Having reaped the success of my last two posts on this more than delicate subject, this could be the final instalment of a rather tedious trilogy. Why tedious, I hear you scream. The answer is quite simple – to coin a famous phrase, it’s much ado about nothing. But the news is that this time around, the “Zwarte Piet” who devotes his/her whole life serving the Sint, will have lost much of his/her melanin.
Hate me as much as you want to, but I persist and sign that this is a children’s party and nothing else. No racist or colonial strings attached. But how can that be otherwise when there are adults around? Well, the short answer to that is – it can.
It is that time of year again, when innocent children receive daily updates on what their favourite “Saint” is up to, in preparation of his arrival in a country that is as flat as a pancake.
This year is no different, and arguments, demonstrations and counter-revolutions are well into their planning phase. A secret plot to assassinate the “Sint” required the intervention of armed policemen in The Hague. Militants of the “Kick Out Zwarte Piet” movement were preparing their campaign when the premises were suddenly under attack from pro-Zwarte Piet hooligans and aficionados. The children heard nothing, of course, having brushed their teeth and gone to bed.
Even Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte found it necessary to intervene, insisting that the tradition must remain as a children’s party but must evolve with the times. Local councils will have the freedom of the shoe polish and colour their respective Zwarte Piets to their heart’s content. I wonder what colour the Sint’s faithful helpers will have in Geert Wilder’s neighbourhood.
The logic of it all is that the helpers should no longer be black racists, but white racists who have no concerns for global warming and climb down soot-laden chimneys that are still emanating greenhouse gases into the more than saturated atmosphere, courtesy of earth-destroying people who want to keep warm during the ever-warmer winters.
Sint Nikolas and his band of merry helpers will arrive from Spain with his steamboat, as they always do. This year, the northern town of Apeldoorn has the honour of welcoming the Sint, with the council having decided that the helpers would be covered in soot only, be devoid of curly hair, not suffer from swolen red lips, and certainly not be wearing awful golden ear-rings. Two locals actually took the local council to court, but the decision to ban the original Zwarte Piet from participating in the Sint’s arrival was upheld by a civil court in Arnhem.
Interestingly, the local council remains particularly silent on the matter, in a “you may think that, we couldn’t possibly comment,” sort of way.
As a local government we do not have the pretension of setting the norms for The Netherlands, concerning the physical appearance of Zwarte Piet or on how the Sinterklaas festivity should be organised in the future.
But all the adult arguments in the world will not change the fact tha thousands of little children are impatiently waiting for next week when, come Saturday, they will at last be able to put those polished plimsolls on the window-sill, offering a carrot to the Sint’s beautiful white horse, and wake up in the morning with a little something to start off the day.
It’s worth the fuss, don’t you think?