2020 the year of demonstrations
by Eduard Schaepman, on 3 Dec 2020
I don’t know about you, but I find it almost unreal that there is a December month this year. I’m not in the festive mood yet either, even though more and more houses are being brightened up with beautiful Christmas lights. The whole year is all about corona, everyone is talking about corona, there’s a mention of corona on every website you look, etc…. And then, all of a sudden, we’re going to celebrate St. Nicholas and Christmas. And yes, of course corona proof. I can’t hear or see the word anymore…
Even the arrival of St. Nicholas in Zwalk (great solution by the way) was strange: no masses of happy children, but empty docks… It was almost nice to hear that one thing didn’t change: the demonstrations against black pete continued. If there is one activity, we became good at, it is demonstrating. 2020 is not only about corona, it’s also about demonstrations. First and foremost: I think it’s great that everyone has an opinion, and I think everyone should be able to express it. Really. But let’s keep it a bit normal.
I sometimes wonder what the nomadic tribes would think when they hear about the protests in the Western world. Imagine speaking to the Asaro from Papua New Guinea about the demonstration against black pete. Adult men and women, who dress up once a year as pete with black smudges on his face through the coal from the chimney. For them, such a ‘constume party’ is the most normal thing in the world.
The Asaro wear white (perhaps also insulting?) masks made of clay to protect their village, and now as a tradition. Not because they want to imitate white people, but according to legend their ancestors scared away their enemies hundreds of years ago, when they came out of the river covered in white mud. Like many other tribes in the area, their ‘costume party’ is part of their culture, and to protest against it will be seen as an insult.
With us, we just gave in to the protesters, and black pete has almost disappeared by now. And that’s not a disaster in itself, in fact, if everyone feels more comfortable with that, let’s have a lot of grey petes walking around (by the way, it’s not my intention to offend someone with grey hair – you’re all great, by I don’t want to pick another color and insult anyone). But sometimes it seems like we’re listening to those who screams the loudest and ugliest, which is disturbing and is at the expense of Dutch culture.
The December month already brought a lot of drama because of the whole pete discussion, and this year it feels even more dramatic than ever. We are going to have a very strange St. Nicholas and Christmas, with a maximum of 3 guests (with our family of 5 we probably won’t go anywhere, but we will receive others at our house) and on New Year’s Eve we are going to puncture balloons instead of firing beautiful decorative fireworks. However, I still suspect that the trend of 2020 will be continued that evening, and people are going to demonstrate by lightning some fireworks…