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The left's insistence on seeing oppression where it does not exist, assigning the worst motives to others, while sanctimoniously virtue signaling its moral superiority, is a perversion of Enlightenment, liberal, and multi-cultural values it purports to promote. The left has become anything but compassionate, empathetic, or inclusive. It draws lines with identity politics, intersectionality theory, critical race theory, white privilege theory, micro-aggressions, cultural appropriation, and other fuzzy social concoctions, unsubstantiated by evidence, that are symptomatic of pathology. Its indoctrination factories - the university system, has spawned ideologues who fill HR departments across a broad range of industries. Look at James Damore, the Google employee, who was fired merely for distributing a memo that suggested that differences in outcomes between groups may not solely be the result of discriminatory practices. The good news is that there is a natural correction occurring. Intellectuals across the political spectrum are fighting back and I dare any SJW to try to debate Sam Harris, Jordan Peterson, Ben Shapiro, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Nicholas Christakis, Douglas Murray, Gad Saad, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Thomas Sowell, on the issue of (il)liberal orthodoxy, free speech, and the path to Orwellian hell the regressive left is bent on taking the culture.
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Cultural appropriation = Using certain aspects of a culture of which you have little to no understanding in a way that perpetuates stereotypes.
This isn't a difficult concept. If you're not Mexican or you don't know what Cinco de Mayo is celebrating, don't celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Learn about it before celebrating it! If you want to wear a pretty Chinese dress to prom and you're not Chinese, learn about the type of dress and its place in Chinese culture first. If you were raised in a Christian-centric society and want to wear a papal outfit to a party, go for it because you understand the significance of what you're doing!
The current problem that the author should be addressing is the pervasive assumption that people dabbling in other cultures *don't* understand what they're doing when there's every chance that they *do*. Crying "cultural appropriation!" isn't bad, but accusing someone of it before knowing their background is.
As a full-fledged liberal, I can confirm that cultural appropriation is one of the most ludicrous ideas we've come up with (and it plays right into the hands of the wacky right, to boot). Should we stop eating pizza? Is it wrong for the non-English to wear Burberry coats? Perhaps Americans are on the right road already by refusing to learn other languages. It's those East European and Asian polyglots who are appropriating left and right.
Mocking another culture is one thing. Pretending to be from another culture when you're not is another. But just taking something good from the culture and making it your own? That's globalism. It's a good thing.
Why do you call them chopsticks? They're hair-sticks. Would you call a comb a fork?
Wow, this is the Economist? I thought I was reading The Daily Mail. Really disappointed.
Tyranny from the left is still tyranny and must be opposed as an evil in the world.
Not to argue that this kind of outrage over what appears to be a non-issue is not a problem in today's Western culture at all, but I can't help but think that this (like many other PC-styled outrage) is more of a rarity than media reporting suggests. When the news hears of yet another ridiculous response from the PC culture to something that is, to most at least, a non-issue, the media is all too ready to jump on the issue and cover it like it's breaking news. Similar to crime news, this kind of reporting gives a false impression that this topic is far more common than it actually is.
That said, I'm speaking as a Canadian university student, perhaps the experience is different in other cultures' universities/societies in general. After all, I don't recall any accusations directed to our PM of culturally appropriating the Indian culture after touring India wearing clothes which were more traditional to Indian culture than the clothes worn by his Indian hosts.
This article is quite contradictory; on the one hand it calls for the retirement of term ‘cultural appropriation’ yet on the other hand admits that the activity itself has been deemed problematic for centuries. Cultural Appropriation is very easy to identify and it is harmful to cultures that want to retain their unique characteristics. It’s just as odious to see Netta Brazilia wearing yellow-face in her Japanese inspired outfit as it is to see WASP college kids wearing a sombrero. Asians do not appropriate western culture - what Asian would want to dress up like a Morris dancer? None. If you call dressing up in a suit as ‘western cultural appropriation’ then try telling that to my employer - I would be fired for wearing the Salwar Kameez to work!
Article stated that it existed for centuries, not that it was a problem for centuries.
A good article economist well done..this is why I always check in
Consign "cultural appropriation" to the dustbin of crackpot, out-of-touch, impractical notions generated by the very university departments we will soon be de-funding.
See also: https://www.newcriterion.com/blogs/dispatch/found-or-appropriated-8984
I believe there is a reasonable idea at the core of concerns about cultural appropriation - namely that people should approach sampling and borrowing from other cultures with a level of respect, and take care to avoid any appearance of mockery or parody. But cases like the Chinese prom dress hysteria take this way too far: there was obviously no mockery intended, and a qipao dress is not a particular mark of honour or significance in China (as a Native American headdress is for example), so a Westerner wearing one should be no more problematic than a Westerner eating Chinese food. It is deeply unfortunate, and counter-productive, that a loud minority of zealots is applying this idea so aggressively - it only devalues the general principle, and generates more ammunition for PC-gone-mad reactionaries.
There is also an interesting irony at the heart of this controversy, in that it is precisely the *rise* of minority cultures and voices in terms of power and influence in society that enables this controversy to get serious airtime at all. Thirty years ago, someone complaining about the cultural insensitivity of, say, the Washington Redskins mascot would be patronised or laughed out of the room.
Agree with everything except "taking care to avoid any appearance of mockery or parody". The humourless zealots are trying to stop people having fun at Cinco de Mayo or on Halloween. The left has jumped the shark.
I beg to disagree. My point is that if you are from the dominating ethnicity or culture (which of course varies with the context) it is very hard, if impossible to put oneself in the shoes of the ones who are being discriminated against. It is surprisingly often those of us who have no experience of being suppressed who claim that it does not matter. I agree that the meaning of cultural appropriation has lost its meaning when it's used for trivial matters, but I'm weary of being the one sayint that something is trivial when I'm not the one to be hurt.
This was intended as response to the reply on my earlier comment. Sorry for posting in the wrong place
Your comment begs several questions, such as what do you mean by being "suppressed", being "discriminated against", or being "hurt"?
How is a white man celebrating Cinco de Mayo with a cerveza deemed an act of "suppression"? How are Mexican-Americans being discriminated against by this same man drinking his cerveza on May 5th as opposed to any other of the 364 days of the year? What exactly is hurtful about non-Mexicans hoisting a commemorative beverage in celebration of the Battle of the Puebla?
The same goes for wearing a cheongsam, or attending a yoga class, or a cafeteria serving ethnic foods, or theaters putting on performances from foreign sources but using native actors. I recall being in Japan and seeing a local performance of "Fiddler on the Roof" with a Japanese cast, with nary a Russian Jew anywhere to be found. I recall seeing a modern adaptation of "Othello" where the entire cast was African-American and the title role was played by a white actor. I confess that I actually LIKE the California roll, which to sushi purists must be the equivalent of what a Big Mac would be to traditional French haute cuisine.
There is no such thing as a "dominating culture". This is a fiction designed to roughly balkanize groups of people into warring factions. A "culture" is incapable of appropriation or misappropriation, only individuals can do that, and they won't all do it the same way even within some supposed monolithic "culture". In regards to cultural consumption, there are only individuals, and individuals will all have their own unique tastes and preferences, likes and dislikes. Some will be insensitive and rude, others will be creative and innovative, others will be mindless consumers, and still others will be extra-sensitive to the perception of third-parties. Moreover, these individuals will be consuming products, services, and events that no one can legitimately assert exclusive ownership over. Anyone trying to wall-off an entire category of consumption behaviors is simply trying to erect an arbitrary fence around something they don't actually own and can never own.
Sorry. The adoption and imitation of aspects of other culture, barring an intent to ridicule, is an appreciation of that culture, not an attack on it. Every culture has borrowed from other cultures as long as humans have had cultures.
I am a pretty progressive person, but of all the moronically self-righteous insanity produced by those seeking to enforce political correctness on others, this is truly one of the most moronic. Having spent much of my life in Berkeley, I feel that I've had a broad enough experience with the PC zealots to have seen them at their worst.
How would you define dominating culture? - The funny thing about 'rock'n'roll' (since the appropriator Elvis Presley comes up often in these kinds of discussions) is that it appears that African American influence on music in America has played a very strong dominating role. Much to the dismay of many conservatives at that time, I reckon. Who then is the dominating component in this narrative?
With respect to 'putting yourself in the shoes of the ones who are being discriminated', do you suggest that most people who are on the 'giving' end of discrimination lack empathy? Is a white male who's been unemployed for 10 years suppressed? If yes, by whom? If not, why not?
The case of the girl who used a Chinese dress to go to prom is laughable. I feel bad for people who thought that was a horrible thing. As long as there is no cultural disrespect, go ahead and celebrate multiculturalism! Well said, The Economist, well said...
Stung by criticism, DNC hires more minorities, elevates women
WASHINGTON — Nearly half of the Democratic National Committee's staff are now people of color and 51 percent are women, according to a report to be published Monday by the DNC.
If it's May,
then it's Asia and Pacific Islanders Heritage Month.
TE needs to do articles/blogs about positive things occurring in Asia and the Pacific Islands.
I have only recently come across the phenomenon and have - unsuccessfully - tried to get at the bottom of it.
I have concluded it's a waste of time.
The other day I saw Rihanna in a dress, donning a papal tiara. I suppose, that must have been some kind of extension of Madonna's wearing of crosses and other religious symbols.
Do I have a problem with this? No!
Take 'Where did you sleep last night', as an example. A song, among others, recorded by Leadbelly in the 1940s. If I consider this the original (not sure), it's quite nice. But, when I listen to Nirvana's rendition, I am in no doubt that their's is the more powerful, much better version. I really don't care about who did what or when in the first place.
This is the beauty of a connected society that something from a particular context can have a completely different meaning or utility in another. This is also, btw, the fundamental principle of innovation. If I travel to, say, Ghana to see something interesting done on a street corner and, thereafter, go back to where I live, where - through serendipity - find a context where the observed process may have utility, perhaps with entrepreneurial potential, I will employ it.
Sombrero hats and kimonos are being sold, not least in curio shops, by people who wanna make a living. With that in mind, I'll buy them - if I want to - and wear them - if I am in the mood for it - at will. If the Mexicans or Japanese would be so worried about cultural appropriation, why put their products on display everywhere? They should lock them up and make sure that no one in the world does ever know about them. I really don't care about the feelings of perpetually oppressed and no-confidence individuals, or groups, who need protection from imaginary oppressors from sunrise to sundown.
The more I think about it, the less I really care, thanks to the utter stupidity of the SJW community.