Thursday, August 31, 2017


Some ideas are so stupid that one does best to ignore them. Among them the newly minted sin of cultural appropriation.  Apparently, campus radicals are up in arms over the notion that a member of the hegemonic white culture might rent, borrow or steal some artefact of an apparently less successful culture.

Appropriation is theft. And theft is bad. Bari Weiss takes the anti-appropriationists to task:

The logic of those casting the stones goes something like this: Stealing is bad. It’s especially terrible when those doing the stealing are “rich” — as in, they come from a dominant racial, religious, cultural or ethnic group — and those they are stealing from are “poor.”

Few of us doubt that stealing is wrong, especially from the poor. But the accusation of “cultural appropriation” is overwhelmingly being used as an objection to syncretism — the mixing of different thoughts, religions, cultures and ethnicities that often ends up creating entirely new ones. In other words: the most natural process in a melting-pot country like ours.

This also implies that anyone who does not belong to the white ruling class is bitterly clinging to their culture. That is, they are hanging on to the culture of their ancestors. This will inoculate them against the tendency to adopt aspects of the ruling culture. Does this sound like ancestor worship to you? It sounds like it to me.

Of course, the point of the exercise is not to prevent white people from eating pasta and pizza. The real point is to rationalize and to justify a failure to assimilate, a failure to adopt Anglo-Saxon culture. 

Weiss reminds us that we have always stolen from other cultures. When we see something that works better we adopt it. She might have added—but she didn’t—that when China set about trying to feed its people in the late 1970s, it rejected the Communism that it had previously appropriated from continental Europe and replaced it with the free enterprise system that it appropriated from the Anglosphere. And, of course, the Chinese adopted it to to China. That is, they introduced free enterprise without liberal democracy. Are we to consider that a crime? How stupid can you get?

Weiss concludes:

The point is that everything great and iconic about this country comes when seemingly disparate parts are blended in revelatory ways. That merging simply doesn’t happen in places where people are separated by race and ethnicity and class. And it’s not only what makes American culture so rich, but it is also a big part of the reason America is so successful. When we see a good idea, we steal it; when we have a good idea, the rest of the world is welcome to it as well.

These days our mongrel culture is at risk of being erased by an increasingly strident left, which is careering us toward a wan existence in which we are all forced to remain in the ethnic and racial lanes assigned to us by accident of our birth. Hoop earrings are verboten, as are certain kinds of button-down shirtsYoga is dangerous. So are burritos and eyeliner.


James said...

The Left is the greatest "appropriator" in existence. Just think Senator Warren or the people who are black because they "feel" black. The Left has become a public parody of itself. It always has been, but now it's really out there for everyone to see.

Jack Fisher said...

As a jazz drummer I have a hard time figuring out whose culture I'm appropriating. Should I sound like Joe Morello or Art Blakey?

Sam L. said...

Also, there are those who appropriate someone else's GENDER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1111111!!
Or race (h/t, Rachel Dolezal)!!!!!!!!!!!111111!!!!!

James said...

How about Krupa? In a related thought I'd like to see some SWJ accuse Ginger Baker of cultural appropriation to his face.

Jack Fisher said...

They'd get beaten flat with 17 stroke rolls.

James said...

Not to mention the black socks.