Friday, 16 September 2016

Cultural Appropriation

Another week of churn on the internet over cultural appropriation, which just beggars belief.  It makes me want to say to all parties on both sides of the debate, tone it down, because what's happening is not discussion but flame-wars across the social media.  Wars where no one takes prisoners and you eat your wounded.

I get we should not use other peoples culture to mock, shame, or abuse people.

However, I can't help think that the worst case of cultural appropriation is the use of political correctness, the roots of which lie in Soviet era censorship, and during the 1970s was a term that was used ironically against orthodox thinking.  Now we live in a world Orwell's Big Brother would be proud of, where we don't learn from history, because we've forgotten history.

I'm all for politeness and civility, and to those that think there comes a time when one has to get angry or get their inner Hulk on, I say far better the injustices of living in a land under the rule of law than one without.  Why, because a smack in the mouth often offends.

Besides, what is culture, how do you measure how much you own, and who actually controls it?

I would argue cultural appropriation is neither good nor bad, but rather what happens when we live in an inter-connected multicultural world.  In short, don't treat people as things and enjoy eating curry's, tacos and wearing sombreros, which is just the Mexican word for hat that again can be traced back through history: the Spanish introduced them to Mexico and the wide-brimmed hat can be traced back to Mongolian horsemen.

And given this is a writing blog about fiction, remember that there are no new ideas isn't just about story tropes.  It also describes societies throughout recorded history, which is the equivalent of the metaphor that writers stand on shoulders of the giants who came before them.  We are not single points in the space-time continuum, but the product of something that can be traced back to beginning of the universe.  We are all, as Carl Sagan said, made of starstuff.

TL;DR: cultural appropriation is, to paraphrase the social anthropologist Piers Vitebsky, part of the human condition.

1 comment:

  1. No, no, you eat the enemy's wounded, so that you gain their mana. I don't know, what do they teach them in these schools?

    (The very traditional four-cornered hat favoured by some Sami groups is almost certainly inspired by Russian sailors.)