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Paradigm Shift

Giving The Gift of Constant Surveillance – Elf on the Shelf is Watching You



‘Tis the season for lying to small children. Santa Claus and his mythical arrival with abundant toys and other goodies is looming on the horizon. Parents will be busy portraying myth as reality, instead of accepting Santa as an explicit rather than disguised symbol of generosity and compassion. It’s all in the name of creating “magic” and promoting innocence for children. It’s exciting to perpetuate a lie that gets kids excited about the holiday while also using Saint Nick’s holiday visit as a handy tool for manipulating behavior.

It must be tough keeping up the Santa facade. Lying to cover up lies. Concocting elaborate stories to answer honest questions from the inquiring minds of children. There’s always the possibility that someone else’s kids will tip them off, that they’ll find the hidden presents too early, that there will be a lot of explaining to do.

Now someone else has come along to complicate the lies even further, Elf on the Shelf.

For the unfamiliar (Seriously, what rock have you been hiding under?), Elf on the Shelf is based on a self-published children’s book of the same name. It’s been all the rage with parents of small children for several years now. The $30 plush little “scout” elf  pops up after Thanksgiving Day to watch over kids and report back to Santa each night. They are Santa’s informers, constantly keeping tabs on behavior. The children can’t touch him or he loses his magic. He just sits there watching with his creepy doll’s eyes. Parents must move him every night when their children aren’t looking to maintain the front that their elf is actually real and visiting The Big Guy every night to discuss naughty/nice status, thus reinforcing the elf’s constant vigilance.

The Elf on the Shelf phenomena has certainly added to the entertainment value of the season by filling up my Facebook news feed with pictures of him suggestively posed with Barbie and alcohol and other obvious mischief. (Makes me wonder how qualified the guy is for reporting on acceptable behavior. Elf on the Shelf is apparently quite corrupt and hypocritical… like government politicians). But what else has the cute, yet creepy little guy added to children’s holiday memories?

Elf on the Shelf is supposed to add to the magic of the holiday, plus make a handy manipulative tool for managing young children’s behavior. It’s kind of an extension of the worst part of the Santa Claus myth, that he’s always watching. “He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good. Blah, blah, blah…” Basically, the Elf is a prop masquerading as a holiday tradition to be used in the psychological bullying parents happily wage on their young children. Which is totally in their best interests, of course.

But the road to surveillance, elf inspired or otherwise, is often paved with the best of intentions, national security being the most glaringly obvious. But I’m coming from a cynical adult place that is filled with Edward Snowden and Wikileaks and Anonymous and the NSA run amok. Although, perhaps it is best to desensitize them when they are young, to get them used to the loss of privacy. Constant supervision and control from the early years will normalize wiretapping and government spying so it will be less traumatic for them as they grow up and lose any sense of privacy.

What better way to prepare our children for life in a full-surveillance totalitarian society? . . . In the name of security, of course.

Pay no attention to George Orwell.

Besides, if you aren’t doing anything wrong, you shouldn’t have anything to hide… From Santa or your neighbors or the government. Privacy is selfish and just a way to protect bad behavior. You can’t be trusted to make good choices without the threat of exposure should you make a mistake.

You can’t be good for goodness sake. Be good because the elves are watching you.

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