Cultural Appropriation Is Sexy

 

Protest_Halloween-featIt’s difficult to imagine a more loathsome fad — or better exemplar of victim culture — than the current practice of crying “cultural appropriation” whenever a person identified with one culture uses ideas from another without approval. In the Washington Post, Cathy Young has an excellent piece cataloging some recent examples ranging from the controversy over “Kimono Wednesdays” at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts to various artists and musicians being forced to kowtow to twitter mobs for the crime of offending the easily offended. We’ve seen the phenomenon repeated at Yale and Claremont McKenna, where students who wore Mexican-themed costumes for Halloween were criticized not so much for being lazy and crass, but for using cultural ideas that were not their own “inauthentically.”

Offensive-Costumes-620x300But besides the practice’s spoil-sporting and petty totalitarianism, it’s also fantastically stupid. As with biology and technology, culture thrives when different ideas are allowed to recombine in novel ways, and declines or stagnates when it closes itself to new ideas or new combinations of old ones. After all, the only truly “authentic” cultures are all barbarous and primitive. Indeed, Matt Ridley has made a career of pointing out that sexual-style admixture is the best model for allowing distinct things — be they biological, technical, or cultural — to combine and work collaboratively, rather than compete directly with each other:

How does evolution do cumulative, combinatorial things? Well, it uses sexual reproduction. In an asexual species, if you get two different mutations in different creatures, a green one and a red one, then one has to be better than the other. One goes extinct for the other to survive. But if you have a sexual species, then it’s possible for an individual to inherit both mutations from different lineages. So what sex does is it enables the individual to draw upon the genetic innovations of the whole species. It’s not confined to its own lineage.

It should go without saying that this doesn’t always work out well. Not every hybrid is likely to succeed, nor should all be cheered on. Some cultural mixing gives strength to bad ideas, and others allow perfectly good ones to disappear (the unguided nature of the process being the source of its strengths and its weaknesses). And yes, horror of horrors, sometimes it allows blond college kids to wear serapes, sombreros, and mustaches in late October.

But if we’re going to thrive in a world where ideas compete — as indeed we must if we want to thrive at all — we need to encourage our culture to experiment with others just as we need to push our best ideas abroad to be spread out and integrated. That’s how new things are discovered and better ones are honed, provided the interactions aren’t forced. The alternative risks all the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of inbreeding.

Ironically, it’s not the “nativist” right-winger who’s philosophically opposed to cultural admixture; being opposed to immigration hardly denotes a lack of curiosity about what goes on elsewhere in the world, or how that might be integrated into what we have here. Instead, the real enemy of cultural interaction is the campus leftist who claims to celebrate all cultures, but demands they be fenced off from each other … lest they get ideas.

Published in Culture, Education, Entertainment
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  1. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    I, quite frankly, am tired of the LGBT community “appropriating” the sexual desires of others. As a man, I can state it’s hard enough to get an attractive woman to date, marry and have your children without some lesbian competition.

    Chasing skirts is male culture, not theirs!

    • #1
  2. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Women wearing pants = Cultural appropriation.

    • #2
  3. Aaron Miller Inactive
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    This Christmas, I will honor a Judean religion with a Roman ceremony and a German tree associated with a Greek saint and decorated with Chinese ornaments, after gorging on pies made of Mexican gourds and casseroles made with African vegetables, singing English carols, and watching a film about the progeny of Irish immigrants forced by unruly Canadian hounds to settle for Japanese duck.

    Ahh, America.

    • #3
  4. Kevin Creighton Contributor
    Kevin Creighton
    @KevinCreighton

    1. Oppressive cultures appropriate suppressed cultures, never the other way around.

    2. Nobody, in the history of everything, has ever appropriated Canadian culture.

    Ergo, Canadians have the most-dominant culture in the world. Case closed.

    • #4
  5. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    51e2hLMUENL._SX342_

    • #5
  6. Cantankerous Homebody Inactive
    Cantankerous Homebody
    @CantankerousHomebody

    I’m so triggered right now…. I….I…. I don’t even….

    • #6
  7. Aaron Miller Inactive
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Anything that encourages women to shake their booties is alright with me, Midge.

    That comment should keep the hippies away another month, don’t you think?

    • #7
  8. Richard Fulmer Inactive
    Richard Fulmer
    @RichardFulmer

    Given that Americans hail from all parts of the globe, what can “American culture” be other than a stew?

    • #8
  9. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    I await the rampant lawless destruction of California Fusion restaurants.

    • #9
  10. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Aaron Miller:Anything that encourages women to shake their booties is alright with me, Midge.

    All women?

    • #10
  11. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Kevin Creighton:1. Oppressive cultures appropriate suppressed cultures, never the other way around.

    2. Nobody, in the history of everything, has ever appropriated Canadian culture.

    Ergo, Canadians have the most-dominant culture in the world. Case closed.

    Now that our secret is out, I guess there’s no reason to keep our nukes under wraps. Unleash the Labradors of War!

    • #11
  12. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Misthiocracy:

    Aaron Miller:Anything that encourages women to shake their booties is alright with me, Midge.

    All women?

    #yesallwomen ;-)

    • #12
  13. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Aaron Miller: Anything that encourages women to shake their booties is alright with me, Midge.

    • #13
  14. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: Ironically, it’s not the “nativist” right-winger who’s philosophically opposed to cultural admixture; being opposed to immigration hardly denotes a lack of curiosity about what goes on elsewhere in the world…

    Perhaps, but it is opposed to one of the most effective avenues of cultural admixture and it betrays a lack of confidence in one’s own cultural fitness.

    • #14
  15. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Aaron Miller: Anything that encourages women to shake their booties is alright with me, Midge.

    “ROCK THE PARTY” – DJ Reach Re-edit (FOTC)

    I assume this illustrates the dangers of too little cultural appropriation?

    • #15
  16. lesserson Member
    lesserson
    @LesserSonofBarsham

    I was born at the wrong time. Merely indignantly citing my disgust at the cultural appropriation of Algebra and Physics could have saved me so many bad grades…

    • #16
  17. Aaron Miller Inactive
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    On a serious note, an Arizona state senator has shocked his fellow Navajo constituents by joining Republican imperialists.

    • #17
  18. La Tapada Member
    La Tapada
    @LaTapada

    Shame on you for culturally appropriating the word “kowtow.”

    • #18
  19. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    Are people of non-European descent appropriating culture when they drive automobiles, or tractors, or fly airplanes?  Or use the telephone or a computer?

    • #19
  20. Johnny Dubya Inactive
    Johnny Dubya
    @JohnnyDubya

    To expand on Randy’s thought, isn’t it interesting that Muslim supremacists, who favor a cultural return to the Islam of the Middle Ages, use cellphones and computers and social media?

    • #20
  21. Rightfromthestart Coolidge
    Rightfromthestart
    @Rightfromthestart

    ‘cultural appropriation” whenever a person identified with one culture uses ideas from another without approval.’

    And who exactly is authorized to give this ‘approval’ on behalf of the whole group?

    • #21
  22. jonsouth Inactive
    jonsouth
    @jonsouth

    By far the funniest thing about that ‘Kimono Wednesdays’ kerfuffle was watching those non-Japanese Asian girls getting all flustered defending Japanese culture. Because if they could hear what the average person in Japan says about other Asians even in casual conversation, their eyes would pop.

    • #22
  23. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    Rightfromthestart:‘cultural appropriation” whenever a person identified with one culture uses ideas from another without approval.’

    And who exactly is authorized to give this ‘approval’ on behalf of the whole group?

    Maybe we need a United Nations agency to sell permits.  You’re a Frenchman who wants to open a Mexican restaurant, you’re going to need a permit.  Want to open an Irish pub in Columbia?  You’ll have to make arrangements through your embassy.

    • #23
  24. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    Misthiocracy:I await the rampant lawless destruction of California Fusion restaurants.

    And lots of others.

    When I worked in Orange County, California, across the street from my office was the “hamburger restaurant” owned by the Cambodian family that also served Mexican dishes and teriyaki plates. And every lunch (including the Mexican and teriyaki plates) came with a pickle spear – somewhere these Cambodians had picked up the idea that everyone in America wanted a pickle spear with their lunch.

    When our son moved to San Antonio, Texas, one of his favorite discoveries was the kielbasa taco that was a product of the meeting of the Mexicans and the Germans who came to farm the area in the middle of the 19th Century.

    • #24
  25. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    There was recently a yoga thread here on Ricochet. I won’t go into all the details, but most of the physical parts of yoga that has come to the West originally came from…the West: Britain, Denmark, Sweden, the US, and a little bit from India. The Indians had something called yoga for quite some time, but it was mainly a few meditation postures. In a Nineteenth Century fitness craze, the head honcho of Mysore wanted to spread a fitness regimen. So, one of his people combined those few postures, plus some exercises, stretches and postures from Indian acrobatics and wrestling and a bunch of Western exercises to develop a new fitness regimen, which they called by the old name of yoga. Some of the Western exercises came to India through the YWCA.

    How’s that for some serious cultural appropriation?

    • #25
  26. Kevin Creighton Contributor
    Kevin Creighton
    @KevinCreighton

    Full Size Tabby: When I worked in Orange County, California, across the street from my office was the “hamburger restaurant” owned by the Cambodian family that also served Mexican dishes and teriyaki plates.

    If you live in the Phoenix area and haven’t been to Chino Bandido’s yet, GO! It’s Mexican/Chinese/Caribbean fusion, it’s delicious, and it’s CHEAP. You can get stuffed to the gills with an amazing jerk chicken enchilada with fried rice and black beans (OMG, their beans!) for $8, and you be hard-pressed to find a better meal anywhere in the Valley.

    • #26
  27. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Misthiocracy:I await the rampant lawless destruction of California Fusion restaurants.

    I was kidding of course, and then I came across this article which denounces Fusion cuisine:

    • #27
  28. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    jonsouth: By far the funniest thing about that ‘Kimono Wednesdays’ kerfuffle was watching those non-Japanese Asian girls getting all flustered defending Japanese culture. Because if they could hear what the average person in Japan says about other Asians even in casual conversation, their eyes would pop.

    When I lived in China it was similar. Ninety-nine Chinese out of a hundred hate the Xinjiang Muslim minority. Most Chinese  also hate the Japanese and indulge utterly delusional fantasies about how they want to invade their land and perform medical experiments on them.

    • #28
  29. MaggiMc Coolidge
    MaggiMc
    @MaggiMc

    Having grown up in Louisiana, I’m a cultural appropriator from way back–thank goodness. Otherwise, I would never have learned to make gumbo! And I’m not sorry one little bit.

    • #29
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