Tag Archives: Cosmopolitanism

Merry Halloween

I quite like Halloween. Monsters and chocolate are almost as good as  bunnies and chocolate. However every year here in New Zealand people complain that we shouldn’t be participating in an American custom. Recently I was one of many attending a Diwali festival, yet there was no one complains that we shouldn’t participate in indian customs. Why? Here are some ideas:

 Cultural conservatives, who just don’t like kids doing what they didn’t do as kids, may sincerely dislike both but are not free to criticise Diwali for fear of appearing racist. America is white and mere nationalism draws little of the stigma of racism so Halloween is open to attack.

The other group of halloween-haters are lefty types who usually speak well of multiculturalism and diversity. However they dislike America for independent reasons and use Halloween as an oppotunity to signal this. India is a relative underdog so may be shown support.

It’s also worth noting that Diwali festivities are organised by ethnic indians and only lightly attended by non-Indians. Most new Zealander’s don’t identify with our Indian population. Indians celebrations in New Zealand will be viewed as little different from Indian celebrations on the continent; just ‘foreigners’ doing their thing. You may go along and watch, just as you might travel abroad; sampling something that is clearly different.

However there is less cultural distance between New Zealand and America then between New Zealand and India.  People are most sensitive to status movements between peers. I care most about my standing relative to educated men in their 20’s. I don’t worry about getting less respect then the king of Thailand or being smarter than a little girl.   If New Zealanders adopts an Indian practice it feels like gracious cosmopolitanism. If we adopt an American or Australian practice it feels like an admission of their superiority.