Here is what bothers me about Halloween these days: it has turned into a celebration of blood and gore. Haunted hayrides display tortured bodies hanging in the orchards and fields. Fright houses exhibit scenes of pain while spewing “blood” at the gawkers.
Have we become so desensitized to the inherent dignity of our fellow human beings that the sight of blood, pain and death is considered entertainment and “good clean fun”? Something to laugh at and demand more of, rather than to stop? A way to make money? If these same scenes showed tortured, mutilated dogs and cats, there would be a huge outcry over how sick and perverse it all was.
When the idea is to make the spectacle as life-like as possible, it doesn’t matter if it’s all fake. It still numbs us to others’ pain and the dignity of human life. Therapists know that facing your fears repeatedly is a way to overcome them. Doing something that revolts you often enough anesthetizes the stomach to one more hurl. The barbarians in the Middle East know this and force children – their warriors in training – to play with severed human heads.
We profess to be appalled at the Roman Circuses with their gladiator games and Christian martyrs. We can’t imagine allowing a society like that portrayed in the The Hunger Games. Well, we are flirting with it in our fantasies and entertainment, and it seems kind of fun. How bad can it be?
It’s not just the Haunted Hayrides and the Fright Houses. Home decorations need a makeover as well. For example, “bloody” handprints on a door with the words “Help Us” written in “blood” under them. What’s the story behind the handprints? Clearly nothing good. Or the skeletons hanging by their necks in the trees. To get there, something violent had to happen. Ditto the clawing zombies or the severed hanging torso.
In Have His Carcase by Dorothy Sayers, Harriet Vane, after finding an almost headless body on the beach, rings up a major newspaper to give them the scoop. Peter Wimsey asks her how a London newspaper found out so quickly about something that happened a couple of hundred miles away.
“I rang them up myself,” replied Harriet. “First-class publicity, you know, and all that.”
“So it is,” agreed Wimsey… “Rang ‘em up, did you, with all the gory details?”
“Naturally; that was the first thing I thought of.”
“You’re a woman of business. But does it not, pardon me, indicate a certain coarsening of the fibres?”
“Obviously,” said Harriet. “My fibres at this moment resemble coconut matting.”
It looks like our collective fibres are also like coconut matting, keeping sweetness, innocence, gentleness, empathy and virtue, to name a few of things, away from our hearts and consciences.
“They’re just decorations. Lighten up. It’s all meant to be fun.” I can hear the protests now.
The protests, however, prove my point about the muffling of our dignity. How desensitized and unthinking we have all become.