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The treat is a trick. The trick is the treat.
Once again the Halloween season is upon us and people are busy buying costumes made by children in sweatshops, buying plastic-wrapped nutritionally deficient "treats" made from sugar and cocoa grown in modern-day slave plantations, and getting ready to consume a managed and commodified "fear" by watching Hollywood horror films, buying 'scary' decorations, and going to haunted houses.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not hating on Halloween here. Halloween has some very interesting roots and has incredible potential in our current social context as well. The roots of Halloween, which is the 2nd most popular holiday in North America after Christmas, are in honoring the dead and celebrating the harvest. And although the current context of Halloween has undertones of mischief, fear, criminality, lust, and violence, the dominant culture is one of materialism and managed commercialization. Nowadays Halloween is to fear what Valentines Day is to love; just another way for corporations to make a buck.
Although there is an incredible surge in vandalism and other mischievous activity on Halloween in comparison to other times of year, the majority of people choose treats over tricks, and those who trick tend to do disgrace to the roots of Halloween by smashing peoples pumpkins, desecrating grave sites, and throwing eggs. Not exactly the smartest way to celebrate a harvest or honour the dead. But what if the upper middle class couldn't pacify and bribe mischievous youth with their ill-gotten treats? What if tricks became the dominant way to celebrate Halloween and a genuine fear of chickens coming home to roost spread among bosses, politicians and other authority figures. After all Halloween is a night where everyone wears a mask.
What if instead of lining up to pay money for the commodified fear of films and automated assembly line haunted houses, we broke into abandoned factories, warehouses, and buildings that are genuinely scary, and quite possibly haunted, for real? Once inside some really scary games could be played in groups. This could also work in the thick of forests, or out in the countryside. Nothing like randomly entering an abandoned barn full of rusty farm equipment to create a fearful environment and get the adrenaline flowing.
Fear and lust are both closely linked in our brains through adrenaline according to many scientific studies. We have a long history of being turned on by fear because the adrenaline feels the same to us. A couple decades ago costume makers decided to cash in on this by expanding their markets to adults and selling us hyper-sexualized costumes which have become hugely popular. The way we dress now is actually frightening in all the wrong ways. It is more objectifying than empowering, more sad than fierce. But Halloween doesn't have to mean we reinforce negative gender roles. We don't have to go to the bar as "football players and cheerleaders", "pirates and wenches", or worse of all "pimps and hoes". We can embrace and liberate our lust and sexuality to the fullest without falling into these tired cliches. It is much hotter to be mysterious than be exposed. Think masquerade parties of times long past.
Halloween has become an industry that the rich and powerful gain immensely from. But unlike most other holidays, Halloween has the potential to turn into every capitalist tyrant's worst nightmare. Currently the violence that exists in Halloween is the systemic and economic violence of exploitation and domination. The violence of patriarchy. The violence of child slaves working on cocoa plantations in west Africa. The violence of sweatshops in Bangladesh where poor children slave away making our costumes. The violence of our plastic candy wrappers steadily being swept by wind currents into the ocean to become a plastic island twice the size of Texas and still growing. But there is the potential for a completely different kind of violence to emerge cloaked in the darkness of the night that honours those murdered by this economic system and harvests justice. That day can't come soon enough.