Tuesday, 28 June 2016

3 Lessons Brexit Could Have Learnt From Sinterklaas, Yes Sinterklaas!

It struck me today that the whole Brexit thing is rather like the whole Sinterklaas thing here in the Netherlands - and there are lessons the Brexit camp could have learnt from the Dutch. Bear with me: it's June and we're talking Sinterklaas so I know you're wondering where the hell this is going.....

Lesson 1. Outdated, Insulting and in Need of Change

For many a year now there has been a huge discussion about Sinterklaas's helpers and the fact that they are outdated, insulting and in need of change.

As it is with some of the EU institutions, those in the "Leave" camp have said, (and not many would disagree). Outdated, insulting and in need of change.

So you see, Brexit and Sinterklaas - same thing.

Did the Dutch throw Sinterklaas back to Spain and leave him there to rot? Did they stamp their feet and abandon the whole party, casting a bewildered Piet and his friends aside? Did they involve the whole world in their conundrum? No.

No, what they did, and are still doing, is shout a bit, argue amongst each other, and then let the NTR (Dutch television company who makes the Sinterklaasjournaal) gradually and subtly make changes that neither offended nor riled any particular side. The talking continues. Eventually everyone ends up happy without even realising it. Eventually.

Lesson 2. Not Logical for Modern Day Society

Many Dutch children have been screaming for years about the fact that most modern houses (i.e. the ones they live in) don't have chimneys so how were the Piets getting in to fill their shoes?

You see children are getting smarter, they are more informed than they once were, and they ask questions. They pose questions that parents can't answer, because no, none of it is logical. It's all based around an ideal, an ideal that isn't quite ideal. Sometimes it means parents have to lie to their children; it means they have to make shit up.

The situation is very much like the electorate of any EU nation. People are asking questions. Some of them are very intelligent questions, other questions not so much. People are getting much more information than they once did and social media allows that information to be spread easily. Lies, made up stuff and facts. The questions asked aren't necessarily met with the right answer. For example:

Q: Will that 350 million that we pay into the EU each week be paid to the NHS if we leave the EU?
A: Yes, we've even put it on a bus for you.

The question is based on misinformation, and the answer is an outright lie. Exactly the same as when our Dutch children ask:

Q: How does Piet get in our house if we don't have a chimney?
A1: Magic.
or A2: I don't know, I'm asleep when Piet comes into the house.
or A3: Piets have special keys that open all doors.

So what have the Dutch done to solve this chimney question? Did they ban shoe filling? Build chimneys on every home in the Netherlands? Abandon the whole Sinterklaas thing? Air their dirty laundry in public?

No, the answer is magic stones. Seriously, it's ingenious. Suddenly the Piets have magic stones to get into our homes. Methods change. Things evolve. The Dutch found an answer that fits today's problem. Children happy. Parents happy. The Piets are happy (those chimneys were a bit of a buggar to go down) and most of all Sinterklaas is happy. The Dutch now have a solution that fits with our modern day houses. They didn't knock the houses down.

Lesson 3. Who is it all for?

Ok, so there are lies told. There's an awful lot of stress involved around November and December whilst the children bounce around for weeks with excitement about the fact that Sinterklaas and his helpers are in the country and the older children hand over their surprise project to their parents out of frustration and reluctance. There is frantic shopping. Frantic planning. Lots of sugary snacks that are incredibly bad for you. There's a bit of arguing (see lesson 1) but we muddle through and then heave a sigh of relief when the man in red totters back to Spain on the 6th of December where he remains until the following November. 

It's not perfect. But wow, there are great things about it too. Seeing the pure excitement, joy and happiness on your child's face when they come down and see a present in their shoe. The sheer joy of watching your kid running out the house to look for a magic stone, or a special Sinterklaas coin. The culmination of all your hard work on 5 December and the most gezellig of all gezellig evenings.

We do it for our children. We do it so they can look back and cherish those memories, and pass those traditions and experiences on to their children one day.

We do it for our children. We are thinking about our children. And the generations to come.
You can make the connections yourself there I am sure.......

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