Santa Claus: A Metaphor for the State

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The only difference between the two lies in the fact that Santa Claus shows up once every year. The government shows up at least once every day, sometimes more often than that. For those who wish nothing more than to be free, to decide how to live their lives, no phrase contains more malice, more danger than “the government is coming to town.”

By Winter Trabex @ Art of Not Being Governed

For as long as I can remember, Santa Claus has been the mascot of the Christmas season. He’s in shopping malls, in parades, in advertisements, in movies, in television shows, in plays, on the internet- in just about every medium of entertainment there is, Santa Claus is there, jolly and fat, wearing a ridiculous red suit.

The ubiquity of his presence, however, holds within it the key to a deeper truth. Rather than just being a mascot for the year’s most popular holiday, Santa Claus is also a metaphor for any system of oppressive government. This is most evident when the song “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” is taken as a representation of Santa’s character.

The song was first made in 1934. At the time, it may have been written for a bit of innocent fun. As the decades have crawled along and the government has become ever more tyrannical and intrusive, the song has new lessons to teach. The song’s lyrics are as follows:

You better watch out
You better not cry
Better not pout
I’m telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town

He’s making a list
And checking it twice;
Gonna find out Who’s naughty and nice
Santa Claus is coming to town

He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!
O! You better watch out!

You better not cry
Better not pout
I’m telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town
Santa Claus is coming to town

Taken literally, the first line, “you better watch out” ought to inspire curiosity or dread, or both. From the beginning, people have to be on guard against Santa’s presence. They can’t just let their hair down and be themselves. They have to mind their manners. Warnings against crying and pouting- natural enough behaviors for children- further reinforce the idea that Santa Claus doesn’t want people to be themselves. People have to be as happy as he is, an all-encompassing happiness that denies all other emotions.

The tyranny against the natural expression of human emotion is taken even further when Santa makes a list of the good people (those who do what he thinks is best) and the bad people (those who don’t do what he thinks is best). Not mentioned in this song are the rewards for behaving well (presents) and punishments for behaving badly (coal).

No one actually has a choice to get nothing. Everyone receives something, the way that Santa arranges it.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Santa Claus- a single person who lives far away from civilization- takes the trouble to know when people sleep and when they don’t sleep. Just like the NSA, he pays so much attention to the lives of individuals that no one has a moment of privacy to themselves. Another way to put it would be to say that Santa Claus knows when people are in the shower, or smoking marijuana, or laundering money they received from embezzlement scams. He knows when people are going to work at four in the morning on three hours of sleep, or when they pay so many of their bills that they have no money left for food. He knows everything about each person’s life.

All of this is done for the sake of accumulating a tally to decide whether people should receive gifts or coal. Apparently, Santa is incapable of deciding to give everyone something nice. He has to make a determination.

How this might have been accomplished remained a mystery for many years until a new product called Elf on the Shelf arrived recently. The Elf, sold with a book, is meant to provide a unique and interesting game. The toy Elf is placed on a shelf, or some other place within the house, to be found each day. Were the Elf real, and not just a bit of colored plastic made in a factory, it would represent a serious breach of individual privacy.

In fact, several people are already saying that Elf on a Shelf is preparing individuals to live in a future police state. In addition to Santa Claus being able to monitor each person twenty-four hours a day, now his elves, freed from the task of making toys, have nothing else to do but sit around and watch people use the bathroom, or takes naps on the couch, or eat nachos while sitting on the floor watching football.

 

The existence of Santa Claus denies any individual any privacy whatsoever. Anyone who resists such a system is punished. All of this is not very different from how Communist Russia operated, and how today’s Corporatist America operates.

The state, proclaiming itself to be the beneficent protector of everyone within a certain geographic region, forces its altruism on everyone. No one has a choice as to whether the state will build a road where none is needed, or work to repair one bridge and not another, or continue to ignore the degradation of a country’s highway system. The state chooses what it chooses.

It deals with those who comply happily with its edicts- taxation, for example- by handing out rewards. One such reward is a tax return. The more a person works throughout the year, the bigger tax return is received. Anyone who resists or refuses to pay taxes ends up being punished by fines, community service and/or jail time.

No one can choose to have the state leave them alone, for the state takes upon itself the business of monitoring individual conduct as much as possible. It is, in other words, exactly like Santa Claus, a creation of humankind which ought to be treated with suspicion rather than with devotion.

The only difference between the two lies in the fact that Santa Claus shows up once every year. The government shows up at least once every day, sometimes more often than that. For those who wish nothing more than to be free, to decide how to live their lives, no phrase contains more malice, more danger than “the government is coming to town.”

This article originally appeared at Art of Not Being Governed