Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Yuletide Essays

My step-sister Kelley is a TA for American River College, where she helps professors grade essays, and my step-brother (and fellow Munchanka) Marc is taking a Logic and Reasoning course where he writes essays. So, I thought it would be run to pick an arguable topic and write opposing essays to be graded and read aloud on Christmas morning. Our topic was Elf Labor Law; Marc was pro-elf unions, I was pro-Santa. Here are the resulting arguments:


           Santa Claus is well-known for maintaining a workshop in the North Pole region in which he produces toys for all the children of the world. It is also accepted as fact that Santa maintains a large staff of elves to help produce the gifts required to fulfill the wishes of boys and girls. The massive amount of toys that need to be produced necessitates a strict production schedule. Copious demand will spur production to greater speeds, and due to the difficulties that Elves could potentially face they have formed a union. The following arguments will  defend the need of a union for the elves.

            It is true that Santa is a phenomenal employer, for he takes great care of his elvish employees. The elves have full health coverage, and are given appropriate time off. In fact the elves are completely satisfied with their treatment from Santa. The purpose of the union as it stands now is to serve as a social event organizational body. From this viewpoint it could be argued that the union is useless and should be abolished. The argument here, however, is not what the union can do or the elves today, but what it can do for them in the years to come.   
           The world population today stands at around seven billion individuals. If even a quarter of that population is children then the North Pole workshop has to produce enough toys for one billion seven hundred fifty million kids. The population of the world is expected to increase at a near exponential rate. It is only a matter of time until the demand for toys outstrips the ability of the elves to produce them. It is at this point that the union will provide a layer of protection to the elves.
            History has already seen the consequences of unbridled demand for manufactured goods and the abuses that employees suffered attempting to meet that demand. In America during the Gilded Age, a period that lasted from roughly the early 1880’s to the mid 1890’s, the nation experienced an industrial revolution. Entrepreneurs exercised absolute authority in their pursuit to maximize profits at the detriment to their workers. Employees suffered long hours and dangerous conditions, a situation that was possible due to the lack of government oversight and weak employee relationships with their employers. Everything was directed toward producing as much as possible as fast as possible in order to maximize immediate profits. The situation became so unbearable that the workers in Carnegie’s steel mill went on universal strike. Carnegie hired Pinkertons to “break the line”, and in the resulting chaos several workers were killed. In Santa’s workshop, the motivation for profit is markedly reduced; however, the need to produce at breakneck speeds to meet the demands of all the children could lead to similarly dangerous work conditions. The elf union being in place already will help to head off those potential dangers before they ever come to a head.
            Unions creating a safer workplace have a secondary effect of benefiting the environment. During the 1840s, in England, a time known as the Industrial Revolution, pollution was absolutely deplorable. Manchester England’s rivers and creeks were a thick black and green morasses of filth. A low cloud of pollution hung over the city. With the advent of collective bargaining sanctioned by the government, employees were able to demand cleaner working conditions for their own health. The net effect saw a reduction in pollution around the entire city. The issue of environment is of particular concern to the Santa and the elves since the biosphere of the North Pole is particularly sensitive to ecological changes. The union of the elves prevents irresponsible waste disposal practices for the health of the workers. Disposing of waste in a responsible manner reduces the environmental impact of the North Pole workshop. This, in turn, will ensure that the delicate environment stays in balance. If pollution were to run rampant at the north pole, the ice cap would melt. If the ice cap were to melt, Santa would have to relocate his workshop. This would impose enormous cost on the Jolly old man, so in effect the existence of the union helps to mitigate potential future cost over runs, despite the fact that a union costs more per hour of labor in the immediate accounting reports.
            The value of the elf union may seem to be minimal currently, but the truth is that the union exists to prevent any potential future abuses of the elves as production pressures increase to meet demands. It also exists to provide for the health of the workers, a practice which has a side effect of decreasing human and elf impact on the environment. The labor union is an investment in the well being of the future of the elves and the region of the North Pole. For those reasons the union is invaluable  and should continue to exist.

Elves are charming, whimsical creatures full of humor, craftsmanship, and good will toward all men. Or so they would have you believe. History tells us a different tale, painting the picture of an elitist pack of nomadic immortals: undying, yet eternally immature, bent on all matter of mischief and meddling in the lives of men. Everywhere you find them in literature, you find war, black magic, and death. Elves seek to unionize in the North Pole. They would have you believe this is a humanitarian effort and a move for social equality. In truth, organized elves will only serve to threaten Christmas and replace the Season of Giving with one of utter elf-centeredness.
           The elves, or ylfe, as they were named by the Anglo Saxons who first encountered them in 10th century Northern Europe, have shifted between apathy and antagonism in their relations to mankind. In fact, before Santa came along, elves were real little shits. The rare documented occurrences of elves venturing from their secluded forest hovels were quite unpleasant experiences for all human parties involved. The German word for nightmare, Alptrauma, derives from the phrase “elf dream.” The Germans believed that elves would sit on the dreamer’s chest, using their black magic to induce nightmares and indigestion. Some call it mind rape. Other elf-related terms of Olde English include “elf-tangle,” referring to the knots elves love to tie into otherwise long, flowing locks, and “elf stroke,” a rather nasty business wherein a human suffers sudden paralysis due to an elf curse.
            A unionized elf workforce would seem a noble pursuit if one could find any trace of nobility in elf history; but when we look for nobility in popular elven figures, what we find is a shock of sinister deeds. There is Rumpelstiltskin, a child abductor who demanded that children cry out his name during the horrendous acts that will go undescribed in this article. Not exactly the fort of fellow you’d want to see at a shopping mall with a child on his lap. There is also Queen Mab, who would plague ladies’ lips with “blisters” which we now know to be the origin of herpes. Just imagine how she’d stuff your stocking if left to her own devices. Finally we have Loki, who would have the men of his age call him “the god of mischief,” though he was no more than an elf, or alfr as the Nordes later called him. Hardly a replacement for Old Saint Nick.
            Things get even worse when one considers elves in large numbers. Let us examine the great organizations of elf history. First, there are the Keebler elves, baking away in their unsanitary arboreal kitchens, creating subpar snack foods and contributing to the epidemic of childhood obesity. Hardly a legacy. There are also the Sindarin, led by the mighty Elrond. Fine craftsmen, and able warriors--that is, when they care to respond to their allies’ pleas for aid.. Elf warriors failed to lift a finger in the battle of Helm’s Deep, the siege on Minas Tirith, or the Scouring of the Shire. The dwarven warrior Gimli, son of Gloin, had it right, “Never trust an elf.” It should be noted that the goblins, orcs, and uruk hai that murdered the courageous defenders of Rohan and Gondor in said battles were closely related to the elves they loved to slaughter. Much like the domestic pig, which can go feral within months of escape into the wild (growing coarse hair, tusks, and severe aggression), the hair-conditioned elves can become blood-thirsty orcs under the wrong influences.
            Any who still doubt the danger that empowered elves may pose ought look no further than the wicked Krampus, a creature reported in Alpine folklore, who visits the naughty children at the Yuletide Season and carries them off to his lair. Hooved and horned, one might believe the Krampus is closer related to the satyrs of Greek mythology than the sweet tinkering elves that we’ve come to know and love. But a look at line 114 of Beowulf shows elves flow from the same spring as every other fowl bit of cryptozoologic fauna in this world:
“For killing of Abel
the Eternal Lord had extracted a price:
Cain got no good from committing that murder
because the Almighty made him anathema
and out of the curse of his exile there sprang
ogres and elves and evil phantoms
and the giants too who strove with God
time and again until He gave them their reward."
Do elves work long hours? Yes. Are their working conditions perfect? They can probably be improved. But is the world ready for the elves to organize into unions? Certainly not! We ought to place our trust in the man who has earned it through year after year of proven results: Saint Nicholas. Yes, SAINT Nicholas, for he is a saint in word and deed. Only Santa had the vision to see the glimmer of potential in the dark souls of elves. After centuries of toil, Santa has forged a sterling reputation for North Pole workers that no elven group has enjoyed before. Santa has provided elves with career opportunities that simply wouldn’t be there for them in the modern era. He has brought commerce and industry to the North Pole, and he has put a comically small, festively painted tooling hammer in the hand of every able-bodied elf under the Aurora Borealis. Rather than asking what Santa can do for elves, we ought to ask what elves can continue doing for the greater good. The greatest gift we can give the tiny folk this year is the gift of inspiring leadership. Thanks to Santa, elves have become charming, whimsical creatures full of humor, craftsmanship, and good will toward men.
Let’s keep ‘em that way!

Who do you think has the more valid argument? Do you value fairness or Christmas?

O days...Merry Christmas!

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