Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

How the Grinch Ought to Have Stolen Christmas

40 Quirinus_Quirrell 25 December 2013 08:00PM

On Dec. 24, 1957, a Mr. T. Grinch attempted to disrupt Christmas by stealing associated gifts and decorations. His plan failed, the occupants of Dr. Suess' narrative remained festive, and Mr. Grinch himself succumbed to cardiac hypertrophy. To help others avoid repeating his mistakes, I've written a brief guide to properly disrupting holidays. Holiday-positive readers should read this with the orthogonality thesis in mind. Fighting Christmas is tricky, because the obvious strategy - making a big demoralizing catastrophe - doesn't work. No matter what happens, the media will put the word Christmas in front of it and convert your scheme into even more free advertising for the holiday. It'll be a Christmas tragedy, a Christmas earthquake, a Christmas wave of foreclosures. That's no good; attacking Christmas takes more finesse.

The first thing to remember is that, whether you're stealing a holiday or a magical artifact of immense power, it's almost always a good idea to leave a decoy in its place. When people notice that something important is missing, they'll go looking to find or replace it. This rule can be generalized from physical objects to abstractions like sense of community. T. Grinch tried to prevent community gatherings by vandalizing the spaces where they would've taken place. A better strategy would've been to promise to organize a Christmas party, then skip the actual organizing and leave people to sit at home by themselves. Unfortunately, this solution is not scalable, but someone came up with a very clever solution: encourage people to watch Christmas-themed films instead of talking to each other, achieving almost as much erosion of community without the backlash.

I'd like to particularly applaud Raymond Arnold, for inventing a vaguely-Christmas-like holiday in December, with no gifts, and death (rather than cheer) as its central theme [1]. I really wish it didn't involve so much singing and community, though. I recommend raising the musical standards; people who can't sing at studio-recording quality should not be allowed to sing at all.

Gift-giving traditions are particularly important to stamp out, but stealing gifts is ineffective because they're usually cheap and replaceable. A better approach would've been to promote giving undesirable gifts, such as religious sculptures and fruitcake. Even better would be to convince the Mayor of Whoville to enact bad economic policies, and grind the Whos into a poverty that would make gift-giving difficult to sustain. Had Mr. Grinch pursued this strategy effectively, he could've stolen Christmas and Birthdays and gotten himself a Nobel Prize in Economics [2].

Finally, it's important to avoid rhyming. This is one of those things that should be completely obvious in hindsight, with a little bit of genre savvy; villains like us win much more often in prose and in life than we do in verse.

And with that, I'll leave you with a few closing thoughts. If you gave presents, your friends are disappointed with them. Any friends who didn't give you presents, it's because they don't care, and any fiends who did give you presents, they're cheap and lame presents for the same reason. If you have a Christmas tree, it's ugly, and if it's snowing, the universe is trying to freeze you to death.

Merry Christmas!

 

[1] I was initially concerned that the Solstice would pattern-match and mutate into a less materialistic version of Christmas, but running a Kickstarter campaign seems to have addressed that problem.

[2] This is approximately the reason why Alfred Nobel specifically opposed the existence of that prize.

 

A sealed prediction

9 Quirinus_Quirrell 28 January 2011 04:10AM

I would like to make a prediction, but I'm not ready to raise the subject of the prediction just yet. So to show that it was not just obvious in hindsight, and to strengthen my precommitment to write an article about it later, here is the sha1sum of my prediction: 9805a0c7bf3690db25e5753e128085c4191f0114.