Why do we wrap Christmas presents, and why are we addicted to capitalism?

If we truly got what we wanted for Christmas, Christmas would be over. We would never experience the fun of receiving presents again if we received the true object of our desires. Imagine you got a present that truly, finally satisfied you for Christmas in 2006. Would Christmases 2007-2016 not have been left hollow disappointments?

Furthermore, a present is better when it remains wrapped. A still-wrapped present contains the potential to be Lacan’s objet petit a (Lacan: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-analysis), the object cause of desire. This is the unattainable object Lacan says we not only desire, but the loss of which causes desire itself. If it were received, the ‘phenomenology of the gift’ (Lacan: Introduction to the Names-of-the-Father Seminar) would be rendered impotent. Have we not all experienced the excitement of receiving a package in the post, and the delight of opening it, only to find it quickly fades once we have the contents in our hands? The commodity, however precious, can never match up to its promise to fulfil our desire for the cause of desire itself.

Is part of the appeal of heroin addiction for the addict not the reduction of the objet petit a to a single, available commodity? As desire is simplified, so is life. The object cause of desire is rendered attainable: the desire is for heroin, and the object cause is itself heroin. The addict is thus totally satisfied once they have it (until of course, more is needed). Perhaps this can even account for the higher rates of addiction in poorer communities where the temporary satisfaction of the desire for the objet petit a cannot be so easily afforded in the acquisition of the fetishised commodity? For capitalism is an endless pile of unwrapped presents, each one turning out to contain ill-fitting socks from your grandmother. Each acquisition promises fulfilment, each disappoints and pushes us to open the next. Like the addict, we are satisfied only until the next fix is needed.


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