First, read this story: “Thorns” (found via Rochita Loenen-Ruiz). It is awesome.
There are several things I have not mined yet in my exploration of discrimination. As said before it will be a central issue in “How to sing my song”, story #4 in the “Decline of Europe” sequence.
I started to touch this subject in “Dreams” where a lesbian/bi white woman with a preference for black girls is made into a “racist” around age 10 because she has a crush on a black girl and for the first times notices that black people are very absent in almost any kind of commercial outings in her time.
There are several things touched in “Dreams”, including discrimination on financial status, looks and sexual preferences (including within “her own scene” where bi-sexuality is seen as “not making a choice” and “whoring for attention in an attempt to look interesting” among many things.)
This is an explorational article. As usual I corrected some parts after posting. I make the regular error of taking a shortcut too many.
This post is an attempt to get more insight in cultural ingrainment of stereotypes / isms and the thing that makes them sneaky like poison and very difficult to change. Below are some of the aspects I touch and try to touch.
- Sinterklaas — I use the Dutch festival of Sinterklaas as a springboard for its many different layers: of whom all non-Dutch people at a certain point think : “What the fuck with those black guys?” and some even will refer to as racist.
- Dissecting culturally ingrained (racist) stereotypes — How deep do they go? What happens when culture change? Why are they still there hundreds of years later?
- Who won? — Who won the war? What if Nazi-germany would have been successful? Would we be massively celebrate the cleanout and deaths of millions of inferiors at Easter 100 years from now? Wearing brown shirts, red bands around the arm? Eating white cake? I will not answer that question. I do go into the next one.
- Tradition: not always OK — That a culture changes, that we might forget what something was about 300 years later and that some many things are not as harsh does not white-wash the original ideas behind specific traditions and traditional thinking.
- Passing it through, justification, denial — There are several issues related to break specific traditions. You will meet justifications, denial and even anger. One reason is that attacking a specific idea is attacking more than just that idea.
- Simple, small things — Culturally ingrained stereotypes (and the associated beliefs), are usually about simple, small things.
- Invisible from the inside out — We can not see the wrongs in our own thoughts if nobody points them out to us. Like we do not know what our faces look like until we see ourself in a reflecting object (mirror).]
- To die for? — Some beliefs are so deeply ingrained and so tightly connected to justifications of violence that people are willing to kill and die for it.
- Discovery — There is nothing more boring for a character in a story that does not change it’s mind, does not grow and change its view on the world somehow. So how do you discover things do not add up?
Racism is usually defined as views, practices and actions reflecting the belief that humanity is divided into distinct biological groups called races and that members of a certain race share certain attributes which make that group as a whole less desirable, more desirable, inferior or superior.
In Holland (The Netherlands) it is the time of Sinterklaas. The image (obtained here) gives a nice impression of the festival. An old white guy on a white horse accompanies by black guys in funny suits.
Kids “love” the festival, and mostly for the following two reasons:
- Toys! – 5 December is “pakjesavond”. Sinterklaas comes over, drops presents in your shoe or in a big bag and hopefully fulfills (all) your wishes on the toys you wanted.
- Candy! – Following the 11th of November “Sintermaarten” (another holy man) more candy will be yours.
The rest (including the “Sinterklaas journal” and the TV shows and movies and TV series) is mostly additional to build up the story and then tension and excitement.
Sinterklaas has several possible backgrounds, including “Saint Nicolas” who gave half his cape to a beggar-child. According to the Wikipedia article about Sinterklaas, the black helpers were originally (based on) Morisco’s or converted Muslims.
The question is: how racist is Sinterklaas? It is at least estranging. The modern-time Zwarte Pieten are depicted as idiots who fuck up almost everything. Sinterklaas is either potrayed as the old and wise man or the old wise man who is losing it a bit as well. Their accent is an imitation of Dutch in the way Dutch people think it is spoken by black people who are pretending to be Zwarte Piet. (Most Dutch people who do this have no clue how non-Dutch pronounce their language and simply make something up.)
Most (white) people playing that role are your average-Joe middle class family people. My mother was a Zwarte Piet. If and when you address the adults on their depictment of Zwarte Piet, in general they will look at you dumbfounded. This is how it has been done for decades! In what way would it be anything else but adults and kids having fun? How can this ever be racist?
Modern time Zwarte Piet has lost its immediate connection to its apparent origins (a devil/demon, the Moors, the Morisco’s, the converted Muslim “helpers”, see also this article).
Adults enacting the Zwarte Pieten do not consider themselves “blacks” or “Moors” or “Africans”. In most cases they simply dress up funny and find that one moment each year in which they can let go of all constraints and act funny in any possible way — as long as it does not scare the kids or becomes insulting.
Is it an attempt to depict a certain group of people as more or less than others? Not intentional.
Culturally ingrained racist stereotypes
Zwarte Piet could be seen as a culturally ingrained racist stereotype. While it is not intended to be now, it reflects many aspects which were connected to a specific group of people and a specific vision on these people.
Zwarte Piet can be seen as a very racist stereotype. Here is how:
- He is a white guy painted black and wears weird / funny clothing
- He acts weird / funny / dumb
- He talks weird / with a weird accent
- He is a servant of Sinterklaas
The tradition of Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet can — apart from that — also be seen as very sexist.
The Zwarte Pieten used to be guys only. Like with the Smurfs, there were no female Zwarte Pieten until we invented them recently.
The thing is, Dutch culture kind of ignores the origins of Zwarte Piet. Through the decades, Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet have become part of that Dutch culture. “Sinterklas without Zwarte Piet is no Sinterklaas”.
The story of Zwarte Piet is kind of weird. It used an — at that time commonly “innocent” — concept to create something that was a simplified image of black people at that time: “black people are weird / funny / servants”.
One version I heard of the current (politically more correct) Zwarte piet is:
- Magical – Zwarte Piet is magical because he can do stuff normal people cannot. Like delivering countless presents to all children
- Chimney – Black because he has to go through the chimney
- Spain – All other questions of “why is he dressed like that” is “because he is from Spain”.
Here is the sinister part of this.
We can call something a tradition while overlooking the historic backgrounds. Why not simply admit that Zwarte Piet is based on a racial stereotype? Why not simply admit that we overlooked this aspect for a very long time and did not really make an effort to address that issue?
Instead we are continuing this “tradition” mindlessly without thinking what it means. Instead, we get angry when someone from outside calls us out on this. I quote:
I was appalled by the reactions by some of his (white) Dutch Facebook friends; some of them read: “There are far worse things happening in the world; stop being so pathetic!” “Are we creating useless discussions about weather ‘negerzoenen’ are politically correct? We won’t moan about ‘blanke vla’ either!” “It’s a children’s holiday and has nothing to do with racism, racism is about hate; we love Pete, stop complaining about this now”. Very dismissive, defensive, arrogant replies that I sense across the board. I feel a lot of anger and frustration amongst the Dutch, also on the current situation. We want to come across as liberal and open minded by claiming to be a tolerant nation, but the Netherlands still has a long way to go, not only regarding the Black Pete issue, but also in terms of racial discrimination, and discrimination based on religion. (I’m a white Dutch woman who is married to a black British man, and has 3 mixed race children.)
This mix of hostile responses (“Mind your own business”) and doubt (“”How racist is Zwarte Piet?”) is something I have seen emerge in the past decade, where the festival of Sinterklaas itself is put into doubt and it was even suggested to make “Zwarte Piet” all the colors of the rainbow.
From this article:
“Zwarte Piet is a person who is happy, who is the assistant of St. Nicholas, the first person who has contact with children and speaks with children,” […]
Indeed, nowadays the Zwarte Pieten are friendly characters that are clever and mischievous, and adored by children. Yet in the original Sinterklaas story, the Zwarte Pieten were slaves. Gradually, the tale evolved and they became Sinterklaas’ helpers, but they were portrayed as being stupid and spoke broken Dutch with a Surinamese accent. They were also frightening figures: It was their job to punish misbehaved children by beating them.
A 19th-century creation
[…] The current story of Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet dates back to 1850, when Jan Schenkman, a schoolteacher from Amsterdam, published an illustrated children’s book that introduced many elements of the Sinterklaas story that caught on, including the Zwarte Pieten.
The book was quite popular among the bourgeois and there was a readiness to adopt the festival, Helsloot said. From there, it slowly evolved into the celebration that exists today.
It’s not uncommon for St. Nicholas figures to have a devilish companion – such a figure exists in both Austrian and Swiss traditions – but the Netherlands is the only place where he is imagined as a black man. It is difficult to say why this particular story emerged here, but Helsloot suggested that it could be tied to the Dutch abolishment of slavery in 1863.
“You can see that racism was stronger even after the abolishment of slavery,” Helsloot said. “Zwarte Piet was part of this general idea of foreign people, black people as frightening, and that people should be punished by frightening figures.”
Cultural blind spots
This week I read a beautiful exchange between a man and an elderly woman, written over a century ago. I found it here. The words speak for themselves as it regards a one-sided cultural blind spot. A snippet of the first part of the letter from the woman:
I now take my pen to write you a few lines, to let you know how well we all are. I am a cripple, but I am still able to get about. The rest of the family are all well. Cherry is as well as Common. I write you these lines to let you the situation we are in—partly in consequence of your running away and stealing Old Rock, our fine mare. Though we got the mare back, she was never worth much after you took her; and as I now stand in need of some funds, I have determined to sell you; and I have had an offer for you, but did not see fit to take it. If you will send me one thousand dollars and pay for the old mare, I will give up all claim I have to you.
Here is part of the reply.
Yours of the 20th of February is duly received, and I thank you for it. It is a long time since I heard from my poor old mother, and I am glad to know she is yet alive, and, as you say, “as well as common.”
You sold my brother and sister, ABE and ANN, and 12 acres of land, you say, because I ran away. Now you have the unutterable meanness to ask me to return and be your miserable chattel, or in lieu thereof send you $1000 to enable you to redeem the land, but not to redeem my poor brother and sister!
The old woman writes in the end of her letter:
I understand that you are a preacher. […] I would like to know if you read your Bible? If so can you tell what will become of the thief if he does not repent? and, if the the blind lead the blind, what will the consequence be? I deem it unnecessary to say much more at present. A word to the wise is sufficient. You know where the liar has his part. You know that we reared you as we reared our own children; that you was never abused, and that shortly before you ran away, when your master asked if you would like to be sold, you said you would not leave him to go with anybody.
It is interesting to see how she uses her morality and the bible to point out how wrong he is to run away as a slave and steal a horse returned later. Also how — due to his escape — property had to be sold, including some land and his brother and sister. “A word to the wise is sufficient. You know where the liar has his part.”
What she does not seem to understand is her own role in this. Apparently that same bible and that same belief has no trouble with a person like her, who treats people like property, sells their family and still think they owe you anything.
Hijacking culture – cultivating bigotry and beliefs
Back to Europe.
Europe itself is a continent not without a past and not without some very horrid people and some very sophisticated means of social engineering. That history includes more than bigotry and slavery.
The point is that culture gets hijacked over and over. Where we believe one thing a century ago, that same thing is then used and hijacked by many others in the years and decades that follow. One possible way to do this is by:
- Twisting existing ideas — For instance: some fats are good to: all fat is bad
- Fear, uncertainty, doubt and relief — For instance: “Cancer is everywhere. You certainly know a person with cancer in your close circles. Eat any food and you will get cancer. But eat our special food and you will not get cancer”.
- Cultivation of bigotry — In short: what better way to divide and succumb a population by making them hate, fear and betray each other?
The main question is: what do you believe? What can you believe? And what do you do with the strong belief patterns ingrained by society around you?
I lost a link. There is a decree given by the pope — I think around the time of the Crusades. It states that Christians should do anything to convert Muslims to Christianity. In case of failure and in case of being under siege by Muslims they are allowed to use any means and — simply put — enslave and/or kill man, women and children as long as they are not Christian.
Reality is bent in this way: “The idea of you being a Christian is more important than your value as a father, a mother or a human being. If you are a human of non-christian belief, people are allowed to murder you and we will not grieve your death or you becoming a slave.”
Apart from that.
It is very possible to act like a complete racist asshole to anyone not your skin color or religion or of your culture, while not being a racist, nor having the intentions to hurt that person.
But BECAUSE EVERYONE ELSE IS DOING IT, you do it as well. And because nobody makes you aware of the actual hurt you incline, you do not stop.
The historic damage to any culture with war and invasion in its past is huge. Some damage is really old. Some people still hate the French or the Germans for invading their country centuries ago. And instead of looking at the present, repeating these old and stale facts and because complaining and feeling sad and feeling right in their anger and frustration about some old facts is much more important than getting over it.
The damage consists of countless ideas that hold no grip with reality. “I hate you because [fill in some bullshit]“.
The damage can go so far as convincing your children that things exist in which you yourself do not believe in, but “everyone else does” and so you transfer those ideas (see the old war example above) “because it is part of [fill in some other bullshit]“.
There is no culture without a past, without wars, without people killed, murdered, raped, without cultural history being wiped out and murdered as well. There is no culture without deep wounds of such a past and the warped ideas that come from such a past.
Warped ideas that make any hate-crime possible and even justifiable, like: “you were asking for it because [fill in a bullshit reason]“.
The damage is even deeper. When you are murdered and raped and mutilated and abused long enough, you start to believe what the aggressor tells you: that you are bad, that you deserve it, that you had it coming, that [whatever]. Even if parts of you resist, other parts believe or want to believe, how twisted that might be.
And so you start defending the ideas that hurt you, that maim you. You start defend the one that inflicts that pain to you. You start to think that anyone who does not behave like that must be weak or inferior or crazy or a combination.
Damage is no excuse
However and whatever damage is done is not an excuse to be an asshole, bigot or defend principles and ideas that are hurtful for other people. Sure I do not see the harm in beating you to pulp. First of all it does not affect me. Second: “my father did it to me as well”.
“It has always been this way is not an excuse not to reflect and look at things from the eyes of an outsider and say: “what if?” “What if he/she has a point here?”
Instead damage applied by others can become part of a culture to be repeated and integrated by that society. To beat someone up to make him or her listen is no longer abnormal. To apply slow torture can be seen as a successful and recommended way to get what you want. Murder can become a legit way to get rid of criminals and people you do not like.
It can become part of a culture to make entire groups of people feel bad about themselves because they do not [fill in some no-relevant action] while “we” do instead.
Include horrid actions against fellow humans, from general humiliation to physical harm and even rape.
The cultural ingrainment of certain acts and beliefs that would horrify an outsider can become a part of the cultural belief and can become a completely justified set of actions. These values can change as well.
Cat burning – an example of change
We tend to believe that it was OK to beat cats to death by putting them in a sack and hit that sack with a heavy stick, or set that cat on fire. A translation from Dutch on cat burning:
Catburning was one of the variants of “katknuppelen” where one or more cats (in some cases a fox) would be put in a barrel or bag after which this would be hoisted and let down above a fire. The people would watch laughing while the cats wrestled and screamed in agony of death while they were burnt to death. When the cats were incinerated, people would bring sintels home because they thought it would bring luck. The best documented events stem from France and the Portugese Campia. There are events known from Paris ewhere the kings would personally start the fire.
Now why would we stand there laughing — maybe only two centuries ago — while most people would feel disgusted about that now?
Apparently something changed in our culture. One change is the appreciation of cats as domestic animals. Another is the idea that cats (and other animals) also feel and also have a certain amount of sentience. We even tend to attribute human qualities to them.
Lying to children
Here is the weird part of Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet: we lie to our children and create a bullshit-reality “for fun”.
We know it is a lie. We probably suspect it is not really appropriate to use racist stereotypes. We pretend to be forebearers of the free mind. Still we are insulted when someone tells us this bullshit is insulting for some people, as it represents racist stereotypes.
The process of Sinterklaas is not done with malice in mind. It is done with the idea that the experience of Sinterklaas is fun! That believing in Sinterklaas is an important part of growing up! Underneath this “innocent” festival lie several wrongs and a very creepy process.
- We abuse the trust of children — Children believe whatever you tell them, if the lie is consistent enough. This can be innocent stuff like a joke to very serious stuff that can fuck a person really up.
- We make them believe something that does not exist — And this is very structural. Kids who get past the moment of Sinterklaas are explicitly told “not to tell the younger kids”.
- We punish the ones who do not join this “game” — In brief: “how dare you pop the bubble” . When you do (also as a parent) you can expect some really angry responses from the parents around you as you potentially “ruined the party” for the other kids.
- We keep something alive that is appalling — We use all kinds of excuses to justify a lie and a “tradition” that has no real historical value anymore, except that it is “Dutch” and “something we always done this way”.
Haha – fooled you!
The magic of Sinterklaas is broken when the parents finally say: “Haha, Sinterklaas actually does not really exist.” This usually happens when the child starts to doubt and starts to suffer from that doubt. “Does Sinterklaas really exist?” “But how does it work?” (Imagine a pained frown on the face and at least one to two days of crying if the kid really believed and is very sensitive). (I think I did not really give a fuck about it. I kind of figured it out.)
Imagine this Sinterklaas thing happened for Nazism (“Hitler was actually a crazy psychopath. We fooled you. Racism and Nazism is actually really stupid and will destroy the country. Hahahaha.”) Or religion (“Our holy book is actually a random hodgepotch of stories cobbled together. We fooled you to believe that God is like this and you could find him there. But God is not at all like that. Religion is really stupid. Hahahaha!”).
But what is real?
The problem is: outside something clearly fabricated and with a certain end-date like Sinterklaas it is really hard to tell what is “real” or not. We believe what we think is from sources we think are reliable (talked about that in my previous post).
If that source has “authority” and enough backup then probably the “facts” given are the facts as are. Why would that person lie to us? Right?
“It is not as bad as you think.”
To be clear/a disclaimer: the Golden Dawn is in no way associated to Zwarte Piet and Sinterklaas. From National Post:
ATHENS — Arm raised in a Nazi-style salute, the leader of Greece’s fastest-rising political party surveyed hundreds of young men in black T-shirts as they exploded into cheers. Their battle cry reverberated through the night: Blood! Honour! Golden Dawn!
“We may sometimes raise our hand this way, but these hands are clean, not dirty. They haven’t stolen,” shouted Nikolaos Mihaloliakos as he stood, floodlit, in front of about 2,000 diehard party followers filling an open-air amphitheatre at Goudi park, a former military camp near Athens.
“We were dozens, then a few hundred. Now we’re thousands and it’s only the beginning,” cried the leader of Golden Dawn, a far-right party that is seeing its support soar amid Greece’s economic collapse. Last month’s rally revealed the party, which describes itself as nationalist and pledges to expel all illegal foreigners, has a new-found sense of triumph, even a swagger, that some find menacing.
Extreme right-wing thinking is one example of extreme hijacking and social engineering. For some reason some people believe the answer to all problems of Greece lies in violence and part of the problem is caused by people who have nothing to do with the wild abuse and fraud of the former government.
The sad thing is that many people in the Golden Dawn (probably) believe they are doing something good for the good of Greece and whatever.
Sinterklaas as base example: drawing it broader
Sinterklaas is just a very simple base-example. I want to look at three elements of the the mechanisms behind it. When you look at the responses quoted earlier, I see people:
- Justify — the “tradition”
- Dismiss — the critizism and different views (like: “it is wrong / recist / sexist”)
- Pass it through — The ideas can be very old. The stereotypes can portraying very old ideas, even though the origins have been white-washed
Let’s look at some parts of this.
Traditions have many sides. I think of three:
- (Cultural) Identity — A tradition is something that identifies you as part of a greater group: the tribe, your folks, your family, your village, whatever.
- A repetition of useless old shit — From another point of view, traditions are useless old shit. You do not need them, still you repeat them.
- Preserve proper communal values — Traditions help contain certain values (taking care of each other, being together, sharing) that work for a community.
The useless old shit part can be: “we hate everyone [fill in the group and the once maybe valid reason, which is really old]“.
The “proper communal values” can be stuff like: “when one of us gets ill, the others take care”. Traditions are like the long-term memory of a community. “Winter! We ice-skate, eat pea-soup, have fun together on the ice like they did in 1888!”
To keep things short: cultural identity is both important and completely irrelevant.
The important part is in “pride”. A city without a cultural identity is like an empty husk. People come, they sleep, they reproduce, they work, they buy stuff, the sell stuff, they might leave again. Without that identity the question: “what are you doing this for? What is the bigger picture” Is answered with a shrug. “Dunno?”
One aspect of cultural identity is like: “what binds us here? What makes us more than just a bunch of individuals living in the same place?
Meaning to randomness for the “good” and the “bad”
Where you are, where you went to, where you were and who is around you is all quite random. Cultural Identity helps bind the human solitons and steer them in a specific direction. That can be “good”, leading to science, exploration, inclusive behavior and peaceful co-existence with others or “bad” like war, destruction, hate-mongering and discrimination.
Could have been anything: made up
The “irrelevance” is that that identity is completely made-up. It is a construct that might have been something completely different if not “A” but “B” would have called the shots. There is no such thing as a hard-wired identity in the soil where the people within that identity grew up.
Cultural identity can be competitive but does not have to be. Cultural identity is like another version of “vision”. “What are we striving for? What do we want to achieve? What binds us?” All part of that same thing.
People are not their culture
Whoever you are and wherever someone comes from, they are not their culture. For instance: I am neither Dutch, nor Amsterdammer, even though I lived there and even though an important part of my mind is influenced by that culture.
I am foremost a person.
The problems and benefits of identification
To be written. It is late. Short: identification increases commitment and involvement. The problems start when I become an open vessel for any message my subject of identification has for me. In worst case scenarios you get things like mass-suicide cults where hundreds of people kill themselves for whatever stupid reason their leader gave them.
Passing it through
Passing ideas through is an important part of cultural ingrainment. The moment people stop passing ideas, those ideas start to die.
Attacking an idea / dismissal
I think the main reason why people tend to defend ideas within their culture — EVEN if they do not really support or believe in them (anymore) — is that by attacking their (culturally ingrained) belief, you do not attack them specifically, but the people and the things dear to them.
Sinterklaas is again a good example on that.
You tell people “Sinterklaas has racist elements” and they might nod as it is quite obvious now that the Netherlands is no longer predominantly white. Raise the “racist” bar a bit and you get responses like (see earlier quote): “It’s a children’s holiday and has nothing to do with racism, racism is about hate; we love Pete, stop complaining about this now”.
Like Sinterklaas, culture and certain cultural beliefs and traditions are like “friendly conspiracies”. We might not believe in them as “true” and they might even be insulting to others, but they are still part of our lives and our personal history. We do everything as parents and school teachers and the media to create the illusion for little children that Sinterklaas exists.
We do this mainly, I thingk, because they are linked to dear events from our pasts.
Example of such attack
When I write a blog post and in that post attack a specific idea that is part of my own culture, I also attack my sister, my brother, my parents and anyone else in my close circles who were part of that same conspiracy. I tell them basically: “you did something wrong and you continue to do- and distribute that wrong to others. This is unfair to the children. Apart from the fact that you continue to maintain a racist stereotype related to black people by your continued silent support to the existence of Zwarte Piet.”
Why dismissal is easier
It is very hard and very difficult to move passed the pain of that “insult” and the same and emerge on the other side and start with: “you might be right. I will consider” then read the history and say: “indeed, there are some clear racist stereotypes present”. And it is even harder to say: “I support you in your fight against these racist stereotypes”.
It is much easier to just dismiss the whole thing and get rid of it all together.
In the Sinterklaas issue, a lot of Dutch people will probably admit that it is maybe not the best way to celebrate a specific event: using stereotyped images and behaviors of non-existing black people. But when you press it, it becomes painful. Regardless of how civilized we think we are, it is also hard to let go of a nation-wide tradition that (regardless of its lack of real meaning) also has dear values.
The more subtle and invisible aspect of cultural heritage
Apart from the clearly visible parts, there is also the hidden cultural heritage. The damage done generations back and still living in behavioral patterns imitated and copied from generation to generation.
It is the kind of stuff we do, but do not understand. We are reminded of but brush off as an irrelevant remark not related to our specific behavior. Anyone is doing it. So what is wrong with it?
- Fear/intimidation — Why do we fall back to fear and itimiation to teach people things?
- Punishment — Why do we think people will behave better when we punish them?
- Crime — Why do we think that punishment is the best instrument to abolish crime?
- Lack of social support — Is it really the environment that makes people more isolated and to themselves?
- Defending bullshit — Why do we defend bullshit ideas instead of assuming all ideas are bullshit to begin with?
- Defending people who sell bullshit — Why do we defend people who sell bullshit? Even when we know they are lying, cheating, fraudulant? Is the alternative really that more bad?
There is a lot to investigate here and this goes far beyond the scope of this blog post. The short version: if we would be from a completely different culture (at least) would we take the things for granted we so easily take for granted now?
Because it is culture and tradition does not make it “true” or right
We abolished cat burning. Right now, hearing the screams of agony of a cat in a sack burnt above a fire will not lead to cheers of joy and exitement.
Still, it was tradition only a few centuries ago. And apparently people still pull apart eels and the neck of geese as a part of the celebration of old school fun in certain parts of the Netherlands.
To hold on to tradition is good in some senses. As written before, tradition is part of the identity of a group of people. It is a long term memory and the repetition of stuff that was found relevant in the past. As written before, both tradition and cultural identity (which are not necessarily the same) are important. Without it, a country, a city and a place is like an empty shell.
But (as stated before in a different way as well) because everyone is doing it, does not make it right or “true”.