Interview with Environmental Activist and Consumer Advocate Mr. Grinch: On the Christmas Story and the Post-consumer era
by: Tweedy and Sasha
To open a discussion on this article, please use the contact page to provide your comments.
For this interview, journalist Sasha Viasasha traveled three thousand miles up the snowy slope of
to visit Mr. Grinch in his environmentally-friendly, carbon-neutral eco-dwelling, where Mr. Grinch lives with his dog Max. Mr. Grinch is currently penning his memoir. Mount Crumpit
SVS: Thank you so much for having me, Mr. Grinch. I must say it is quite an honor to actually be here, after such a long and arduous journey. Thank you for the hot chocolate, it’s really quite wonderful. It is so cozy and comfortable in here, not at all what I expected.
Mr. Grinch: Yes, Max and I have made ourselves quite at home over the years.
SVS: You have such a reputation as a recluse, and of living a severely spartan existence, that I did not expect to find it so warm and inviting in here. And what are all these drawing on the wall?
Mr Grinch: Ah, yes, from the children, the children. The children, you know, really do understand. Yes, I have lived a life apart, I’ve lived in exile, and it has been at times a difficult choice, but the only one for me. Not having children has often pained me, you know. But the choices I have made for myself have been so agonizing that I did not think I could make them for others. Not because I doubted, you know. It was only a question of will. It has taken every ounce of my strength to live as I have. I do not call myself an exceptional man.
SVS: And yet you’ve lived an exceptional life.
Mr. Grinch: An exceptional life, yes. And only when the exceptional become unexceptional will we have successfully returned to a simpler way of living. You see a lot of young people now trying to return, and their attempts are energized by a sense of novelty, with the thrill of their own exceptionalness. You get this, too, reading Thoreau, who was still quite a young man, I think just twenty-seven years old, when he went to Walden, and you can easily see, reading his writings, how positively exhilarated he was by his own exceptionalness. It has taken all of these many years for my own sense of novelty to fade, for the wonderfulness of it all to diminish, many years of solitude and simple living.
SVS: Do you think, then, that the movement to live simpler, to live in harmony with our environment, to decrease our impact on the planet, is just a fad?
Mr. Grinch: Just a fad? A fad, certainly, but whether just a fad, I couldn’t say. I know the market is acutely attuned to any impulse that arises in the public psyche; and it will systematically assimilate any movement that the counter-culture can generate. If we succeed it will be disorganized, spontaneous, private and apolitical.
SVS: If this is true, then what is the future of activism? What kind of activity is useful?
Mr. Grinch: What kind of activity is useful? Any activity that is consciousness-raising. That is all.
SVS: But as far as organizing? You are opposed to it?
Mr. Grinch: Not so much opposed as indifferent.
SVS: And you’ve also stated many times that you are not opposed to Christmas, but merely indifferent to it. Yet I think many would describe your activities as fervently oppositional. In Dr. Seuss’ work, for example
Mr. Grinch: I tell you that if Ted Geisel had anticipated the popular interpretation of his work that has most recently found expression in a movie by the same name as his poem, he would never have lifted a pen! I do not wish to discuss his work, which relates to my life only incidentally. It is only in contrast to the fanatical fervor of the pro-Christmas lobby that my indifference seems like opposition. That is their genius.
SVS: The pro-Christmas lobby?
Mr. Grinch: The pro-Christmas lobby? (chuckles) A loose coalition of retailers, churches, politicians, entertainers, media outlets and corporations, united only by their self-interest, and entirely reliant on the consumer for their very survival. And you can see why they are so very threatened by indifference! Opposition, active resistance, can be harnessed, but with indifference there is simply nothing for them to get their hooks into! Through the early 50’s, Ted and I had many conversations about this: I felt the oppositional tendencies of the character he created would be used to attack the anti-consumerist message of his poem. And that is exactly what happened. The anti-consumerist message, well, on the Grinch ‘66 all that just went missing it’s not there. That Grinch is merely a crotchety curmudgeon whose tiny heart is filled with spite and revenge. Grinch 2000 took that, bizarrely, as its starting point. I wash my hands of the entire affair. I know Ted felt that indifference did not make for an exciting story. Well, what do I know about telling stories? Enough, with storytelling! Our stories are destroying us!
SVS: And instead of stories?
Mr. Grinch: (picks up a ball of yarn and begins knitting) It truly is a strain on the mind to imagine living in a world where we don’t constantly tell ourselves lies in order to explain the world to ourselves. Yet in truth the tales we invent are so poor, so paltry…
SVS: You mean the Christmas story?
Mr. Grinch: Ah, the Christmas story. Always back to the Christmas story. I wonder if I shall ever escape it. The Christmas story is as relevant to our lives today as frankincense and myrrh. Yet here it is again. This December, why not tell your children about Franken-food and M.E.R?
Mr. Grinch: Exactly, why do I have to be the one to explain this to you? Middle East Realitiesthe international think tank that is right now making decisions about the future of your oil dependency. Yes, yes, I know, gas prices have dropped recentlyjust in time for the shopping season. I can’t help but notice this year, in the circulars sent around, and on the few morning shows and such that I caught on television over the Thanksgiving holidaydon’t look so surprised, I do have friendsthat the products being promoted as holiday gifts are particularly superfluous this year. Self-baking muffin tins, steam-powered trouser presses. Yes, yes, the retailers will have their pound of flesh, and they will cut it right out of the heart this year! The most ridiculous rubbish, you know, nothing that anyone needs, and it will all be in the garbage bins before the year is out, or sent to the Good Will to be puzzled over in the sorting room. What is the morality of using our precious resources to manufacture, promote, and then dispose of such a heap of dung? The problem with capitalism, you see, in a world with dwindling resources, is that it is entirely driven by the production of waste. Of profit, in other words. Well, people do lose their senses, what senses are left to them, around the holidays. Visit any mall or shopping center, and observe, very carefully, and you will see.
It is frightening, any time of year. I know, I know. “Oh Mr. Grinch, we haven’t time to discuss renewable energy we’re off to buy more oil-based plastic toys for the Who’s down in Whoville!” Where will it all end, can you tell me this, hmmmm?
SVS: Mr. Grinch, please don’t be upset, but just now you really did bear the most striking resemblance to Seuss’ Grinch! It is absolutely delightful, sir! And as far as the end goes, in the end, if I remember correctly, the Who’s are all liberated from consumerism and discover the magic of Christmas in the absence of all the material trappings you so eloquently decry. Do you share Seuss’ optimism for humanity?
Mr. Grinch: I truly have nothing else to say about Ted’s work, which was in itself merely a piece of pop entertainment, and subject to the narrow restrictions of Christian narrative, that is to say, sacrifice and redemption. In fact, the more you examine western literature, the more you cannot help but see the Christmas story as the subtext for every piece of writing, film, entertainment, and even advertising. But as to the question of optimism, I do have absolute faith in the coming of post-consumer era in the very near future.
SVS: A post-consumer era? You think it’s actually possible?
Mr. Grinch: Oh my, yes. A post-consumer era is inevitable. The only question is whether or not there will be any humans around to witness it.
Sasha Viasasha is a writer and editor for: www.scornmonger.blogspot.com