It’s coming up to Halloween, and after nearly a month in my native land, I’m spooked. It’s not just the flamboyant (and clever) displays of skeletons emerging from the ground, cobwebs on trees, and assorted ghoulish creatures displayed, red eyes blinking and heads bobbing, in the shops along with the orange candies and pumpkins.
It’s the zombie culture. Something has taken hold, and seeing how a harmless children’s event has become a major commercial centre of attraction and source of adult control and management is just a small part of what makes me nervous.
‘Fewer temporary Halloween shops in strip malls a sign of economic recovery!’ is a paraphrase of one screaming article in the local paper. All the headlines scream, the current affairs interviewees shout at each other, and the Congress marches in a trance towards a cliff of their own making.
The comedian Sebastian Maniscalco captures the angst: he ‘doesn’t get it’ – the obsession with tattoos, the gushing over free samples in the malls. I don’t get a place where people think elegant dining can take place on a highway or that Times Square is now cool because there are tables and chairs, although the decibel level would rival a jet plane.
I don’t get TV programs about Christmas decorations, or ‘storage wars’ about what is found in abandoned garages.
Yet people are pleasant, polite, helpful to a fault. They stop their cars if you even look like you want to cross the street, they run endless school and church charity functions, they help their neighbors.
But the creepy feelings won’t go away. It pops up in articles about the pornografication of Halloween and everything else, and in stupid videos and celebrity obsessions with jerks like Miley Cyrus.
The level of debate about important national issues, like health insurance reform, doesn’t touch underlying drivers such as the terrible gerrymandering of electoral boundaries or the corporate control of Congressional funding and campaigns.
Always shell-shocked after a few weeks, I can only sigh over information being neglected in the rush for pumpkin-flavoured bagels.
Old news now, still coming at them like a freight train. More Sandy hurricanes to come.
And the zombies Down Under might also like to read this old article with your fire-reddened eyes, lots more recent ones on the same theme:
Feeling The Economic Impact Of Climate Change by Adam Frank: