A weekend in the city of Aalst, Belgium. Population, plus eighty-five thousand.
Lieve and I were here to witness the annual Aalst Carnival, a festival that has existed for some one-hundred years. An anything-goes-no-holds-barred spectacle whose moving caravan displays range from benign satire all the way to degeneracy. Giant fantastically created caricatured heads of Belgian politicians, religious figures and spectacular portrayals of topical subjects of all stripe, slowly wend their way through the city’s angular streets. This year’s event has made the international headlines and is embroiled in controversy over last year’s inclusion in the carnival of comedic portrayals of Hasidic Jews wearing their traditional costumes.
The city of Aalst was informed by the international UN subsidiary UNESCO, that funding for the event would be canceled if a promise to not include such figures was not forthcoming. The mayor of Aalst beat UNESCO to the punch by declaring that the organization could go ahead with their funding cancellation because Aalst had no intention what-so-ever of being a victim of censorship. Thus, an intriguing scenario was about to unfold before us and the tens of thousands of other spectators in attendance.
As if on cue from the mayor’s proclamation, several carnival participants displayed traditionally-garbed Hasidics cavorting and dancing on caravans while we observed scores of festival onlookers adorned with Hasidic costumes. Some went perhaps an unnecessary step further by wearing large hooked plastic noses, of the type often caricatured in anti-Jewish propaganda. The caricatures, which measured several meters in height and appeared to be constructed of plastic or rubber, were actually impressive works of original art. No doubt better than what is on display in many major museums, where post-modernist garbage has intellectuals, art critics but not the general public, hoodwinked. We spent almost seven hours watching one spectacularly colorful and animated caravan after another. We were lucky to have a table at an Irish Pub, where we watched it all unfold in relative comfort, though loud thumping and formless music, which seems to accompany these types of events, was blaring from inside the crowded interior.
We stayed at the very impressive Astrid Hotel in one of the better sections of Aalst on Saturday evening through Sunday morning. The hotel appeared to have been built in the late-19th century and had a beautiful foyer-check-in and entranceway. The breakfast buffet room was a delight to be in, with its exquisite woodworking and high ceiling. The buffet offerings were delicious and plentiful. The city of Aalst as a whole is quite another story. Large swaths of it consist of a drab uninspiring quilt of treeless streets, few of which are routed straight long enough to afford much depth-of-field, as most are truncated by dissecting shorter streets. This arrangement created a certain claustrophobic flatness. It rained on and off during our stay and I thought the heavy drizzle went well with the concrete and brick greyness of the place and suspected that any sunshine would be wasted here anyway. Sad clowns wear the fakest smiles. Sad but still impressive classical 19th-century buildings, in need of repair, were too often surrounded by an inferior architectural species. The latter of which proliferated and seemed to define the cityscape. While the city isn’t impressive by any stretch, the people we met were friendly and very helpful when we asked for directions. All who participated in and those who attended the event were jovial and convivial and were enjoying themselves to the max. We witnessed no hatred, violence nor drunkenness during our stay. Of course, that might’ve changed later in the evening, after we had left the city.
I suspect that Aalst is preoccupied with the Carnival to one degree or another the remaining three—hundred-sixty-three days of the year. Everywhere in Aalst garishly and amateurishly painted shop windows that depicted all manner of degeneracy and licentiousness announced the coming spectacle. Many were pornographic. I guess that if publications such as the esteemed Charlie Hebdo can get away with what they define as satirical humor, but which often are slander and defamation, so can the Aalst Carnival. Right, my anti-Christian-anti-white-goyim-defining-deviancy-down-brethren of the big media? Power-brokers, culture formers and propagandizers, all owned by the You-Know-Who’s?