The day on which, by tradition, the Blessed Virgin Mary was conceived,8th December, has been an important holy day for Irish Catholics for generations; not for completely religious reasons!
The closure of the schools for the holy day, particularly in the country areas, provided an opportunity for a day’s Christmas shopping.Families would travel up to Dublin for the day to see the lights and to buy things that would have been unavailable to them in small rural communities.
The tradition continues; albeit in a much reduced form, with the spread of shops and the easier access to cities.
I spoke to a woman who complained that she had been unable to contact someone she was looking for.”I phoned her office and was told she had gone shopping!”
“It is 8th December”, I said.
“Oh yes”, she replied, “that would explain it”.
Shopping is something that Irish people do rather well.In fact, shopping is something that most western societies do rather well.We have highly developed commodity fetishes.
When one looks at our contemporary world there seems a distinct lack of optimism.The major scientific advances of the early and mid-twentieth centuries are not being reflected across the full spectrum of human activity.
Travel technology has hardly moved on since the 1960s.
Our ability to go into space has been in a similar state of suspended animation since the days of the Apollo missions.
In agriculture, many developing counties are still recovering from the impact of the “Green Revolution” and are endeavouring to recover traditional crops and methods.
Many university science faculties would protest at length about serious underfunding.
Where we have made huge advances is in those areas where there is a market; where people can shop for the products. Pharmaceutical companies have prospered, particularly where drugs have offered lucrative returns. But nothing can compare with the information technology revolution, computers, telecommunications, television and music systems, devices I don’t even understand; there are things we could not have imagined thirty years ago.
I sometimes wonder if the whole of human scientific endeavour has been directed towards attaining the point where my daughter can use her mobile phone to send pointless text messages to her friends.
Science will produce whatever we will shop for.When western society finally collapses because there is nothing left to sustain it, the reason will not be that our countries have been invaded or we have been swept by some ideological revolution; the reason will be that all we could do was to go shopping.