Piss Off: Greek Life and the Fraternal Disorder of SantaCon [OP-ED]

Posted on: December 3rd, 2014 at 9:23 am by
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Once a year, a crimson tide washes over New York City. Rudolph runs for cover, while a petrified Tiny Tim Cratchit cowers in the corner. When SantaCon comes to town, it arrives on a tsunami of frat bros and sorority gals in matching his and her polyester Santa suits ready to indulge in a massive binge-drinking puke-fest.

This less-than-jolly annual pub crawl reduces the city to an out-of-control fraternity party with mobs of wild, boozed-up twenty-somethings invading our neighborhoods and trashing our spaces. SantaCon is the drunken expression of self entitlement when visiting crowds drink recklessly while wreaking havoc on the invaded community— destroying what is not theirs, leaving locals to clean up the mess.

SantaCon, with origins in subversive street theater decrying commercialism, is now essentially the SantaCon brotherhood of ΣΦE, ΦKT, ΠKΦ and TKE. Social/political commentary has been definitively abandoned for toxic levels of binge drinking and social dysfunction so endemic of much of fraternity culture.

The popularity of SantaCon directly corresponds to the rise of the stereotypical fraternity ethos that has swelled beyond college campuses into many neighborhoods. No longer isolated to the Upper East Side, Murray Hill or Wall Street, the frat-pack way is de rigueur of current area nightlife and socializing. These days, New York City, on any given night, pays homage to Animal House’s quintessential frat bro, Bluto. John Belushi’s iconic character, was the embodiment of excess and antisocial behavior, setting the stage for today’s Greeks.

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Outside The 13th Step, December 2013

Self-governed by 21-year-olds, fraternities have become incubators of human and cultural dysfunction characterized by dangerous binge-drinking, sadistic and too often deadly hazing rituals, violently destructive behavior, misogyny and predatory aggression. Transposed to an urban environment, the overpowering cultural norms of fraternity life contribute to the marginalization of the urban poor, local residents, the entire Bohemian class (artists, writers, dancers, musicians), communities of color, social outliers, and women. This sense of entitlement inculcated prior to graduation is predicated upon the the exclusion of others and the promotion of one’s own clan via channels of inbred privilege, knee-jerk power and money. A once dynamic, multifaceted, urban environment simply collapses into a bland, static mediocrity.

With the Lower Manhattan landscape transformed into “frat row,” SantaCon became the culmination of an annual, soul-crushing hazing of the Lower East Side and East Village. Much like fraternities, the event represents some of the worst elements of contemporary American culture. The spring-break way of life has us swimming in a sea of banality, while drowning our individuality, creativity and independent thought.

On this mind-numbing day, as you know, the masses go-a-drinking. Tens of thousands of Santas along with Christmas cohorts go dashing through the snow to drink savage amounts of beer, vomit profusely and keep on going, often acting in ways that are at best loud and vulgar and at worst violent and destructive.

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Morning strut through Hell Square, December 2012

In a short few years, SantaCon has become the poster child for the transformation of our city into a homogeneous, drunk suburban wasteland. The propagation of mainstream frat culture has eclipsed many of New York’s subcultures. Under the pressure of homogenized taste, dive bars have adapted to become cheesy sports bars while restaurants have become open dance floors playing Top 40 hits. This dumbed-down party culture is devoid of the very creative element which has been the earmark of NYC for a 100 years!

The invention, individuality, cross-cultural pollination and artistry that for many years characterized New York’s underground nightlife (spawning new musical genres and new forms of dance and expression) has simply vanished.

While our communities have been co-opted by outside revelers claiming it as both their playground and trash dump, New York nightlife has become a never-ending sporting event coalesced around epidemic levels of drinking. This environment encourages people to act in ways that are decidedly inhuman.

Completely lacking sense or reason and devoid of any self control, SantaCon participants drink idiotic amounts of booze before, during, and after the event’s official end. In frat boy parlance, SantaConners “crush it,” guzzling 10 Bud Lights or slamming 5 shots in under two minutes, puking it up and then “crushing it” some more.

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On Avenue A, December 2011

Despite “Santa’s” PR pleas for SantaConners not to mess with New York and drink responsibly, the organizers know full well that misbehavior and law breaking are inseparable from the event. Like fraternities hiding behind their Greek letters, SantaCon is cloaked in anonymity, flouting the law and absolving itself of any direct responsibility.

SantaCon is tens of thousands of red empty-suits engaged in dumbed-down self-indulgence, abusive intoxicated nihilism and destructive behavior. And we don’t want it in the Lower East Side or East Village.

There are and have been so many varied ways to festively bring people together. SantaCon is definitely not one of them.

-Written by Diem Boyd, Founder of the LES Dwellers

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