Seasons Greetings, Happy Holidays, a Festive Festivus (two days belated), a wonderful Winter Solstice (3 days belated) and, of course, a very Merry Christmas (or Xmas) to one and all!
Christmas vs Xmas
An interesting little tidbit to start with, if only because its something I didn’t know until recently: the X in “Xmas” is neither in reference to the cross on which poor old Jesus of Nazareth is said to have whistled his last tune, nor a recent attempt by militant secularists (sic) to “take Christ out of Christmas”, as has been reported and is commonly thought. “Xmas” has, in fact, been used by pious Christians for centuries. The “X” originates from the Greek letter Chi, the initial of the Ancient Greek word “Χριστός” (transliteration: (khristós), which translates as “Messiah”, “the anointed one” or…”Christ”!
A Deserving Cause: Poop Lobbing Welsh Apes
In the past couple of years it has become tradition within half of ConfusedApe’s family for Christmas presents to take the form of donations to a deserving charity. All of the obvious nicey-nicey altruistic mush aside, charitable donations also avoid the horror that is last minute Christmas shopping (take a trip to your local shopping centre on the 23rd of December next year for unequivocal proof that we really are nothing more than confused, no strike that, fucking clueless, apes). Another benefit is a post-Christmas absence of the otherwise inevitable hoard of useless tat bought by unimaginative relatives acting purely under the pressure of present giving convention.
This year donations on behalf of ConfusedApe’s relatives were made to two charities: the Wales Ape & Monkey Sanctuary and the Uganda Humanist Schools Trust. The former seems to do some wonderful work and is well worth a visit if you have the time and means. During our last venture there we had the pleasure of one particular cheeky chimpanzee, Tubman, throwing handfuls of mud and, I suspect, excrement at us whilst manically screaming. Video footage is available and will be added at some point in the future. Having gone to such lengths to make a lasting impression, it seemed only right that Tubman be rewarded. Accordingly he has now been adopted (in the sponsored sense; no social services involvement) for a year by ConfusedApe’s family.
Ugandan Humanist Schools
Whilst relatively well administered from the top, the Ugandan education system is overstretched, underfunded and riddled with imaginable compromise. The introduction of fee-free Universal Primary Eduction at the end of the last century contributed significantly to an overwhelming increase in the number of children attending primary schools, from 2.2 million in 1986 to 6.6 million in 1999. Whilst this is unquestionably a significant improvement versus the status quo ante, most children depart the education system upon graduation from primary school, their parents or other family (~2 million children are orphaned by HIV/AIDs) unable to afford the necessary fees for the continuation of their education. According to the most recent figures available from UNICEF, over 80% of primary school age Ugandan children now attend a primary school, but less than 20% of their secondary school-aged counterparts have made the transition. The problem is particularly pronouced in poorer rural areas. For those few children who are ‘fortunate’ enough to attend secondary schools, they are often segregated on the basis of religious belief, potentially fuelling inter-religious tension and certainly doing nothing towards an integrated society.
With all of this in mind, we’ve funded a scholarship at one of three schools supported by the Uganda Humanist Schools Trust. The schools make an enormous difference not only to the education and prospects of their pupils, but also to their health (previous donations have funded sources of clean water and facilities for the preparation of much needed wholesome meals) and the well-being and self-sustainability of the wider community, with locals offered employment in teaching, administrative and construction work. All administrative costs, including trips to visit the schools, are covered by the charity’s trustees, so 100% of any money donated gets to those who need it.
At these times of year we come to expect old men wearing ridiculous clothing and holding even more ridiculous views to be inexplicably paid attention to by the news media. Sure enough, the Cardinal formally known as Joseph was given precious news programming time to spout the patently obvious, the wholly irrelevant, and the batshit insane, all whilst maintaining a level of condescension that’s difficult to attain without believing the guff you’re spouting is infallible by virtue of your party hat and costume.
According to the BBC (and thanks to Josh for sending this article over), Ratzinger requested that we all “see through the superficial glitter of this season and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem”. I just about managed not to giggle at a senior Catholic clergyman demanding that we ‘discover’ a small vulnerable child and then felt immediately guilty, not out of any respect for this charlatan or his empire but because its farcical catalogue of failure and demonstrable complicity with regards the cover-up of child rape is only a source of humour because the alternative is to cry. I digress.
The reason that this man and his organisation should be held in contempt (child abuse, homophobia, proliferation of HIV infection, etc. aside) is summed up quite well later in the article: “Wearing cream and gold vestments, the Pope…also prayed for those who would spend this Christmas in poverty and suffering.” You could not make it up.
One day people will hopefully look back in bewilderment as to why anyone paid any attention to this cruel, callous hypocrite and his misogynistic, homophobic, death cult, the cause and maintainer of so much needless suffering and misery for the most vulnerable of our kin. In the meantime, a big fuck you to Joseph Ratzinger and a very happy Christmas (or Xmas, as you please) to everyone else.