COMMENT:

The couple whose acquisition of the first Kiwibuild home was tainted by a sustained social media assault deserve a break. With the high-profile public ceremonies surrounding the event, they were as much victims of the Government's need for propaganda points as of the Opposition's poor taste.

Up until this week and Karel Sroubek, the Government hadn't needed much in the way of propaganda help anyway, what with the National Party fast running out of feet in which to shoot itself.

The issue that got lost in the criticism of what appeared to be a financially secure couple being helped into a home by the taxpayer is that it is a universal truth that no one ever turns down money from the government — whether it's a subsidy for business development, tax breaks for people who want to own horses, research funding, travel and entertainment expenses as tax deductions or unneeded superannuation. So why should a young couple needing a home look a gift house in the mouth?

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They met the criteria for Kiwibuild. If anyone deserves a social media mauling, it's the people who set those criteria.

As I was buying Halloween treats and wondering whether I was actually obligated to give them all to children or could operate a one-for-them one-for-me system, I marvelled at how many valuable lessons children learn from this custom:

Globalisation and American imperialism — many dislike Halloween as an imported American custom, but kids need to know sooner rather than later whose culture dominates the world.

Consumerism — where once the poppets made do with a sheet that had holes cut in it for eyes for dressing up, now there are any number of ways money can be spent on costumes and decorations, teaching the essential lesson that something is only fun if it costs a lot.

Neighbours — for many children in our insular communities this will be the first they learn of the fact that the houses around them contain actual human beings.

Disappointment — there will never be enough lollies in your bag to make you happy.

Snowflakism — Halloween is organised so as not to be scary. In reality, it's good for kids to learn how to handle frights.

As you might have intuited I'm not thoroughly into the philosophy and trappings of Halloween, but that didn't prevent me stocking up. You'd have to be17 kinds of putz to refuse confectionery or even, as some do, take the opportunity to deliver a lecture on the principles of modern economics and society.

So I filled up a bowl with Snickers and Mars bars and Moros and Picnics and waited.

And waited. It was like one of those tragic stories about kids who give birthday parties to which no one shows up.

And I know others who had the same experience.

It seems Halloween is being used to teach another lesson: People are dangerous. They'll poison your candy quick as look at you. Or worse

Parents are increasingly taking children on a circuit of pre-arranged destinations where the inhabitants are friends or family. Children no longer have to encounter people they don't know. They don't have to have it spelt out for them to realise that this is because people they don't know are dangerous.

Well, some might be. But we know kids suffer most harm of all varieties from people they know — even when it comes to being given poisoned candy. The only known case of this widespread fear actually occurring is that of Ronald O'Bryan, who used cyanide-laced sweeties to cover up the murder of his child Timothy on Halloween in 1974.

Scary stuff.