You know, recently we have been hearing a lot about how this or that or the other thing — authentic foods, yoga, certain fabrics and attires — are “cultural appropriation” and therefore a manifestation of racism and should be stopped.
This goes hand in hand with the weird and rock bottom stupid idea that culture is inherited in the genes. This is what gets the stupid-left (yes, there is a smart left. Mostly they pull the strings of the dumb bunnies) all in your face and screaming when you criticize a cultural behavior, like, say, wanting your women covered in sofa-slipcovers. They call you not ignorant or provincial but “racist” and thereby reveal that in their tiny, blinkered minds, people are born with the innate fear of the magical rays given off by women’s hair, that send men wild with incontrolable lust.
It might be easier, honest to Bob, if they had children or, for the few of them who DO have children, if they’d paid any attention to their kids’ development instead of to the weird movie going on in their heads which leads them believe things like that a baby recoiling from unfamiliar appearance means the baby is racist.
The only culture babies are born with is the fauna and flora in their intestines. No, seriously. Anyone who has or knows anyone who has adopted a child from another country/different race knows that kid grows up to be more like their family than like his/her birth family.
No baby adopted as an infant from China learned Chinese instead of the English of her adopters. (My older son went one better and totally rejected the Portuguese I spoke to him the first year and a half of his life, learning only English. My guess is because that’s the COMMUNICATION he saw happening, while observing his surroundings, and since no one else spoke Portuguese he tuned it out because it must be gibberish. He must be deficient in those Portuguese genes.) No baby adopted from Africa has an instinctive liking for African music, unless he’s been raised with it. (And then comes the question of which part of Africa, but we’ll leave that alone.)
If you’d taken my boys away at birth and given them to a perfectly normal white, middle class, suburban family, they’d probably still be odd, but their oddness might not include science fiction and fantasy. And though they’d probably still both be good with written expression, they might not be good with written expression as we recognize it. If they’d grown in a family that didn’t read or write that much, they might be better than their families, they would still not be up to a level recognized as excellent in society at large.
What they would still be is still tall and swarthy and built like brick sh*thouses. Because, you see, that part is encoded in the genes. You can’t change your black eyes to green because you grow up with a different family. But you can be incredibly organized if you grew up with parents that required incredible organization, even if you come from a genetic background –oh, Portuguese — that is prone to the organizational method known as “let’s all pile in, and may G-d sort it out.”
I’m not saying there are no genetic characteristics that affect things other than appearance. Of course there are. They are a little harder to sort out from “raised with parents with those characteristics” but I’m fairly sure there are SOME. Like both my kids are too stubborn for … well… anything. (I remember trying to get Robert to obey me in some small thing (He’d thrown a paper on the floor, I think, and I told him to pick it up, and he was in one of his non-obeying days) which took me half an hour and a friend, watching it, said was like breaking a prisoner of war. (Not really. I didn’t torture him. It’s just that I had to talk him into obeying.) He was three.) And DO trust me, we did not TRY to make the d*mn kids stubborn. (And Robert is a lamb unshorn compared to his brother, he who made pre-school teachers tear out their hair.)
But innate tendencies do not a culture make. Innate tendencies might dictate whether you leap out of bed with a song on your lips and incite murder in the mind of your roommate who drags self out of bed with groan and crawls till noon by the grace of coffee, but it does not dictate what language you speak, what attire you wear, or whether you think women look best when disguised as sofas. Those are things you learned from your relatives/guardians when you were too young to think. They might be filed under “must do” at a level where you have never examined them, but that doesn’t mean you can’t examine them. And change them. It just means it takes time, is painful, and no one is going to do it without major upheaval requiring it.
I would never have changed my language from Portuguese to English without having moved to the US. I mean, for one it would be weird, and mom and dad don’t speak English. Going around the house with an interpreter would have made them think me crazier than they already thought me. And I would never have given up my fresh bread with butter for breakfast, if ya’ll had bread delivery in the morning. (And why don’t we have that? It would seem to me there’s an entrepreneurial thing waiting to happen. Bread, bagels, doughnuts or cinnamon rolls, newly made and waiting for you, still warm, in a delivery box by the door early morning.)
But circumstances dictated I changed those, and while it was difficult and painful, it got done. Because I’m human and humans are creatures who learn and adapt. Which means they can learn new habits, new languages, new expectations: everything that makes up a culture.
In fact, throughout history, we’ve learned and changed. We’re not still in a cave somewhere chipping flint the way our first vaguely human ancestors did. Or in the branches, afraid to appropriate the culture of those who walked upright.
No, when a group of humans found something, the other group followed, learned, improved. You can still find very isolated tribes who don’t have the concept of the wheel, counting above three or past and future tenses. BUT note the point is “very isolated.” If they hadn’t been isolated, they’d have picked up these concepts from the cultures who contacted them. It’s called learning more “functional” concepts.
The “functional” here refers to concepts that allow you to live longer, reproduce more and raise more fat babies who will have more fat babies.
Because Western culture, the dominant culture of the world at the moment, went a little (okay, a lot) crazy after the long war of the 20th century, some seriously non-functional-in-the-long-run concepts have crept into it. In the short run they confer a brief advantage in the fat-baby race, but in the long run they lead to fewer HUMAN fat babies, and perhaps to the extinction of those who adopt them.
One of those is this notion that people come pre-packaged with culture. In the short run, having infected our social services, it means you’ll get more tolerance for refusing to assimilate, and we’ll indulge your ideas that all women should be covered up, and that they all should live to produce your fat babies. This might even work on enough women to give you a genetic advantage.
But the idea that culture is innate is not only a STUPID idea (note I’m not painting this post on cave walls, so we must be capable of learning and changing), it’s an EVIL idea.
Let it take hold and sooner or later it leads to genocide.
Oh, sure, the remnants of Judeo Christian ideals, imposed on that stupid idea, means that we tolerate self-harming and definitely society-harming behaviors and shush people who criticize them as being racist.
The problem is the idea of inherited culture is fundamentally incompatible with Judeo-Christian ideas, which require self-control, discipline, ability to change and follow a set of ideals, and which in Christianity’s case, is big on redemption and conversion, both of which require you to change, to adapt and to become different in your interactions with the world
So if the idea of inherent and race-dependent culture wins out, the idea that all humans should have equal rights and that we should support and take care of those less fortunate because they are human like us and their kids might be fine, goes out the window.
What you have left is the idea that some humans are fundamentally unable to work in the modern world.
Sooner or later, then, a leader arises who says “Hey, these are sub-humans. Let’s get rid of them.”
In fact, this has happened not once, but several times throughout history, because the idea that you’re born with your culture is one of those stupid notions humans can’t quite get rid of. (Possibly because we are tribal creatures, at heart.)
Note this is not what I want to happen, it’s a horror I dread, but it WILL happen. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. From the idea that telling someone to learn the language of the country he was born in and lives in is racist comes the idea that genocide makes perfect sense. Because if some people can’t learn and adapt, well, then, they’re a drain on society. And if not everyone is — within statistical variance and excluding obvious impairment — equally able to learn and contribute at least enough to pull their own weight, then why should the more able be saddled with the less able?
At the end of this thought process mass graves yawn.
But I’m starting to hear such rumbles. All of us are. And they’ll grow as the short-term-incentives we provide lead people down disastrous long term paths.
We must fight that idea loudly and derisively every time it comes up. Telling someone to learn English is not racist. Language is NOT encoded in any race’s genes. Telling someone to show up on time for a job is not racist. Some cultures have no sense of time, but that’s culture (and tracks fairly well with the cultures that industrialized later.) Telling someone like me (who grew up in a culture that doesn’t prize organization) that I need to be more organized and start posting these on time is just sense.
Culture is not race. Humans, as humans, are incredibly adaptable. All of us came from people capable of overcoming, improvising and adapting.
Given the right incentives everyone can do it.
Does this mean people need to leave behind colorful modes of dress, interesting dishes, beautiful art? Oh, please. No. It just means the main culture will absorb, change and use those parts of any culture that catch its attention.
Cultural appropriation? Flummery. It’s called being human.
And now I’m going to appropriate some fire to appropriate some coffee, so I can appropriate this keyboard to write stories in my appropriated language.
And proud of it.