There are tons of op-eds floating around Medium, YouTube, Facebook, Tumblr… about Cultural Appropriation, sensitivity, and basic inclusion being a stupid SJW distraction harassing innocent, “well meaning” people, who think labels divide us. A useless “toxic concept” for possessive “identity politics” advocates to rageblog whenever a white guy eats eggrolls or whatever. It’s why liberals always lose always. Except… it’s none of those. It’s a simple concept with simple elements, and a mass of noise around it, making a 1st world problem Gordian Knot begging for cutting. So let’s try!
I’ll start here: Soldiers from India were at Dunkirk in World War II. That’s it really, a simple fact. Nonetheless Christopher Nolan skipped the Lascars in his recent all-twink flag waver, which makes it a lie. Calling it a lie is acknowledging facts. In other news most cowboys were Black, Native, and Mexican, and most white non-English US immigrants kept their languages and cultures well into the 20th century. Denying those things is lying. To lie about another culture is to deny facts.
Hand-wringing about Outrage Twitter and periodic pearl-clutching about call-out fatigue are really just covering up for liars. Yes, nobody died when Roland Emmerich lied about the Stonewall riots by replacing brick-throwing NY Latinx Sylvia Rivera with non-existent Indiana mayonnaise “Danny”. But he did erase her. He rejected reality. It’s a lie. This is important because a frequent component of appropriation dismissal is “but we’re all human”. Yes, we are, appropriation says everybody’s human, even the brown people.
Making one group matter, and the other not, makes an absurd standard. First, it’s an ad hom. Second, it’s the contradiction of testimony for ‘harm’ demanded from people whose testimony has already been dismissed as irrelevant. All for a hollow pay-off: victim fights to be recognized for existing, in order to even be capable of being harmed, before getting to the harm. Sea-Lioning accomplished!
Plus, the whole spirit animal thing comes from nowhere and stays there. She brings it up several times for no reason. She doesn’t even quote non-Natives complaining. Which is funny because there’s tons of blogs, vlogs, and tweets out there. If Shah was trying she’s spoiled for choice: philosophically here; touchy-feely here; bitchy here… She could note “familiar” and “totem” is worldwide so Natives have no exclusive right. She doesn’t. Notably, most of the links I gave were permissive when it was used respectfully. They only universally objected if it was thrown around as cheap meme-fodder by shallow bloggers. Maybe she’s just a bigot.
Again, she can say what she likes. For proof no one is stopping her see the several blogs she’s written on how much everyone is silencing her. She’s not silenced, she’s criticized, and she doesn’t like it so she lies about it. She can claim “NDNs” are selfishly stopping her fun, meanwhile she’s just spewing bile while calling everyone “toxic”. It’s not an argument. Lionel Shriver’s “passing fad” article [linked above] agrees with Shah’s but adds the twist of saying being a fiction writer frees her from having to be honest. So, when readers criticize writers for employing clichés it’s the readers fault for reading the book wrong and ruining her fun. I’ve heard this before…
She’s a cheap cynic, telling readers she doesn’t respect them but they should buy her stuff anyway to stick-it to The Man or whatever. It’s no surprise she doesn’t mention when minority books get written, white school and library administrators and parents just ban them. Shriver’s a liar. It’s fitting Shriver’s top selling book is of a mother who never takes responsibility for her own part in creating a monster who destroys lives. In my minds eye I see Shriver ending the speech by shaking a cane and telling everyone to get off her lawn.
So, appropriation…? Funny thing, there was no Native outcry for the video game Fallout: New Vegas. I promise, it’s oddly relevant. No Native seemed to notice the add-on Honest Hearts. It’s odd because the plot to HH is two white Mormons helping some ‘tribals’, who speak in broken English, against a foreign army. It’s a brown-face white savior story. It’s Dances with Wolves for the XBox360, and there was no SJW outcry. This is important.
First, there’s a good chance most Natives, even who game, never played HH. It was released near a year after the original. It wasn’t a major film or sports team. But potential ‘allies’ played it and they didn’t lose their minds either. Even the rageblog perpetual target Anita Sarkeesian was silent on the subject when discussing other aspects of the Fallout series. Despite the many and obsessive rumors to the contrary, all SJWs don’t complain about all things no matter how trivial and the coming Orwellian Nightmare was averted another day (speaking of Orwell, for hating groupthink so damn much, the anti-SJWs, #skeptics and #rationals do all seem to cite the same books and game critics a lot and at length). But there were other factors:
- Some of the tribes want to join the army and others don’t. They have different ideas. They’re diverse, not waiting for death or rescue by whites.
- They speak broken English because English is their 3rd even 4th language. The dialog says whites made contact by sending a linguist.
- They are diverse because their ancestors were Natives and whites who survived nuclear war. They’re healthy, smart, with strong social ties. Whites and Natives merged. Their culture is a shared identity, not color.
- They’re not tropes. Neither are the White Saviors. Both Mormons are flawed, with different motives and definitions of ‘salvation’.
Most of all, the FO:NV add-ons combined to follow a primary Native antagonist, Ulysses, who has lost his culture. He tells the story of people copying his traditions to be like him and how it insulted him. The player doesn’t even meet him until the fourth add-on, the end of an arc with no effect in the main game. Ulysses is one of the most nuanced characters in the Fallout canon and he’s filler. He’s an anti-SJW Rage dream, inclusion no one needed! Yet no #culturalmarxism outcry or RationalWiki page.
A compelling character, written well, and players embraced it. Repeat: The angry brown guy tries sparking a war because white people appropriated his dreadlocks, and even 4chan didn’t complain (one post quotes Ulysses’ saying it and they all debate his merits). 4chan…! The shorthand for a fog-bank of dudebro trolls where Snowflakes go to die violently, the wild breeding grounds of the reactionary Pepe memes, and a follow-up comment agrees symbols have meaning and his reasoning is valid. Now, it’s 4chan, some couldn’t resist dropping an n-bomb, BUT the buried lead is, in the middle of overt racism, nobody denied the premise. Even 4chan thinks appropriation is a thing! In other news up is now down, cats and dogs are living together, our tentacle-mouthed destroyer will be rising from the depths shortly…
Or Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. Over 20 million units and one of the most award-winning RPGs of all time. No Breitbart thinkpiece about the tribal Forsworn or the turbaned Redguard, and they’re overt proxies for Aborigines and Arabs. One quest in Skyrim even requires the player join a tribal terror cell to help them (with the choice to kill the leader or not with no loss of Reputation either way and it doesn’t destabilize their efforts much). Nobody noticed… If, according to all these bloggers and pundits, we’re ten seconds from a thought-police crybully triggered wasteland, someone would have said something by now. Milo Yiannopoulos, famous for #GamerGate and militant critic of “leftist” identity politics, gave Skyrim and FO:NV not one paragraph. Milo was tech editor. If 1984 is coming, where?
I know at least one factor in the absence of hot take shots fired about New Vegas, or ‘culture war’ debates over the Redguard indoctrinating kids to Islamic Terrorism sympathies: The Washington Redskin’s franchise clocks in at near $3bil in net worth according to Forbes. There’s a good chance Natives and Blacks care more about Vanity Fair Coachella photo-spreads, than we do about Assassin’s Creed III, because we can count. The dream-catcher tattoo on your ass is silly, and we’ll laugh and point if you post it on Instagram. It’s not the open, aggressive racism of a stadium full of face-painted idiots whooping while they do the tomahawk chop. We can prioritize, I promise.
Which is why it requires so much cutting to get through the noise. knowing what I know (and have now demonstrated) about how little much of this ‘debate’ matters in the universe, and yet how terrible but vocal the arguments over it are, it casts Shah, Shriver, Hallett, and YouTubers like Sargon of Akkad in a terrible light: they’re losing their shit over nothing. Nobody petitioned Obsidian for Ulysses. The mini-arc they created, the characters they fleshed out, were irrelevant. Avatar was the highest grossing film of its time and it’s one giant racist trope. Nobody demanded New Vegas attempt a thoughtful portrayal of the ‘Native Experience’. Turns out they’re good writers, they wanted something unique, and they decided to just not be pricks. The real point of the whole ‘cultural appropriation’ thing, for most of us who care, isn’t a desperate need to find racists under every rock to get them banned from SnapChat. It’s not a forever game of shame wack-a-mole. It’s admitting someone’s lying. Like, not all ‘Asians’ are martial arts experts. Orgy scenes doesn’t make Sense8 progressive when their ‘Asian’ is a kickboxer. It’s. A. Lie.
Yes, some use ‘inclusion’ as a bat to break everybody’s knees, but it’s on both sides. Hallett says she once wanted dreads in her hair. She spends three paragraphs justifying why she could, since it originated in more than one culture. She’s right, but it would mean she’s enacting culture, not ignoring it. She then goes to kimono, the Silk Road, and concludes she’s transcended race as if the whole Carmen San Diego side-quest never happened. Farah’s sprinkling “spirit animal” randomly through more than one post is an obvious edgelord bid to conceal direct bigotry and terrible reasoning.
Did I mention Shah is on a reading list Hallett includes in her essay for ‘more information’? So is Shriver. It’s not surprising they employ similar mis-direction and identical bad arguments because they’re cribbing each other’s stuff. They’re not advancing the conversation, it’s an echo. Shriver blames her readers for making writing hard which was Milos’ entire shtick of provocation by self-victimhood. He mocked oppression testimonials until the second he ruined himself by joking about child molesting, justifying it with a personal anecdote when confronted. Either direct experience is only a fallacy when SJWs do it, or there are some jerks on both sides and they should be ignored for using big words badly, whether through foolishness or greed.
Clearly I’m a leftie, so my last myth to burn may seem surprising: I loathe “check your privilege”. First, it’s me asking them to do something, they can simply choose to ignore me or yell “free speech” and walk on. As a Hail Mary, I get it, but as a genuine critique of someone’s behavior it’s impotent. It’s conversational slacktavism. If they say “no”, I’m stuck. Thing is, privilege is given, it’s impossible to self-check. More important, wearing a plains war bonnet isn’t a privilege-check moment, it’s an entitled prick moment. If I object, I say it. They can accept my challenge or not, but now it’s out there. The douchecanoe ball is in their court.
Plus, silence is what the dog-pile net trolls want from me. The ones who lose their mind when someone points out a movie forgot a continent, they’re not trying to ‘advance the discourse’. In a recent interview with Joe Rogan, Ben Shapiro, darling of the #rational set, affirms my argument, through former Missouri State University professor Melissa Click’s “safe space” debacle. As he said, demands for equality which require exclusion is the rhetoric of the Klan. Yeah, that. I don’t have to shut up when someone’s being a bigot.
Finally there’s, “but all cultures are blends”. Sure, over hundreds of years. We may want cultural theft acceptable because everybody does it, but the Tradition Fallacy is a fallacy. I can’t read this article to a Kalahari Bushman, for example. Difference exists, it’s quantifiable. Different cultures also beg, borrow, and steal differently. It’s not ‘blending’ if one group takes another’sstuff. Someone wearing a Native headdress at Burning Man isn’t ‘blending’ if they didn’t learn Kiowan first.
True blends do exist and we mostly alienate or outright suppress them. There are creoles everywhere: Spanglish, Russenorsk, Ebonics… And entire education systems were created to stifle or even delete them. In the US, mocking deep southern accents and the fashion of gangster rap is almost a national sport. At the scale of countries, the US has bombed people because they prayed wrong. Simply noticing cultures have each other’s things doesn’t prove it was on purpose. It definitely doesn’t prove either party was willing.
So, the reason I say understanding appropriation is simple is this last part. We are our cultures. Everyone is. We talk different than others, dress different, eat different. No one is “the base”. Anything setting me apart from everyone else on earth can be appropriated. What matters, and where so many get stuck, is not all appropriation is bad. Some is selfish, some is curiosity. The difference is easy to spot: if everything about a person is one way, but they have one or two foreign things they’re really highlighting, and they complain when anyone questions them about it, they’re being a jerk. I don’t even have to be intending to ‘ruin’ someone’s fun. If they’re wearing overt trinkets it invites comment. Which means second, if they get ticked when people challenge them it’s because they’re stealing something.