Cock Crow : Week 1

by Sam Watson

 

I often think that the night is more alive and more richly coloured than the day. ~Vincent Van Gogh

This article describes the transformation of the nighttime, from an environment of fear and anxiety, into an environment of activity and an atmosphere to be embraced.

Increased awareness of science broke down the traditional barriers to people appreciating the nighttime, as supernatural beliefs were discredited and the associations of nighttime with ghosts, daemons and spirits fell away to reason.

In today’s society, we do not even think twice about venturing out into public at night – it’s part of our culture. Going out for dinner, going out for drinks with friends, going to concerts and the like all contribute to our social fabric. From the early eighteenth century, artificial light has turned the nighttime into a playground of its own, and just as the original purveyors of adding light to the darkness opened up the nighttime’s wonders to members of all social classes, so too this is the case today.

However, while the nighttime is a playground for all, and an important part of the way we socialise in modern society, it is still associated with the more unsavoury elements of our society. We often hear news reports of our city’s nightlife being “out of control” and something about nighttime does indeed bring out certain characteristics in people. Just as in the 1700s in Europe and America, violence does seem to be more prevalent at night. Then, as now, the Government sought to step in and introduce new laws to try and curb nighttime violence and bad behaviour.

It is interesting to note the symbolism in the attempts of the Enlightenment era authorities attempts to cleanse the night of violence, by illuminating the streets. Light has many symbolic meanings. It connotes openness, knowledge, purity, and freedom. As Shakespeare wrote in The Merchant of Venice, “How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.” Here Shakespeare is equating light with goodness. Light is also considered to make the night safer. Each of these connotations carries across to the present day.

The other response implemented by governments past and present to curb nighttime violence has been an increased police presence. As the article says “all persons faced greater scrutiny at night”, this is clearly the case today as increased numbers of police have been directed towards Northbridge and Perth’s other night spots in an attempt to control the behaviour that the public and government considers is unacceptable. This is an interesting contrast to the use of light and the symbols light carries with it; whereas light carries a meaning of freedom, the increased police scrutiny carries a meaning of oppression.

Over time, the lines between day and night have become increasingly blurred. Most of the things you can do during the day, you can just as easily do at night. Whether it is because of a lack of fear of the unknowns of night, the changing social demographics, or increased openness and light, there is no doubt we have become a more nocturnal society.

 

Ekirch, A. R. (2005). At day’s close: Night in times past (pp. 324-339). New York: Norton and Company

 

Van Gogh, V. (Unknown). Brainy quote. Retrieved from http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/v/vincentvan106933.html

 

 

Shakespeare, W. (1605). The merchant of venice. . London, England:

 

 

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