Tuesday, 1 April 2014

We’re not yet the 51st state

A proper Mothering Sunday gift
If you wanted a brief illustration of much of what is wrong in the world today, it came on Sunday morning via Twitter.

It was early morning on Mothering Sunday and @IntelUK had decided to promote a tweet – ie spend money ensuring it becomes an online version of unsolicited junk mail – to say: “Make sure mum has everything she needs to relax this Mother’s Day #inteltablets”.

Now, when you’re going to have a bit of a rant, you might as well go the whole hog. In which case …

It was not “Mother’s Day”. That is a US invention that began early in the 20th century and is not linked to the many celebrations of mothers and motherhood that have occurred, around the rest of the world, for thousands of years.

Those have included the likes of the Greek cult of Cybele, the Roman festival of Hilaria – and the Christian world’s Mothering Sunday, which initially started out as being about returning to your ‘Mother Church’ – the main one in the area that you came from – for a service on the fourth Sunday in Lent.

As such, it became a rare day when domestic servants were given time off to attend their own mother churches – usually with their families and mothers – making this one of the few times in a year when families could be together.

According to tradition, children or young people in service would, as they made their way to join their families at church, pick flowers on the way and give them to their mothers.

Although it was still celebrated in many churches, the decline in widespread religiosity saw Constance Penswick-Smith create the Mothering Sunday Movement in the 1920s, inspired by the efforts of Anna Jarvis to create Mother’s Day in the US.

And American and Canadian troops, billeted here during WWII, made people aware of their own version, while in the 1950s, businesses saw an opportunity for flogging people stuff to mark the day.

Of course, in keeping with a country in which we now have school ‘proms’ (squirms at the mere thought) and students ‘graduate’ from school, and where Halloween has been developed into an ever bigger event (by those same businesses), one might conclude, with a shrug, that the Americanisation of the country is so far advanced that we might as well simply give in.

The really depressing thing, though, is how quickly so many Brits have given in to what has, largely, been a growth of interest that’s been orchestrated for commercial gain.

For goodness sake – what happened to leaving school on the last day with your shirt covered in autographs from your classmates?

Oh, that’s right: it didn’t provide an ‘opportunity’ for parents to spend loads in an effort to make sure that their son or daughter looks better than Mr and Mrs Jones’s offpring and arrives in a swankier car than Mr and Mrs Patel’s children.

Halloween? All about flogging cards and costumes and sweets and goodness knows what else for ‘trick or treating’. Mischief Night didn’t have the same cost implications – or the same profit potential.

And now, in order to show your mother that you care, Intel thinks you should buy her a tablet.

Right. My 84-year-old mother, who struggles with the DVD player, would really appreciate that sign of daughterly affection.

‘It’s a tablet, Mother.’

‘What do you mean, a tablet? I doesn’t remotely look like something anyone could swallow.’

‘It’s like a handbag-sized computer.’

‘So why is it called a tablet – and why do I want a computer of any size?’

‘It’ll make your life easier.”


This is, after all, a parent who, on those occasions that I have to re-run through using the DVD player, doesn’t know what I mean when I use words such as ‘menu’ and ‘curser’.

But Intel wanted me, presumably, to set my eyes on their early-morning tweet and leap from my bed with a ‘Eureka!’.

I’d have to phone my mother to say I’d be late to get around there to actually spend some time with her, and instead race to a shop.

A shop that’s open, of course, meaning that the staff themselves won’t be spending any quality Mothering Sunday time with their own families.

Once arrived in such a wonderful atmosphere, I will buy something that would be utterly redundant for her.

Because the only way in which you can show your mother that you care about her is to lash out money on a gadget.

And that, folks, is what Mothering Sunday is really all about; and that, in a nutshell, is a bloody good illustration of what’s wrong in the world today.


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