The Day After Halloween
Halloween was part of communal culture. You went around in home made costume to your neighbors and got gifts from them. Back in my day and beyond, Halloween also served another function – a kind of safety valve in the community. Living in a very authoritarian and repressive society, the young were given this one day of the year to cause mischief and torment their tormentors. While aimed at adult authority in general, the holiday also served as pay back time to individual members of the community who were unpleasant to children, such as the nasty teacher or the hateful old man down the street. They would get their windows soaped or the air let out of their tires. And the kids would snicker about this for months after.
Today, for the most part, the brute authoritarianism is gone. Children now face a more sublimated kind of tyranny. Every aspect of their lives is monitored and organized. It is of course, like the floggings and denigrating tirades of the past, "done for their own good." For "out there" lurks an army of kidnappers, child-buggerers, and gang members just waiting to pounce on Little Jason and Amanda.
Somehow I doubt it is all that much worse than when I was a kid. The difference is the lack of community. With real towns and real neighborhoods, we kids knew who all the "pervs" were and avoided them. Today "the public"is too aware, but then, overt knowledge of such things as pedophilia and incest was suppressed. We kids understood and expressed our awareness through warnings about not bending over to get the soap in a public shower and jokes about scoutmasters, priests and choirboys. In real communities, as the late Jane Jacobs pointed out, there are thousands of eyes seeing what goes on. The sick can't get away with much.
The anonymity and alienation of suburban life has given a much freer rein to the emotionally sick amongst us. This creates fear, and fear in turn, further destroys community. The suburb is a vicious circle that eternally grinds down everything that makes us human.The only way Halloween and all other forms of communal, non-alienated activity will revive is through rejecting the American-style suburb and a return to living in real neighborhoods.