With this party “death is exorcised and therefore no longer scary because it is weakened, made almost normal, it is no longer recognized as such, it is reduced to a skeleton or a little witch. If what for the human being is the true sign of his limit, of his tragedy is weakened, this is the real point, there is no longer any need to redeem the human being from this evil “, explains the expert.
Good versus evil, the beauty of holiness versus the ugliness of death. Until a few decades ago, in the collective imagination, the first two days of November were inextricably linked to remind all the saints, those who had known how to follow Christ to the end, and those who preceded us in eternal life, our loved ones. For some time, especially for the little ones, this time of year, especially the night between October 31st and November 1st, has been characterized by the Halloween party, with pumpkins, witches, monsters, zombies. Behind the emergence of this festival is there a mainly consumerist aspect or is there something else hidden? We talk about it with Adriano Fabrisprofessor of moral philosophy and ethics of communication at the University of Pisa.
Why do these days remember Halloween more for today’s children than the feast of saints?
We also find ourselves passing at the level of common mentality, of education, of transmission to our children, heirs of the Christian tradition, a truly different model from what was proposed in the past. On the feast of All Saints exemplary people were highlighted, who had lived their beliefs and ideas in a coherent and rigorous way, up to, in many cases, absolute witness. They were positive models, but above all it was also an opportunity to put together and connect to this dimension the next day, the memory of our loved ones who were no longer there. The memory of the dead was connected to the celebration, the day before, of holiness: the two aspects were put together, almost like thinking that our loved ones were and are an exemplary point of reference, we thus highlighted their good characteristics, how much they had meant to us. This was conveyed by the feast of the saints and the commemoration of the dead. The party was the occasion of a remembrance, of the handing down of a tradition, even beyond the dimension of faith.
What has changed?
We live in a secularized era, in an era of indifference towards the religious dimension, in an era in which a certain lexicon present in our culture is no longer recognized or handed down.
The values of exemplarity, remembrance, recognition, thanksgiving for these models of life have also been set aside,
together with other aspects from which it was deemed necessary to free oneself because they are connected to a religious tradition that is now considered outdated or with respect to which there was indifference. It is a mistake to believe that rejecting specific religious traditions all this also entails the rejection of many aspects of our social and civil tradition, because in the end there is nothing left: only what is economically and commercially valuable remains, myths that are cold introduced into the societies, which impose themselves because they are a sort of carnival for children, because they produce business, because a world is built around it, which intervenes in the collective imagination.
And what is the imagery that is conveyed through Halloween?
It is a tradition that comes from the other side of the ocean and is conveyed through films, television series, cartoons that come from an Anglo-American culture and that for decades has been circulating in a hegemonic way in our homes. So it is also quite easy to convey a whole series of issues and values that only partially belong to our tradition.
What are these values?
I would summarize them on the fact that you can also joke with the dead, that death is exorcised and therefore no longer scary because it is weakened, made almost normal, it is no longer recognized as such, it is reduced to a skeleton or a witch. If what for the human being is the true sign of his limit, of his tragedy is weakened, this is the real point, there is no longer any need to redeem the human being from this evil, from this profound finiteness of his, from this characteristic of mortality. If death becomes the skeleton, trick or treat, the little witch, it should no longer be taken seriously, it is something you can joke about. Once it was said: “Play with the infantry and leave the saints alone”. Now, it is exactly the opposite.
What is the next step?
If wickedness, death, negativity are really normalized and weakened, they become indifferent, with respect to them we can not take a stand, we can not fight them, we can not consider evil something to be rejected. This is another step in our culture. If you are evil, just don’t touch my life too much and I’ll let you do it because everyone is free to do what he wants. Of evil we remain spectators, maybe we film a scene of violence with our mobile phones, but we do not intervene. It is also a bit of this idea that is conveyed. Halloween is part of this mentality of uniformity of good and evil, according to which they are nothing but different opinions: the skeleton no longer scares us, evil and death are exorcised, so we no longer have to commit ourselves to create a good society, a fair company. From the spiritual point of view, since we are finished, we are mortal and we cannot fight death, we should open ourselves to a further dimension that saves us, that redeems us. But if evil is normalized and death is reduced to a skeleton that is not frightening, we no longer need redemption.
Is it still possible to take the reverse path from the “ugliness of death” proposed by Halloween to the beauty of the Saints?
I don’t have a solution, but I can present two steps. The first is to reconstitute the differences in this situation of indifference, to realize that the differences exist and are real. Let me explain: we are in a truly paradoxical society, in which there is a mentality according to which everyone has specificities and differences that they claim and for which they claim the right to express and manifest any difference, even the most trivial. Our difference from others is noted in our society. But, at the same time, these differences homologate because we are all different and therefore we are all the same, in each claiming their own differences. This is the paradox of our society. The invitation is not to trivialize ethical differences as, unfortunately, it is happening: good and evil are not on the same level, life and death are not on the same level. So, first, to recover the differences and, second, more positively, to recognize the people who embody the good, the goodness of the models and examples they have left us. People who have been able to choose the good, embodying it, witnessing it, taking it to the end. I am not just making a religious discourse, I am not speaking only of the saints, but also of those people who have been and are examples on a social and civil level and whom we remember not only on religious holidays, but also on civil ones. I believe that without these examples and in which everything is indifferent, a community cannot exist. A community that knows what good is compared to what evil is then can actually be established as such. This is the key point.