I saw some tweets today, some people making comments about their preference re: tricks and re: treats. It’s Halloween-time, it’s understandable, and it occurred to me that this says something about people. About what sort of person they are.
Actually, at first it directed me to think about the fact that, as a child and as a youth, I was never exposed to the culture and reality of Halloween “tricks” – for me, and as far as I knew, the repeated phrase “trick or treat” was just part of the Halloween ritual. Especially as a child, I never thought about the meaning of the words – I just said what I was expected to say, when I was expected to say it, and was rewarded with candy. Later, as an adult, and only through cultural context and never through personal experience, I became aware that for other people, Halloween isn’t (just) about dressing up in a silly costume and practicing communism with candy – it’s about pranks, tricks, vandalism, et cetera. None of which has ever seemed like a good idea, or fun, to me.
Thinking about this today, and about the people who were saying that they’d always preferred tricks to treats, on Halloween, I saw immediately that it corresponded directly to the sort of people I don’t like. Inconsiderate people, assholes, people who think of themselves first and often others not-at-all. People for whom saying “trick or treat” taught them that it was morally and socially acceptable to extort what you want from people with threats of violence and vandalism and harassment. Who were probably taught, if not by their parents then by other youths of the same ilk, that it’s wholly appropriate to act out (and break the law) if, on 10/31, you ask a homeowner for candy and aren’t satisfied by the result.
I was taught to obey the law. To me, Halloween is about sharing, and community-building. When I first heard about people going to neighborhoods other than their own for “better candy”… even as a youth, I knew better – that’s clearly exploitation of the modern urban isolationist lack-of-community. Admittedly, I’m not much good at community myself, these days. I also don’t like wearing costumes, at all. And I mostly don’t like to participate in holidays. But that’s personal preference – and so is, I guess, having respect for other people, for their property, and for the law.
To me, one of the ideas of Halloween is that even though not everyone wants to or is able to participate (some houses stay dark and/or have no candy), there’s more than enough candy to go around. Everyone takes home a bag full of a wide variety of treats, and everyone gets to see all the different and interesting costumes and the happy families, and to connect with the people in their neighborhood. There’s no need to follow through on the ritually-threatened “tricks” to act out against non-participants; you’re going to have a good time and get candy without them. Obviously, this requires a critical mass of participants – but that’s why it’s supposed to be about the community! If you lived in a neighborhood where most of the people didn’t want to participate, and you were part of a community with those people, you would know it, and vice versa.
Communist activities like Halloween work only when there is a community of people who are connected to one another – isolationism and self-interest run contrariwise to them. Being community-minded leads to a harmonious event where everyone has a good time and is rewarded. Being self-interested and having a disregard for community leads to tricks, pranks, vandalism, and retaliation, which would only lead those being attacked for not participating toward further isolation from the community that attacked them.
I think this post changed tracks, somewhere. Thinking in words again, I guess.