So, you might have noticed that the subheading of this blog is: “Cultural Commentary for the Perpetually Groggy”. Other than having a nice ring to it, it does serve a purpose. Generally, I think that the vast majority of us – I’m including myself here – don’t perceive accurately.
Here I don’t mean perception as mere sensory input. I mean perception in that sense which conveys investigation and understanding. Perception that is the action of intelligence.
If you, dear reader, are like most people – again, myself included – you will probably look at the above, rather blanket, statement and scoff.
(Actually, does anyone scoff anymore? How about pishaw? What I wouldn’t give for a good balderdash, but I digress.)
Scoff though you may, please hear me out.
Let’s look at it through the lens of something I’ve been hearing about constantly for about the last year:
That seems to be the buzzword of this past year. From professor’s emails about Halloween costumes to protests about sports team logos, to bitchy critiques of red-carpet hairstyles, I seem to – at least once every other week – be hearing something in the media, including the internet, concerning the dreaded Cultural Appropriation.
I wonder at this trend of being offended. Where does it come from? What’s the point?
I’ve looked into it. I try to get my information from multiple sources, and when it comes to experience, I try to find first hand accounts. Still, something in it nags at me…
Oh yeah, this is America.
(BTW, this discussion isn’t about free speech.)
Cultural Appropriation is America’s raison d’être. It is, in short, what we fucking do.
It’s also why we’re as robust as a country, and as successful as we are. Some culture does something we think is nifty, we steal it.
We steal it, and modify it, and make it our own.
(Sometimes we even make it better in the process. Allow me to direct your attention to Pizza, by way of example.)
We have always done this. If we are not wiped out by an asteroid or our own stupidity, we will probably continue to always do this. It has made this country strong, and innovative, and the most interesting place in this small world.
In short, Cultural Appropriation is as American as apple pie.
By the way, when’s the last time you stopped to think about apple pie? Let’s do it now.
Take a second to imagine what apple pie looks like. Got it in your head? Good.
Because there’s a high probability that the dessert you just imagined is properly called Dutch Apple Pie. Why? Because it was invented by the Pennsylvania Dutch. Who, oddly enough, were German immigrants.
Do you get that? One of our main national symbols is culturally appropriated.
So, that’s why I can’t understand people getting up in arms about cultural appropriation. (I’m speaking here of actual appropriation, not some hateful bastard taking the piss.) That’s how things become mainstream; they are appropriated. I’ve been a geek my entire life. Quite a long time before it was hip. (Back then, we just got made fun of). But when one of my favorite things gets wider notice and acclaim, it is a good thing, because I always wanted to share the things I loved with other people.
I don’t begrudge other people for loving the thing I love. That’s called ‘being a dick’, and should be saved for special occasions.
So, it seems to me that rather than America stealing any one culture’s style, food, music, et cetera, cultural appropriation simply shows that aspects of the culture are being absorbed into this constantly growing and mutating thing we call America. That, to me, is a sign of acceptance into the mainstream. I have difficulty seeing how that could be a bad thing, unless – of course – you derive your sense of self worth from the uniqueness of your culture. But maybe, something so accidental as that shouldn’t be a basis for one’s sense of self worth?
So, maybe, if we perceived accurately – that is to say investigated somewhat more deeply than we do now – maybe we wouldn’t have some of the strife we generate on a daily basis. Maybe we could spend our energy to actually, deeply improve our situations, instead of swapping one superficial aspect for another.
Just a thought.