Those racist cheese-lovers

Lokia Spiritor
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Re: Those racist cheese-lovers

Postby Lokia Spiritor » Wed Oct 23, 2013 4:56 pm

Don't worry, if the issue becomes too complicated, the UN will use the time honored strategy of calling in America.
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Architeuthis
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Re: Those racist cheese-lovers

Postby Architeuthis » Wed Oct 23, 2013 6:20 pm

The Dutch have some damn good cheese though. Smoked Gouda FTW.
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Glaucon
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Re: Those racist cheese-lovers

Postby Glaucon » Wed Oct 23, 2013 7:04 pm

@ Dren: You are right. This kind of folklore is really interesting.

The totally opposing views in the two articles you listed also showcase how different approaches can be.

I have to say, though... the second article, while pretty interesting, has rather glaring weaknesses:

1. While it may be true that there are some obvious similarities between the Norse Odin and St. Nicholas (=Santa), the very fact of an existing resemblance between one bit of folklore from one place and another bit from another doesn't that there is an actual relation between the two. Just as two animals might use the same 'tricks' to solve some evolutionary puzzle separately, and so might be assumed to be close in terms of evolutionary kinship, while, if fact, they are not, the same can be true with culture. The author doesn't show how Odin might have emigrated to the low countries. There is no proof that there was much cultural 'contamination' there in the time that the Sint Nicholas folklore seems to have been born (by that time, the old Norse regions had been Christianized for centuries). Maybe there was a sort of cultural symbiosis, but it is hard to tell.

It is rather typical of art-historians and such to feel that it is enough to simply point to some cultural similarity and to assume that this proves an actual significant relationship between the two things. But to a slightly more serious historian, it isn't. (Yes, I am a snob about that sort of thing. :thumbup: ).

2. The story about how St. Nicholas was turned into Santa in the USA seems to be very inaccurate. Sure, in a way, Santa was reinvented by Coca Cola in the 1930s. But the sledge, the reindeer, the elves, etc. had already been written about before that in connection to Claus a long time before that. And there was a UK version of Claus as well. So it is unlikely that Coca Cola invented these elements out of the blue. Santa clearly had evolved away from Sint Nicholas into something resembling the modern version much more closely already. And when even the English wiki-page mentions sources for that, the author of that article probably didn't do her research.

And the other article...? Well, it seems to be a more coherent argument. It appeared to make sense to me (I remembered the first painting used as illustration, for example). Clearly, there are obvious resemblances between these 'black pages/slaves' (which you see in quite a few paintings from the 17th, 18th and 19th century, though they are usually not children). Are these always children? I don't think so. The 'Piet' from that dutch book by Jan Schenkman was clearly an adult. That part of the argument seems to have been included mostly to shock the readers.

The 'crux' of the argument would seem to revolve around this 19th century dutch writer Jan Schenkman. Was his book really the only thing that introduced the servant of 'Sinterklaas', the 'Black Piet'? If he did invent that part without any reference to existing folklore, then it seems that it is pretty clear that this 'Piet' was supposed to be of african descent, and that he was unrelated to the black devils of Austria, the ash-faced chimney-sweeps from other places or Odin's black-painted warriors. The outfits of the 'Piet' did resemble that of these 'black pages'. But was the author really directly inspired by those paintings? The outfit also resembles that of 'clowns' in general. Of the 'Harlequin' figure, somewhat, as well. The theory is likely, but far from certain.

Still, it does seem an odd coincidence that this Jan Schenkman would 'invent' a black servant for the dutch Santa, while elsewhere in Europe, we find traditions that also ascribe black (but not african-black) servants to Saint Nicholas.

Settle the question and win the Gorums Santa Claus Nobel prize for historical research!
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Glaucon
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Re: Those racist cheese-lovers

Postby Glaucon » Wed Oct 23, 2013 7:23 pm

Melchior Wardell wrote:The idea of having this huge discussion about something that is purely folklore while there are problems in this world that are so much more important. :fryingpan:


I suppose that people in every country feel a need to fight 'culture wars'. The USA has stuff like 'the war on Christmas'. Brits have lots of this stuff (you might call the endless debate about fox-hunting an example). Lots of countries have these 'issues' that seem purely symbolic in nature.

Maybe this stuff is silly. But I am not entirely sure it is. People do feel strongly about it. It does matter, to them. I once thought that gays fighting for gay marriage was silly too. I used to think that, in a modern society, marriage was kind of a meaningless symbol anyway, with so many people getting divorced. Surely, as long as gays could get all of the same legal rights etc. as married couples, there would be no need for them to get 'married' as well? Rationally, it should not make a difference. Or so I thought. What I didn't understand was that being officially 'married' or not really did matter to many, many people. And something 'mattering' a lot to people, whether a majority or a minority is enough to make it important.

Clearly, there are some people in Belgium and the Netherlands to whom the Black Piet thing does matter. People against it. And people for it. The UN butting in seems totally stupid. But I think that a significant minority of black people living in these countries not liking the 'Black Pieten'-part of this tradition should make the cheese-lovers over there think again about whether they really cannot do without this part of their tradition. Because it is pretty clear that it has some obvious racist elements.

:hiding:
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Anarch Allegiere
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Re: Those racist cheese-lovers

Postby Anarch Allegiere » Wed Oct 23, 2013 7:27 pm

Glaucon wrote:- Rationally, it should not make a difference. Or so I thought. What I didn't understand was that being officially 'married' or not really did matter to many, many people. And something 'mattering' a lot to people, whether a majority or a minority is enough to make it important.


I think for many the getting married part is mostly about the legal and financial benefits. Because that is the real sweet deal about getting married. Having to pay a lot less taxes and getting much higher wages, subsidiaries and loans because you're married... is usually a -huge- deal to many people.

Just this as off-topic side-note.

As for the people in Belgium and the Netherlands who are against 'Black Pete' ... They must be a very tiny very neglectable minority.
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Glaucon
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Re: Those racist cheese-lovers

Postby Glaucon » Wed Oct 23, 2013 7:31 pm

Off topic:

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I think that most countries that introduced gay marriage recently already HAD alternative 'partner contracts' that offered the same legal and financial benefits. So, I don't think that is it, really.
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Anarch Allegiere
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Re: Those racist cheese-lovers

Postby Anarch Allegiere » Wed Oct 23, 2013 7:36 pm

Glaucon wrote:Off topic:

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I think that most countries that introduced gay marriage recently already HAD alternative 'partner contracts' that offered the same legal and financial benefits. So, I don't think that is it, really.


Not sure how it is in other countries, but in Belgium at least the partner contracts don't give the same financial benifits as actually being married.
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Re: Those racist cheese-lovers

Postby Dren Bernard » Wed Oct 23, 2013 7:39 pm

I think the archaic symbolism of a fatherly figure that is assisted by a team of co-workers who enable him to be all knowing, is interesting. He sits in moral judgement over your behaviour; If good there is a reward, if bad you are "processed" by his assistants.

Perhaps he was quite Gorean?
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Glaucon
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Re: Those racist cheese-lovers

Postby Glaucon » Wed Oct 23, 2013 7:45 pm

@ Anarch:
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Ah, yes, Belgium. Mostly catholic, right? ;)

I think that is true in some other countries as well (like the USA, for example). But not true in other places (except for some things, like adopting children from foreign countries, which is going to be problematic as long as part of the world won't recognize gay couples as suitable adoption-parents anyway). And yet, in those places, gay couples were really happy about being able to marry officially, still.
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Glaucon
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Re: Those racist cheese-lovers

Postby Glaucon » Wed Oct 23, 2013 7:50 pm

Dren Bernard wrote:I think the archaic symbolism of a fatherly figure that is assisted by a team of co-workers who enable him to be all knowing, is interesting. He sits in moral judgement over your behaviour; If good there is a reward, if bad you are "processed" by his assistants.

Perhaps he was quite Gorean?


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