It is reassuring to see that open critiques of various entries in the social justice Newspeak dictionary are now more commonplace. The first of these to really get my hackles up was the concept of the “safe space” which I covered in an earlier article, though South Park did a better job of ridiculing this infantile notion than I ever could. Unfortunately, as well as being more frequently critiqued, this new pseudo-lexicon is also becoming more widely used (and even accepted as gospel), both among the censorious twits that invented it and the well-meaning and easily misled – I was disappointed to see that George Takei, who I am fond of, despite his occasional Panglossian naivety, shared an article defending “Trigger Warnings” by way of some fatuous reference to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (as if every blue-haired student activist is teetering on a psychological precipice akin to an Iraq war veteran).
But one phrase that I initially considered almost harmless in its absurdity is developing into a potentially dangerous trajectory for society. The concept of “cultural appropriation” has become a clarion call for the dismantling of everything so-called progressives claim (or once claimed) to stand for. First they came for the Halloween costumes and I laughed at their over-earnest hypersensitivity but soon enough it was criticism of Westerners practicing yoga and eating sushi, abysmal Vice articles about concert-goers wearing dashikis at Coachella and scruffy students being assaulted for the crime of of not being black while sporting dreadlocks.
This is really loathsome stuff.
The example of dreadlocks is a particularly instructive one. While it has been associated in the twentieth century with black and African culture, they are basically just a symptom of unwashed hair of any kind being left to its own devices for long enough, often twiddled into different shapes. During my own student days I had hair down past my shoulders and seriously considered giving dreads a try. People of all races have worn their hair like this since the dawn of civilization. As the young man in the embedded video rightly asked his attackers “are you Egyptian?” Where does this end?
“You there, remove that poncho, it is not an authorized garment within your registered cultural category” – Yes, enforcing separation along racial and cultural grounds has always gone so very well in the past.
This nastiness has reared its head again, recently, after the fashion designer Marc Jacobs put colourful dreadlocks on his catwalk models and, after being dragged through the mud by the usual social justice screech-mob on Twitter, offered an apology for his “insensitivity”. While I sympathize with his being on the receiving end of this undeserved attack, it was a grievous error to give in to these people and apologise. These are useless people who have stumbled across a form of power, made accessible by the use of pretentious faux-intellectual campus-slang, all the while hiding behind a false mask of puerile grievance. Nothing more. They are bullies and the way to deal with bullies is not to acquiesce to them, more often than not it is to punch back twice as hard.
These are useless people who have stumbled across a form of power
Fortunately some people do when confronted with similar situations. Take the now-viral video of the Lyft driver in America who was confronted by a drunken so-called activist who berated him relentlessly for displaying a Hawaiian hula doll on his dashboard. The man acted with patience and grace for as long as could be reasonably expected of him, before dumping the shrieking moron on the side of the road. He was briefly dismissed from his position after she made a complaint, but was reinstated after the video was leaked and her appalling behaviour was exposed for all to see. Now there is some “social justice”.
Everything we value about the modern world, to the extent that it is a more enlightened, diverse and accepting place than it once was, stands in stark contrast to this. The people who dreamed up cultural appropriation (possibly “triggered” by a stoned viewing of White Men Can’t Jump or Krippendorf’s Tribe) are the same entitled, petulant twerps calling for segregated campus safe spaces and racially divided classrooms. Our world of African American sushi chefs, Afghan rock guitarists, Chinese ballet dancers, French yoga instructors and geeky white college kids with dreadlocks is beautiful and complex and recognises that culture is not monolithic.
Cultural appropriation is ultimately an open call for the return of segregation and a more hateful divided world. Not to mention an earnestly boring, bland and humourless one.
Resist this sinister garbage while you can.