Get out your wallets, hit up the Hallmark store and buy perishable goods or experiences for your loved ones because Valentine’s Day is just around the corner! For many people, Valentine’s Day is a treasured holiday spent in celebration of love, romance and partnership. However, in this modern day and age in a world run by mass manufacturing and devastating consumerism, Valentine’s Day has become the perfect profit-making tool which overtly undermines the pure need for love and affection we all need and crave in life.
The history and origin of Valentine’s Day is shrouded in mystery. Multiple saints recognized by the Catholic Church held the name Valentine, and there’s no singular individual that holds absolute claim to the namesake of the holiday.
Some believe the holiday is based around the beginning of mating season for birds in Europe during the Middle Ages. Some believe it has roots in a stolen, Christianized version of a Pagan fertility festival. This is all to say that there is no lineage of long-honored tradition rooted in any one person, event or religion.
No matter where or how or why Valentine’s Day originated, it is now nothing of what it was in its early history. It is now a capitalist ploy to exploit love and desire for profit.
The capitalist intent is to manufacture consumerist desire. Desires are artificially produced and planted in our brains via the manipulation of ideas, customs and social behaviors we already know, practice and live. These artificially produced desires feed off of desires we already innately have: to be wanted, renowned, loved, etc. The cycle goes on.
This production of consumerist desire, combined with the ease of manipulating ideas about what love is, what love feels like, or what love should be, etc., births a perfect, little capitalist baby to be advertised, exploited and ultimately turned into our current version of Valentine’s Day.
Love is something we innately crave; a concept centered on the desire to be wanted by, cared for by and/or simply connected to others. Being a multi-faceted, complicated, intangible concept, love is easily manipulated and attached to tangible, sellable items to make them more appealing and desirable.
Thanks to capitalism, there is an underlying belief that love and the celebration of it can now be measured by the exchange of gifts; we express our emotions by buying stuff.
If you created a mind map based around Valentine’s Day, the words “chocolate, flowers” and “dinner” among others would likely be included because all of these things have been separately marketed as markers of love and are thus attached to Valentine’s Day. Truly, love is everything we hope Valentine’s Day to be about.
Instead of Valentine’s Day being about spending quality time with a loved one or making new connections or socializing and spreading love on a greater level, Valentine’s Day is about the exchange of gifts. Even if the gift is homemade, tools were likely sought after and bought to create it.
This is not to say giving gifts can’t be part of a love language between partners or friends or family members, but it is to say that capitalism has conditioned us to believe gift-giving is a pre-supposed necessity in our relationships.
While most holidays now are used as tools to make an extra buck, Valentine’s Day is especially vulnerable to the capitalist agenda because it is concentrated in love, and love is so often a weakness in all of us. In this case, it is a weakness used against us for capital gain.
Some cherish, look forward to and celebrate Valentine’s Day every year. I’m just not one of those people. I choose not to celebrate Valentine’s Day because I choose to celebrate love on my own terms.
There’s no problem with being in love with love. You just don’t need a pre-packaged basket with flowers and chocolates and a tiny teddy bear with “I love you bear-y much” printed on its chest to show it.