Inappropriate & disproportionate cultural appropriation

If it weren’t for Ashu Solo, recognition for Saskatoon’s most stupidly sensitive person would have to go to Erica Lee, who objected to a Hawaiian-themed fundraiser because, well, let her tell you:


The poster showed a darkhaired, bikini-clad, apparently American tourist – an image the group took from an old airline advertisement for Hawaii. Within 12 hours, a new Tropical Night poster instead featured a palm tree.

U of S student Erica Lee, an Idle No More activist and one of the event’s critics, said she might not have realized the problems with Hawaiian imagery had another student not brought it to her attention.

“It’s something that’s so pervasive in our culture. We think of Hawaii and we think of flower leis, we think of grass skirts and sexy hula girls,” she said.

“It’s like having any other racial or ethnic groupthemed party. It’s something that seems like a fun and harmless idea but there are Hawaiian scholars that feel really passionately about not being represented in such a commercialized way.”

The history of Hawaii includes aboriginal people who were violently settled and had customs banned, she said.

The hula dance was formally banned for a period in the mid-nineteenth century following pressure from Christian missionaries, and later regulated by the state.

“For so long we oppressed them and didn’t let them do it, and now people in the West will take that and commercialize it.”

Oh, for crying out loud. Let’s ban any event just in case there’s someone who might possibly be offended because of past injustices.

So long, St Patrick’s Day, as it might (and probably does) offend an Irishman (sorry, Irish “person”).

Do pobačennja to Saskatoon’s “King of Kielbasa” festival, just in case this sausage celebration might harbour up grim memories of the Ukrainian famine.

Skuttle all Dragon Boat races. Don’t you know the Chinese were culturally exploited?

Don’t you dare forget about the debilitating effects of alcohol on those indigenous people who were forced to sell their island to the Dutch the next time you order a Manhattan cocktail.

And considering the culturally-appropriated name of this shitty, racist, Eurocentric hellhole, if you want to set off fireworks this Canada Day, you should take off, you hoser.



I’d like to think I’m being facetious, but considering that this topic produced an “uproar” (which the media defines as one person making a big deal out of nothing), I wouldn’t put it past Ms. Lee to keep raising stinks on such matters.

Notice that she doesn’t have an issue with indigenous cultures appropriating and benefiting from the trappings of “European” culture, such as medical immunization, or forged steel, or parliamentary governance, or central heating. No, her concern is limited to the appropriations by the “privileged” from the “unprivileged”, regardless of how the unprivileged might have benefited from the exchange, as if they would be, by net, better off had the cultures never merged or conflicted at all.

Perhaps she’s right on this, that indigenous cultures are presently, on the whole, worse off because of colonialism, etc. And as such I patiently wait while the non-European indigenous cultures around the world shed their woven-textile garments, shut off their electric lights, park their cars, and return to the land.

In any event, the article noted that the images and language used by the Arts and Sciences Students Union wasn’t exploiting the indigenous Hawaiian culture but was pointing back to the idealized island culture of the 1950s or ’60s. Her argument is akin to criticizing fifties-era sock-hops because white kids like Sam Phillips appropriated rock ‘n’ roll from African-Americans. In other words, it is so removed from the actual incident of injustice as to be ludicrous.

Even if you don’t agree with her precise concern, one might argue that all she wants to do is “create a dialogue,” as seen below:

But that doesn’t work either, because usually a “healthy dialogue” between two parties doesn’t start with a premise that one side is racist, QED.

In the end, Ms. Lee isn’t fighting for a “healthy dialogue” and her issue isn’t with the existence of disproportionate power, but rather that this power isn’t hers:

As a political studies and philosophy major at the U of S, Lee is living what she studies. She says her school work hasn’t suffered despite immersing herself at the very root of this national grassroots movement. Lee, who is the first person in her family to finish high school, refuses to let her grades slip.

“It’s important for me to finish and get into a position of power,” Lee said.

Indeed, and as this incident has shown, she’s well on her way.

UPDATE: Speaking of cultural appropriation, this is pretty funny.

As is this.


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Straw-man con man

David Simon, television producer of The Wire and a noted economic philosopher (but I repeat myself), has something to say about the evils of capitalism, which is the sole source of all the evils of society today.

Evil capitalist, as portrayed by David Simon

Evil capitalist, as portrayed by David Simon

In a recent rambling presentation, he tells us his solution to the “horrors” of society is a mixture of capitalism and socialism/Marxism, which makes about as much sense as you might expect. Here’s a snippet:

Mistaking capitalism for a blueprint as to how to build a society strikes me as a really dangerous idea in a bad way. Capitalism is a remarkable engine again for producing wealth. It’s a great tool to have in your toolbox if you’re trying to build a society and have that society advance. You wouldn’t want to go forward at this point without it. But it’s not a blueprint for how to build the just society. There are other metrics besides that quarterly profit report.

As if, in a capitalist society, people only care about the bottom line to the exclusion of all else. A straw-man argument if there ever was one.

I discovered Simon’s diatribe on the Facebook page of an old friend, a Rhodes Scholar, proving once again that one would have to be highly educated in order to believe something so stupidly incoherent.

I’d say read the whole thing, but I am not a cruel man.

Instead, the antidote comes from this must-read post by Roger Kimball:

As F. A. Hayek points out in Capitalism and the Historians, an extraordinary collection of essays he edited and published in 1954, “The widespread emotional aversion to ‘capitalism’ is closely connected with this belief that the undeniable growth of wealth which the competitive order had produced was purchased at the price of depressing the standard of life the weakest elements of society.” This picture of economic depredation, notes Hayek, is “one supreme myth which more than any other has served to discredit the economic system [capitalism] to which we owe our present-day civilization”…

Not a day goes by without lamentations about the evils or limitations of capitalism emitted by some of capitalism’s most conspicuous beneficiaries. Barack Obama, for example, speaking in Kansas a couple of weeks ago, chided the “certain crowd in Washington” that believed “the market will take care of everything.” Of course, that is rhetorical overstatement; we all know what he means. Do we want big government, high taxes, and intricate regulation, or do we want lean government, low taxes, and the minimum regulation consistent with public safety? Or consider Does Capitalism Have A Future? a collection of essays by “a global quintet of distinguished scholars,” published by Oxford University Press, arguing that the capitalist system is teetering on the brink of collapse and it’s a good thing, too, because the socialist system that may ensue will be far better. It’s an hysterical (not in the sense of “funny”) volume, full of tired Marxoid clichés about the “internal contradictions” of capitalism and impending ecological crisis, but it is also a thoroughly typical product of the comfy intellectual caste that has enjoyed all the benefits of capitalism without bothering to understand what has made those benefits possible.

Despite this anti-capitalist narrative, however–a narrative we hear repeated by “progressive” politicians and iterated in more barbaric, polysyllabic strains by academics everywhere–the capitalist system has made possible over the last century, and especially in the last several decades, the greatest accumulation of wealth in the history of the world. England was the crucible of this modern prosperity in part because of the freedom of economic activity that it, unlike the states of continental Europe, enjoyed. And that freedom, in turn, and again unlike the continent, was underwritten by the limited government England also enjoyed. “The rapid growth of wealth” in England in the early nineteenth century, Hayek observes, “is probably in the first instance an almost accidental byproduct of the limitations which the revolution of the seventeenth century placed on the powers of government.” We’ve been working diligently in this country to remove those limitations. How far will we have to sink before the people once again rise up and repudiate the elites who wish to fetter them in manacles forged by statist overreach?

Kimball quotes T.S. Ashton on the Rev. Philip Gaskell, saying he is someone “whose earnestness and honesty are not in doubt, but whose mind have not been confused by any study of history.”

Which we could easily apply to Simon.

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Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night … Bad weather, on the other hand …

Considering the union’s public relations efforts, Canada Post didn’t pick the best time to stop home delivery:

What happened to the mail?

It’s a question occupying the minds of Isabel Ward, a retiree who has yet to receive her Metropass; Peter Stiegler, an accountant in need of tax documents to help his clients; and Russell Bennett, a self-employed father anxiously awaiting cheques to pay the rent and support his family.

They are three people who live or work in three different Toronto neighbourhoods — all complaining that they haven’t seen a Canada Post mail carrier in more than two weeks. But they are far from being the only residents who have gone with empty mailboxes since just before Christmas.

This being The Star, it is obviously the fault of Canada Post, not its workers:

"Working during bad weather isn't in my contract."

“Bad weather isn’t in my contract.”

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers has accused Canada Post of overworking permanent carriers by expanding routes, leading to sudden absences, and of not having enough temporary workers on standby.

“We’re seeing people booking off on stress at levels like we’ve never seen before,” said Gerry Deveau, national director for Ontario.

Is this the first winter these carriers have ever experienced? Didn’t someone tell them when they took this job that Toronto is in Canada?

“Stress” levels? Are these people for real?

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Dormez-vous, France?

"Allons enfants de la Patrie, Le jour de gloire est arrivé !"

“Allons enfants de la Patrie, Le jour de gloire est arrivé !”

The most brilliant minds of France are escaping to London, Brussels, and New York rather than stultify at home. Walk down a street in South Kensington – the new Sixth Arrondissement of London – and try not to hear French spoken. The French lycee there has a long waiting list for French children whose families have emigrated.

I grimly listen to my French friends on this topic.

From a senior United Nations official who is now based in Africa: “The best thinkers in France have left the country. What is now left is mediocrity.”

From a chief legal counsel at a major French company: “France is dying a slow death. Socialism is killing it. It’s like a rich old family being unable to give up the servants. Think Downton Abbey.”

From a French publisher: “In the past 10 years, the global village has become a reality. The world economy has become so important that a nation-state can no longer play the role that it did 10 years ago. The French have not woken up to that.”

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Dim-bulb Conservatives

Call or email your MP.

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Bought-and-paid-for journalism

Layers and layers of fact checkers:

David Kocieniewski of the New York Times is guilty of some outrageously bad journalism in the form of a groundless ad hominem attack on the reputation of two professors for the sole purpose of reinforcing the prejudices of his misinformed readers.

Kocieniewski’s article is titled “Academics Who Defend Wall St. Reap Reward”, and insinuates that academic research produced by University of Houston Professor Craig Pirrong and University of Illinois Professor Scott Irwin was bought and paid for by financial speculators as “one part of Wall Street’s efforts to fend off regulation.”


(h/t Cafe Hayek)

UPDATE: Thanks for the link, Kate!

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TED Talking

The key rhetorical device for TED talks is a combination of epiphany and personal testimony (an “epiphimony” if you like ) through which the speaker shares a personal journey of insight and realisation, its triumphs and tribulations.

What is it that the TED audience hopes to get from this? A vicarious insight, a fleeting moment of wonder, an inkling that maybe it’s all going to work out after all? A spiritual buzz?

I’m sorry but this fails to meet the challenges that we are supposedly here to confront. These are complicated and difficult and are not given to tidy just-so solutions. They don’t care about anyone’s experience of optimism. Given the stakes, making our best and brightest waste their time – and the audience’s time – dancing like infomercial hosts is too high a price. It is cynical.

Also, it just doesn’t work.

Indeed. Read the whole thing.

(h/t Kathy Shaidle)

Also, this:

And this:

One of the easiest ways to create something that white people will like is to create something that will allow them to feel smart but doesn’t require a large amount of work, time, or effort. There is, however, a catch. Whatever it is that you create cannot be a shortcut. You see white people like the idea of getting smarter quickly, but they don’t like the idea of people thinking that they are lazy. It is a bit of a paradox, but it does explain why white people only like Cliff Notes if they are part of some sort of hilarious college story about last-minute studying for an exam. And why they consider it highly unacceptable to use cliff notes or Wikipedia to get a rough understanding of a book you don’t want to read.

Unfortunately being able to create something that makes you feel smarter without having to do a lot of work has been very difficult. So only a few ideas have ever gained traction with white people, the most notable of which being documentary films and public radio. However, in the past decade a new item has been added to this very short list-TED Talks.

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