Okay, so technically ‘the 12 days of Christmas’ refers to the period leading from December 25 to Epiphany, but it would feel weird to still be blogging about Christmas on January 6. I’m also a day late for this little series to end on Christmas Day, so I’m going to have to play catch-up at some point.
Anyway, the first post in my Twelve Blogs of Christmas is a tribute to the second best Christmas pop song ever recorded, ‘It’s Cliched to be Cyncial at Christmas’ by Half Man, Half Biscuit. It’s not one of the well-known ones, failing to rub shoulders with Slade and Wizzard and the Pogues on compilation CDs. This doesn’t matter, as it’s fantastic and a triumphant riposte against all the Scrooges out there.
At the same time, this post was also inspired by a post writter by my friend Sudge, who comments on the difficulties of a worldview based around cynicism. I agree with that – there comes a point when cynicism becomes boring – not actually serving any purpose and becoming a form of hipster irony. The minute you start putting imaginary quotation marks around everything is the moment you stop believing in, well, the importance of believing in something. It’s also the minute cynicism becomes dull. “Now how did I guess/You were going to express/Your disdain at the crane/With the bright fairy lights”, sing HMHB. It’s an expression of boredom against the sort of person who’d bitterly inform a kid that there’s no Santa under the guise of ‘telling it like it is’.
(As someone pointed out on Twitter earlier this week, who let the sort of person who tells it like it is define what IT is? Half the time they’re spouting misinformed bobbins anyway…)
There’s something about this that’s heightened at Christmas – it’s easy to sneer at the idea of, say, peace on Earth, but if you’re going to be cynical about it, at least let that move you to eye-popping fury at the injustice of it all. Anger at injustice is more likely to motivate change than ‘irony’. And why not be sincere at this time of year – it’s about celebration, giving gifts, peace on Earth, God reaching out to humanity, joy to the world and unrepentant sleighbells. We may do our best to turn it into a feast of unrestrained consumerism, but it’s boring to moan about that before going out to buy a new iPhone – better to let annoyance at capitalist hijackings prompt a reappraisal of what it’s all about. Maybe if we stopped being cyncial and actually tried to believe in the possibility of peace and love and joy, something might be achieved…
“Make a noise with your toys
And ignore the killjoys,
‘Cos it’s cliched
To be cynical