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Monthly Archives: November 2012

I have long made known my vitriol against pandas: great, dim, pointless beasts who refuse to make an effort to procreate and insist on trying to live on an indigestible foodstuff. They clearly have no will to live and if the forces of natural selection could have their way, they would be long gone.

As some notable naturalists have pointed out, if all the money spent on ‘saving’ the panda were redirected it could be of huge benefit to other, more pressing, ecological causes. But us Westerners with our sentimentality and our weakness for insufferable cutesiness… I suspect the pandas may just have become the victims of my displaced rage towards these cutesy and unreasonably sentimental types, though. And this weekend, I became one of them…

I picked up a 2013 calendar of pandas, chuckling shamefully to myself, thinking what a great Christmas present it would make for my friend who also hates pandas. And then I looked at the pictures on the back and suddenly felt really, really, terribly guilty for all those vociferous, anti-panda rants I’d subjected my colleagues to. Look at them, wee silly bumbling things, just trying to make their way in this grim world. Ach they’re cute, are they no?

[image: chinapanda.org.cn]

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You might say it’s not my right, sitting half the world away, to make known my tuppence on American politics, but the economies and foreign policies of the West are so intertwined that whatever happens there impacts us all directly.

I wept tears of relief this morning when I got in from nightshift and turned on the news to see that Obama had won. The thought of the greed-and-hate-pedalling Republicans getting back in had been making me nauseous these last weeks…

I turned on in time for Obama’s speech, and although the words were not revolutionary – were clichéd even – I felt inspired: far more than any British politician has ever done for me. It felt like he spoke from the heart (I still think he’s the only man in politics with a trustworthy face) and with all of my heart, I give him a second chance.

In his first term he failed to significantly change the direction of foreign policy, he failed to fight hard enough on health care reform and no doubt a host of other contentious domestic issues; he let ground slip to the incessant, brutish goading of the Christian Right, the corporate lobbyists, Israel… But when I turned on the television and saw the light and fire in that face, I forgave him all.

Here’s your second term, Barack, your chance to do us right: the Democrats, the Left, the workers and the middle class both, blacks, latinos, gays, every woman who values the control of her own uterus, the whole rest of the world, the very heart of the American allegory herself… Those moneyed, backward, conservative bigots (a reserved choice of words) are nothing compared to all that. And they’ll all be dead and gone soon anyway… Huzzah for changing demographics!

[image: guardian.co.uk]

A couple of posts ago I hinted at my rage at Halloween having become a commercial sham and an excuse for people to dress up in a fashion that is in no way relevant to anything, get shitfaced and behave disgustingly (damn I’m transforming into a grumpy old Scotswoman at rapid pace here).

I say this as if I have some sort of aversion to getting drunk and behaving badly – I don’t, I do this all the time. My revulsion is at something once culturally significant being turned upside down and its insides squeezed out for commercial gain, to the point where it really does mean nothing to the ignorant souls donning their ‘pirate wench’ and ‘zombie cowboy’ outfits, other than another excuse (as if they needed one) for a night of debauch.

There’re two aspects that bother me, one being the Americanisation. When I was little (cue grumpy old woman), there was no such thing as ‘trick or treating’. Halloween/All Saints Eve/Samhain, whichever name you care to give it, religious slant or otherwise, was a pagan, Celtic festival celebrating the end of the harvest season and the commencement of the dark half. It is firmly rooted in Scottish heritage.

 

Guisers on the Isle of Uist [image: angusmcphee.blogspot.co.uk]

‘Guising’ would see you go round your neighbours with your wee pals in your wee witch or warlock costume, tell a joke, a ghost story, or sing a wee song, and get a sweetie or a few pence in return. The custom originates from the belief that dressing your children to blend in with the evil spirits abroad on the Eve of the Hallows would protect them, and it was considered prudent to give them small gifts to help ward off ill will from the souls of the dead.

 

Kiss front man Alice Cooper, who was disappointed with the Halloween celebrations growing up in the US [image: nndb.com]

The Americans in their true, naïve, culture-crushing style, have taken away any element of lore and replaced it with, well, that great American virtue – greed. As Alice Cooper, who now always celebrates the date in the UK, said of Halloween growing up in the States – “It was all about the candy”. This is the attitude that the global corporatisation of traditional events and holidays has succeeded in supplanting over here in the years since I grew up.

And it was turnips, not pumpkins…

 

Proper neep lanterns [image: blog.makezine.com]

The infamous harlotty Halloween costume which has now become the norm has also come to grate on me. That other renowned American virtue, vanity, comes to mind. It goes beyond vanity though. We all want to dress to look our best (I shall be doing so at a Halloween-themed cabaret night tomorrow), but Halloween outfits for women have transgressed into the downright degrading. A friend’s work colleague was apparently dressing this year as a ‘slutty skeleton’. A slutty skeleton. I could certainly see that being thrown as an insult at some of the sights you see on a Saturday night, but actually – a slutty skeleton. I have not words…

 

Oh yes, it really exists [image: thebroccolihut.com]

This has even less to do with Halloween than trick or treating, and is in fact part of a wider trend of sexism, pornification, and the division of genders that is happening across the board in the West, and which has been on my mind a lot over the last year but is so huge that I’m unsure where to even begin writing about it. I’ll leave that one at that for the moment…

The state of what Halloween is fast becoming is only one facet in the list of traditions and festivals that have been slaughtered by a market-driven culture. With Christmas marketing having begun before Halloween was even over this year, expect a follow-up rant soon…