“The whole event has been corrupted, as are so many traditions, by the intrusion of commerce into the equation. It is not a tribute to love, it is more akin to a tax.” – Tim Lott
Many of the holidays we celebrate are an extension of opportunistic capitalism and undeniable materialism regardless how sentimental they makes us feel. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc. Even Hanukkah is beginning to develop the custom of gift-giving.
Valentine’s Day is one of the more blatantly consumerist-centric festivities. It basically makes you feel crap if you are alone or do not identify with romanticized love. Then you end up being manipulated to purchase stuff anyway if you decide to treat yourself to something special.
“The fulcrum of the economic progression of society is based upon manufacturing desire. Capitalists are constantly trying to artificially produce consumerist desires in us and one extremely effective way in which it is done is by changing our culture…” – Karuna Maharaj
When me and my husband were still dating, we were in the Philippines. After New Year’s Eve he was startled at the amount of heart-shaped decor suddenly plastered on every shop window. He explained he had never experienced Valentine’s Day before as they didn’t celebrate it in Denmark.
After we moved to Denmark I asked other Danish people the same thing. Most if not all echoed my husband’s sentiment when they assumed Valentine’s Day was an American holiday foreign to Scandinavian land. They claim Valentine’s Day first came Denmark roughly 5 years ago, and subsequently Black Friday and Halloween also became a thing.
My mother-in-law quips, “It’s strange how we are becoming more and more like USA with these festivals.” Based from my experience, if you ask other middle-aged Danes they will probably tell you the same.
“To generate a market for a product which is not in demand (and not the surplus of that product or its substitute) is a tricky problem for capitalism. One way of doing it is by trying to bring about a cultural change to generate desire.” – Karuna Maharaj
We’ve seen this before such as when diamonds, once a useless piece of rock, suddenly became the ultimate symbol for class, fashion, and wealth. Pertaining to marketing strategies such as this, social media has definitely made capitalist industries’ jobs easier. It has helped redefine cultures all over the world by pushing certain foreign goods, customs, or services into norms. Valentine’s Day is included here. If you’re not American, can you say with certainty that this holiday has been celebrated in your country WITHOUT Western media’s influence? Most likely not.
The globalization of this holiday has benefited the pockets of corporations both small and big, from staple Ferrero Rocher chocolates to over-priced limited edition heart-shaped pizzas to modest sidewalk flower vendors. Particularly the young and/or impressionable are mesmerized with the false urgency of Valentine’s. Under the perception of V-Day being grounded tradition, numerous people feel as though they need to validate their relationships with presents or unique gestures.
“As a teenager Valentine’s Day was a stressful time. Either I didn’t have a ‘girlfriend’ and was forced to endure a day of hearts, cards and stuffed animals parading through my loneliness or even worse I had a ‘girlfriend’ and felt pressure to provide just the right combination of cards, candy and stuffed animals to show the appropriate level of affection. Are flowers and a card enough? Should I get her balloons? Does she like balloons? If I don’t get her candy will she think I think she’s fat? Why did I want a girlfriend again? Valentine’s Day was a report card on how you were, or were not in some sad cases, perceived as ‘boyfriend’ material.” – Aaron Blaylock
By disguising consumerism as love, Valentine’s has sneakily nestled itself into our social rituals that you may not realize it affects you, too. Even if you declare you do not want to spend money to dine out because you prefer to make a special home-cooked meal with your partner, you’re still technically being led to do so due to the expectation of celebrating Valentine’s. And even if you defiantly organize #singlesawarenessday parties or go out alone on Feb 14 because “Date yourself!” you’re doing so due to V-day’s existence.
“Love has become a marketing campaign, like everything else. You buy into it and lose everything.” – David Levithan
This is not to say you should not partake in Valentine’s Day. You can freely enjoy the holiday while being informed of its capitalistic aspect. I am not trying to shame you. If you like Valentine’s Day then do whatever you want.
I simply ask we try to be responsible consumers by being aware and critical of our motivations and that of institutions.
“The capitalist system wants that we, consumers, should not be involved in thinking; we should just be buying things and consuming them.” – Indra Dhoj
The capitalist market’s success thrives on us collectively neglecting to question what we are given by exploiting our natural thirst for satisfaction, success, and happiness. Whether you decide to celebrate Valentine’s Day or not do so with, at least, knowledge and consciousness.
And should you be single do not allow an insidious bullcrap holiday to make you feel bad about yourself.