Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Thanksgiving...Turkey, stuffing and...the birth of capitalism?

Being overseas, I am getting a unique perspective of America, and of American Holidays. In the last 4 wks, so many little differences have presented themselves. Some are quarky and funny, others are annoying and seemingly backwards. I’m reminded of the part during the movie Pulp Fiction where the differences of Europe and America are discussed......

Vincent: And you know what they call a... a... a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Paris?
Jules: They don't call it a Quarter Pounder with cheese?
Vincent: No man, they got the metric system. They wouldn't know what the fuck a Quarter Pounder is.
Jules: Then what do they call it?
Vincent: They call it a Royale with cheese.
Jules: A Royale with cheese. What do they call a Big Mac?
Vincent: Well, a Big Mac's a Big Mac, but they call it le Big-Mac.
Jules: Le Big-Mac. Ha ha ha ha. What do they call a Whopper?
Vincent: I dunno, I didn't go into Burger King.

Snow tires are mandatory, everything is closed on Sunday, toilet paper is like sandpaper….want those fancy new wheels for your car? Guess what, you have to apply for a permit for that. Even the streets here are numbered in the order in which the houses were built. I’m thinking the Mail deliverers aren’t unionized….

But I digress..

It’s thanksgiving, and the mystery around thanksgiving and the yearly slaughter of millions of turkey’s baffles no-one more than the Europeans. So it got me thinking, why do we celebrate thanksgiving, what makes it so important in the US.

We all learned the same story in school. The harmonious meeting of the Pilgrims and the Indians, and the feast they shared are the roots for what we celebrate today. But come on, things weren’t harmonious with the Indians for nearly every year since. Have you ever seen an Indian reservation? May not be as bad as the treatment of the Aboriginees in Australia, but I don’t think the Indians are exactly thanking their lucky stars that the pilgrims came either.

Iron Maiden captured this sentiment well in their popular jam “ run to the hills”.

So why do we really celebrate thanksgiving, and why is it so important? As is usually the case, the story we learned in school left a few very important details out. When the pilgrims arrived, they didn’t walk into prosperity. In fact, hell might be a better word for it. Lack of food, decent shelter, and disease drove over half of them back to England or the their grave within the first year. The pilgrims employed a communal approach to almost everything, including their food supply. Everyone contributed all of their food to a communal “pot” and the food was subsequently divided. Today, the problems with this system are evident to us. A person’s output has no bearing on their “reward”. People who don’t contribute still receive the benefits of others work.

“From each based on his ability, to each based on his need” comes to mind.

The governor of Plymouth, Governor Bradford, realized that continuing in this direction would only yield more of the same results. In a brilliant moment that was to change the course of history, he decided to allot each family their own land and make each man responsible for himself.

And what happened?

``This had very good success; for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corne was planted than other waise would have bene by any means the Govr or any other could use, and saved him a great deall of trouble, and gave far better content.'' Bradford Noted.

This new approach yielded so much food, that the pilgrims had a surplus and decided to invite some guests. This is what we celebrate today, the first sufficient harvest to feed the pilgrims in the new world. Had it not been for this harvest, they most likely would not have lasted the winter.

But more important than the food, was the approach. To put it simply, Bradford had unknowingly implemented a capitalist approach and thus set the stage for the basis of the American economy. A little more than just sharing some stuffing with the neighboring Indians.

So there you have it...History as told by me. Go football. But raise a toast to the pilgrim's and the “invisible hand” they so gainfully employed.

Needless to say, i will be working tomorrow and Friday. The zeal for American history and capitalism just isn't the same here as it is in the states. But i'm thinking some schitzel, kraut and a beer will be almost as good as turkey..stuffing....mashed potato's.....cranberry sauce......rolls.......pie........pie.....