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Halloween and the Perfection of Humankind


I have found that I like making a post better if I have an image to go with it.  I made this one from a scan from an old newspaper and some photoshop work.

Halloween when I was growing up was a time when a child could go a little wild with pranks and mostly small acts of vandalism.  For the most part this was tolerated by adults as long as what we did did not cause any lasting damage.  In fact in a way we were encouraged in that adults often shared stories of their Halloween days.  My grandmother especially had many of these stories that she told with relish. It seems like in her day it was seen as a lot of fun to tip over an outhouse.  And it was even better if someone was in the outhouse when it was tipped.

Today it doesn’t seem like Halloween is the same as it once was as far a tricks go.  I can’t remember the last time that I saw a car in October with its windows soaped.  I would imagine that there is somewhere someone at this moment talking about “zero tolerance” for such behavior.

Now although I don’t know how conscious it was, however I think the idea of the Halloween season once was to let young people get some of their “devilishness” out of their systems within certain parameters.  And I have not done a serious study of the issue, however I think this acceptance of the dark or at least less productive side of our nature was once the predominant view.

I think that in words this is captured by how we once had Peace Officers instead of Law Enforcement. At least to me there seems to be a profound difference between keeping the peace and enforcing the law.  Looking back in time some it seems that most towns once had some kind of vice district where most anything went.  The only real restriction was that none of this activity was allowed to spill over to the “respectable” parts of town.  This allowance of vice seems to have come from the idea that it couldn’t be eliminated so it was best to contain it and thereby keep the peace in most parts of town.

Then it seems that at some point the idea that humankind was perfectible started to grow.  Instead of containing vice we would now eliminate it.  I suppose the temperance movement that ended in the prohibition of alcohol showed how this way of thinking had grown.  Also in this same era once openly tolerated vice districts were shutdown and many previously legal drugs were made illegal.  Now considering the increase in violence caused by prohibition and by today’s drug wars it is hard to say if this increased the peace.  And you be the judge of if it bought humankind any closer to perfection.  Still a lot of people seem to think that if you want people to behave better you make a rule and have “zero tolerance” for its violation.

So I do wonder if people before us were wiser than us in their acceptance and accommodation of our darker sides?  Or maybe if not wiser then instinctively more realistic.   I suppose I wondered about that more lately as I have been seeing some of the horrible violence in Mexico that is a result of our decades long failure of a drug war.  During Halloween when we do still to some extent celebrate our darker sides it may be time to learn to live more peacefully with that side instead of fighting a war against it.

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