Horror Week

“Remember, remember, the fifth of November,” the old rhyme goes.  Earlier this week I advocated for Halloween being the start of the holiday season.  There’s been a lot going on this week and I’m now reflecting on how Halloween also took some of its identity from Guy Fawkes Day (or more properly Guy Fawkes Night), here on November fifth.  Halloween, as we know it, incorporates traditions from Samhain (actually November 1), All Souls Day (November 2), as well as Guy Fawkes (November 5).  All the while the Hispanic world is observing Dia de los Muertos, a multi-day holiday whose origins are somewhat uncertain but which shares similarities with Halloween.  In other words, it’s a veritable week of spookiness to get our November started off right.

Ironically, at least in corporate America, none of these are work-free holidays.  For the Celts Samhain was the most important day of the year.  A day when the dead might wander into our realm or we might stumble into theirs.  For the modern person it’s a day of checking email, making deals, trading and evaluating how well we did at it.  Pretty mundane stuff.  The message of all of these holidays is that there are matters of deeper import going on.  We should perhaps look up from our monitors and see.  Just as that veil between the living and dead thins at this time of year, so does that line between work and personal life, when our laptops are as omnipresent as a haunting deity set to keep our minds on the sin of not working.  

Guy Fawkes is about rebellion.  More specifically, putting down rebellion.  Keeping the status quo.  Halloween and its siblings are all about challenging the way things are usually done.  I often wonder what it would be like if people took it seriously.  The costumes are fun, yes, and the trick-or-treating, but there’s something more serious underneath.  Perhaps symbolically we pretty much ignore All Saints to Guy Fawkes, or Dia de los Muertos as pleasant diversions.  There’s some spiritual heavy lifting going on behind the scenes, however.  It’s not all about fun and games, because fear is always with us.  We know there are problems but it’s more comfortable keeping things as they are.  Guy Fawkes, perhaps for a cause we see as obsolete—restoring a Catholic monarchy—was trying to change things for the better.  What’s more, his motivation was religious.  There are spooky parallels here, even today.  It might be good to take a day off work to ponder the implications.


For the People

The complex of holidays that make up the transition from light to darkness represents a different mix, depending where you are. Life on the equator, for example, experiences no real variation in daylight hours and I would expect that equinoxes and solstices are relatively meaningless. Or at least less so than where darkness encroaches. For those of us in temperate zones the difference in day length can be quite dramatic and our holiday calendar guides us through it. Getting through the darkness. So this weekend, on Bonfire Night—also known as Guy Fawkes Night, or November 5—I watched V for Vendetta again. This isn’t actually an annual practice, but some years the need to remember the fifth of November is quite strong. This is one of those years. I can’t remember having ever been this anxious about a presidential election. Tomorrow we are voting on whether we want democracy to continue or if we want a dictator who can stir hate like no candidate I’ve ever seen. He even makes Ronald Reagan look tolerable.

I’ve posted on V for Vendetta before, so I need not go over the story. The theme, however, that governments are to serve the people is a message that bears repeating. Governments are to serve the people. We’ve come to a crises point in self-government. A vote for Trump instead of Hillary is saying “I give up, I want Big Brother to take over.” Perhaps the movie I should reference is 1984. Orwell may have got the year wrong, but the story right. Make people afraid, stir the pot of negativity and they will act in desperation. Reactionary governments quickly become dictatorships and that message, mean-spirited and full of ugliness, has been placed squarely in our faces.

The point of V for Vendetta, and the point on which the movie ends, is that V is each of us. We have the ability to make smart choices just as we have the ability to act out on irrational hatred. Who would’ve thought that election years would become days of such terror? I’ve always felt strongly about social justice, and I always vote with a conscience. I have never voted for a hate-monger or someone who believes the way to help the poor is to give the rich even more. There is a deep perversity here, a cultural psychosis. And the problem is we’re locked into four years of the result. For the sake of human decency and sanity, we all need to get out and vote. And I sincerely believe that pulling that lever is a choice for self destruction (Trump) or a future of new potential (Hillary). I just hope we’re smart enough to make the right choice.

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