Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Missing the Halloween Spirit This Year

One of the things I like about the town I live in is how people go all out for Halloween. We usually get a ton of trick or treaters and it's just a blast overall. I was having fun in the leadup to this week, but suddenly I've lost the spirit.

Part of it has to do with the ridiculous obligations in my life right now, both in terms of work and parenting. I am just tired, all of the time. During the few moments I have to rest my mind is preoccupied with the sad, depressing state of the world. This month has brought war in the Middle East, related murders in this country, a mass shooter, a radical anti-democratic gerrymander in North Carolina, and an election-denying Christian nationalist weirdo being elevated to the Speaker of the House. (I wrote about the latter on Substack.)

This is all being experienced through a media filter that constantly promotes lies and manipulations of all kinds. It's getting hard to tell the truth, and soon people will stop trying. Once that happens, there's no bottom.

I can't escape the feeling that everything is collapsing. On inauguration day in 2021, I cried tears of relief and joy, hoping we were through the Trump years. I had been vaccinated against COVID the day before and the two events together felt like two horrible crises might finally be ending. Looking back I can't believe my naivete. Trumpism and COVID are not past. They were tipping points knocking down a rotten and rickety American and world social order that had been teetering for decades. 

Neoliberalism hollowed everything out, including basic social obligations and connectivity. We've lost the capacity for positive collective action and the privations of COVID have made us even more angry and suspicious. We interact through social media, which only brings out the worst in us. In the face of all of this progressives have retreated into making self-righteous statements ("In this house we believe...") because deep down they know there's nothing that can be done about it in any material sense. Social movements have adopted a "leaderless" model allowing them to take to the streets while accomplishing nothing. 

The scariest thing this Halloween is the world we are living in. I once believed in the capacity for change, but right now my main focus is trying to survive the coming onslaught. Just take the shooting in Lewiston, for example. We know there's absolutely no chance that we will regulate guns, and that our society is awash in so many guns and gun nuts that any attempt to regulate them would be useless. A conservative Supreme Court would strike that down, anyway. We talk about the 2024 election as if it's a referendum on democracy, but democracy already lost. 

I tried posting about this on Facebook and people assumed my feeling that Halloween had no joy this year is curmudgeonly, not the result of existential dread over the state of the world. Don't worry, you'll probably be feeling the same way by next Halloween.

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