning). But the never-on-message Soil Association says all our meat and dairy animals are being fed GM food! The paranoid twitchers at Genetic Food Alert think there are GM ingredients in everything we eat (they just can’t figure out why we aren’t all dead yet and it’s driving them crazy!).

Let’s just assume that most of our food does contain GM ingredients. But please reward the Schwartz Company for being the first to be proud of their Moral product. These delicious vegetarian-approved soy artificial bacon bits are the thin end of the GM wedge we’ve heard so much about. Buy them in bulk and give the Soil Association a migraine for Christmas.

6) Christmas dinner vegetables and flowers for mum. Make sure they’re all from Kenya – half the CO2 footprint of the ‘local’ organic vegetable box and sure tastes a lot better – unless you like the added flavour of weevils, worms, mould and sanctimony. If, on the other hand, sanctimony, hypocrisy, bad writing, overacting and political-correctness-gone-mad is your thing at the festive season, tune in to BBC Radio 4’s farming soap opera The Archers at Christmas for a smugfest of galactic dimensions.

7) Drink lots of spirits. The more you spill, the more ethanol evaporates and lowers the temperature of the planet! (5) Don’t set fire to the Christmas pudding – what a waste of good booze! When you buy those 20 Benson & Hedges and six-pack of Vodka Mules for the 15-year-olds outside the newsagent, this year give them back their change!

8) Identify a community in India or Africa, send US dollars direct. Bypass the NGOs with their fat bureaucracies of middle-class white Hampsteaders who decide what the poor need. Let the poor decide for themselves. In fact, you can start right now by sending cash direct to the residents of a Ghana shanty town at What Wofa Wants.

9) Buy spiked t-shirts for all your nearest and dearest. Guaranteed CO2 free. Click here.

10) No arguing. Christmas is the most stressful time of year with more family splits and arguments than any other time. Take responsibility! If Uncle Frank gets aggressive after five whiskies, water down his bottle. If Aunty Millie gets amorous with the teenage boys, slip a Valium into her sherry. Don’t try to crumble a Viagra into the pudding – God knows what consequences could ensue. Offer to wash up after Christmas dinner – and mean it.

Even if (like all right-thinking-people) you are a militant atheist at all other times of the year, soft-pedal at Christmas; even Professor Richard Dawkins enjoys a nice carol service (6). Unless, of course, your cousin Ptolemy has joined Opus Dei, Jews for Jesus or the Moonies – in which case, at Christmas, no jury would convict you if he accidentally fell under a frozen turkey.

Rob Johnston is a freelance writer on the environment, health and science, and blogs at Bad Ecology.

Previously on spiked

Nancy McDermott looked at the Christmas culture wars currently raging in America. Mick Hume introduced the new Eco-nezer Scrooges. Lee Jones found a grinch who stole Christmas cards in Wales. Josie Appleton said there’s no ‘war on Christmas’ from without – only a lack of belief within. spiked crowned Gordon Brown King of the Killjoys. Or read more at spiked issue Christmas.

(1) Large Swiss Urban Bag

(2) FifiBijoux Gold and diamond ‘cuff bangle’. From an ‘environmentally responsible mining project’ and ‘non-blood’ diamonds, presumably.

(3) Don’t believe the hype about GM causing suicide – GM crops have reduced suicide rates because farmers are making more money. The real suicide scare in India is among young urban females, not rural middle-aged farmers – who top themselves less than we do in Northern Europe.

(4) Food for snakes at Pet Club

(5) Not guaranteed by IPCC

(6) Dawkins: I’m a cultural Christian

*Made-up quote

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Politics


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