wed 07 dec 2011 03:59:30 witte de withstraat
tribal rituals without lies?
it may be that tribal cohesion is good for human survival, and that tribal rituals somehow help that cohesion. and maybe that's why nations want to have rituals that belong 'only to us'.
as i've said a pile of times, nations are defined by national insecurity. when they're feeling invincible, they don't cry out to be saved from physical or cultural oblivion. today, countries like america and russia are fading in power, and are exhibiting stronger nationalistic behavior, just as tribes always do when under perceived threat.
it's those nations whose identity is weakening (or at least, changing) that cling strongest to their 'harmless' traditions. which brings us to holland.
holland is only recently completely post-colonial, and their population makeup is changing just as their endemic customs are waning. their economic health is now questionable too, they keep talking about needing to frugalize. this could be a trigger for that 'let us be us' response that manifests in otherwise meaningless rituals.
check out how terrifying the reactions get when people say zwarte piet is racisme. the prevailing attitude is that 'we're already overwhelmed with brown people and now they want us to give up our tradition because it offends them? where will they stop? we're the hollanders, after all!' and some of them go on about how the complainers meanwhile are of a certain nature and don't contribute anything to society. it is a pretty wide open exhibition of white supremacy, and yet nobody even thinks it's racism. that part still baffles me. one dutch columnist wrote that maybe they think it's not racism because they feel provoked. in other words, it's possible that the self-proclaimed 'real' hollanders feel it's only racism if you broadcast it without being called. that a response is not racist. 'he made me do it.'
when i saw one commenter say 'who's next, the kerstman? i was like hell yeah, don't you get it? what makes some traditions evil is the lying that surrounds them. the grandma who insists to the kid on the tram behind me that zwarte piet is black because of the soot in the chimneys. the english-version of the iamsterdam web site which says the same thing. i say yeah, don't get rid of just zwarte piet, get rid of sinterklaas and for fuck's sake please get rid of santa. and stop using fantasy creatures as a threat against your children. that's just wrong. speak only truth to your children. people get away with beating and sexually abusing children because the children are smaller and weaker. how can it be that we don't realize the same thing is happening when we lie to them? when we lie to a child, it's the same as beating a child. how can people still not see that? is it because they just don't want to see it? because it would be inconvenient for them?
if we really need tribes and tribal rituals, fine. but wouldn't they be just as cohesive if they were based on what is true? or, if they have to be mythical, couldn't we just acknowledge and live with them as mythical?
if you dress up as a tree for the school play, it's just as weird and funny if we don't have to believe you're really a tree. people in new york can marvel at the annual ritual of seeing a 200 foot inflatable bullwinkle floating above the avenue without believing it's the 'real' bullwinkle. come to think of it, we worship fertility goddesses every day without believing they have supernatural powers. in other words, the rituals that don't swindle someone else's mind are just as much fun.
if there is a reason people will fight for traditional beliefs that defy common sense, it can only be that they get power from the credulousness of others. in this respect, when the church makes you 'believe' in the miracle of the eucharist, that's no different from when mom makes the misbehaving child believe she is on the phone with santa claus, ready to cancel christmas if the kid doesn't shape up.
it works. but it's wrong. taking advantage of the gullibility of the innocent is an age old tactic, but it's disrespectful and it is not fair play. if we want tribal rituals to celebrate our togetherness, how bout let's find a way to do it without deceiving each other.