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Today's word on journalism

Monday, January 29, 2007

Words as weapons:

"When he had a pen in his hand it was like giving a kid a machine gun."

--Peter Hall, theater director, on "Angry Young Man" playwright John Osborne (1929-1994)

Christmas spirit? Bah, humbug

By Tyler Riggs

December 15, 2006 | What ever happened to that Christmas spirit everyone used to talk about?

You know, that little notion that it's better to give than to receive. The one where helping others is more important than helping yourself?

Some might say it's still alive, but after looking at more than 1,000 people lined up to get into an electronics store the day after Thanksgiving, I have to disagree. "Christmas spirit" is like a sick reindeer. A world of Nintendo Wiis, Playstation 3s and Tickle Me Elmo Extremes has helped foster a society where children think the meaning of Christmas is to not only get something, but get something cool.

As far as I can tell, this all started in about 1985. Please forgive the fact that I was born in 1984, and have little experience before then. It was about that time that a Japanese company known as Nintendo came out with their Nintendo Entertainment System video game console. In years past, sure, kids had things like Coleco Vision and Atari to play with, but now Nintendo was bringing games like Super Mario Bros and Duck Hunt to families in 8-bit graphical splendor.

Kids who didn't get a Nintendo that year just weren't cool. Just like they weren't cool in 1991 when Super Nintendo came out, or in future years when other game consoles came out like the Sega Genesis, Nintendo 64, Playstation and Xbox. You didn't have to have them all, but you had to have at least one of the most current ones to be the kind of kid that all the neighbors would want to come over to your house.

Nothing says "Christmas spirit" like sitting around the old Sony plasma screen blowing away aliens with the kid next door.

For years, the old Christmas spirit was there to protect the evils of corporate marketing and greed from entering the bedrooms of our children. Kids used to be happy with a stick and a rock for Christmas (or so I was told by grandparents.) Then came the days of Rock Em' Sock Em' Robots and Barbie dolls, which were pretty popular while still leaving some creativity to the kids.

In the 1980s, while the video games were getting their foots in the door of our Christmas spirit-less lives, toys like Legos made an attempt to save the creativity of our youth, but it wasn't long before even they succumbed to the rapacity of the video game industry, creating Super Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog themed Lego sets.

And if you had those video game Legos but no console? You weren't cool.

So what happened between 1985 and 2005 was that each November, kids would start demanding that their parents get them the latest video game or video game console. If when they opened their presents on Christmas Day they didn't get what they asked for, they'd cry, yell at their parents, and then retreat to their rooms to throw their old game controllers against the wall in a fit of rage.

Instead of thinking of others, these kids were only thinking about getting their game. Instead of being little angels with halos on their heads, the kids became little devils with the game "Halo" on their brain.

So for people between the ages of 20-30 right now, people who are in the first generation of growing up with these video game systems so omnipresent, things need to change to keep the next generation from being as greed and "ho ho ho-less" as we have been.

Instead of forking out $60 for the latest version of "Madden" football, perhaps you could take your children to a homeless shelter and give the money to people who truly need it. Instead of purchasing that lavish vacation to the Bahamas, consider the fulfillment you'd receive from helping feed 20 families.

It's great that Christmas is a time of giving, but somewhere along the way we lost sight of what we really should be giving. Instead of giving as a means to benefit others, we're just giving for the sake of greed -- and that is when the Christmas spirit dies.



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