I found the following cartoon on Twitter. It took me a few minutes on Google Translate (most of which was spent navigating the Russian keyboard) to get the translation. It loosely translates to “Don’t feel bad we don’t celebrate Halloween in Russia!” (Then how do you know when to release horror movies? Or give out fun-size candies?) The Russians agreed, “Why should we celebrate some stupid Western holiday?”
A consequence of a global society is navigating through cultural markers that don’t make sense to us. You try to contact a business associate in another country and find their office is closed because of a national holiday you didn’t know existed. And cultural symbols in one country don’t make sense in another. No one in the Southern Hemisphere is dreaming of a white Christmas. It’s the beginning of summer!
But are these cultural differences such a bad thing?
My granddaughter has become enamored by a couple of children’s shows on Netflix. The first is the BBC series Sarah & Duck. It is the most English thing you will ever see.
When she finished watching its first two seasons, she turned her attention to the Canadian series Stella and Sam. By Canadian, I don’t mean it’s like most other children’s shows in the US with bright CGI graphics and loud background music, but the characters say “out” in a slightly different way. It is set in Manitoba with distinctively Canadian scenery, seasons, and characters. (And unlike Russia, Canadians have no problem with Halloween.)
I’m happy to show my granddaughter glimpses of life outside of California, especially because her world will become more globalized than it is today. Instant communication with people in different countries has only been possible in the past 25 years. She will grow up with that. She will grow up meeting people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, and religious and spiritual views. And she is experiencing all of these cultures getting remixed. In her world, people put sriracha on hamburgers, see Bollywood influences in their favorite movies, and get makeup tips from drag queens.
This is why bigotry and toxic nativism are unsustainable. They are the dying gasps of a paranoid and isolationist generation. You can’t defend racist sentiments when your friends are from different ethnicities. You can’t continue harassing and devaluing women when you see how it can destroy your career. You can’t ridicule people in other countries when you depend on them as coworkers and customers. Technology has ripped down the barriers that kept people isolated and prejudices hidden. There is no way to build them back up, and any new ones will be torn down just as easily.
Watching my granddaughter gives me hope for the future. And as writers, we can further this vision by writing the type of world we want her and her children to live in.
Happy Halloween, Russia.