Archive for category Culture

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:

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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.

Racist.

Racist.

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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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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Deep Optimism

Matt Ridley learns you a lesson:

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Letter to the Editor

Saskatoon’s most sensitive man lectures us on freedom of expression (published Dec. 28, 2013):

In response to my civil rights case about Saskatoon Transit putting Christmas messages on buses, local churches have purchased Christmas advertisements to be placed on transit vehicles.

I support them being able to do that. I think this is a good alternative to the city promoting Christmas and Christianity on its own. Now that churches are buying their own ads to promote their religion, they shouldn’t care if Saskatoon Transit Services doesn’t promote Christmas on programmable bus signs.

There are more than 10,000 religions, 150 of which have one million or more followers not including branches of each religion. The city can’t promote all religions or promote all religions equally, so it should promote none. Also, people’s taxes should not go toward promoting a religion they don’t believe in.

Like churches, if other religious groups or individuals want to buy ads that promote their religion, they should be free to do that. Likewise, the Centre for Inquiry Canada should be free to buy ads that promote atheism. That’s what freedom of expression is all about.

Ashu Solo

Mr. Solo’s support for freedom of expression would have more credibility if he wasn’t also threatening to use the power of the state to silence the voices of duly elected officials such as Randy Donauer.

Also misguided is Mr. Solo’s view on the so-called “separation of church and state”. He seems to believe that this principle ought to ensure the state has nothing to say or do with religion whatsoever.

This is completely wrong. What this principle suggests is that the state should not coerce citizens to practice a particular form of religious belief. If a government wishes to endorse a certain religion over another, it may do so as long as it does not hinder a citizen’s right worship as he or she chooses. If citizens feel the government should not observe religious practices, the remedy can be found in the ballot box.

It is this distinction which Mr. Solo fails to appreciate in his campaign to wipe out any form of religion in public life.

Be that as it may, the city of Saskatoon is hardly “promoting” Christianity with its bus banners as much as it is commemorating a beloved cultural institution which transcends Christianity and is celebrated throughout the community by Christians and non-Christians alike. (Note that this would be different if the banners read “Have a Merry Christmas … or else!”)

If Mr. Solo truly believed in his cause, he would focus his intolerance on actual state-coerced religious observances, such as the mandatory Christmas Day holiday. Good luck to him on that one.

UPDATE: The letter was published on January 3.

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Pope trope

" ... Will it ever stop? Yo – I don't know. Turn off the lights and I'll glow ..."

” … Will it ever stop? Yo – I don’t know. Turn off the lights and I’ll glow …”

Greg Mankiw on the unfortunate economic musings of Pope Francis:

First, throughout history, free-market capitalism has been a great driver of economic growth, and as my colleague Ben Friedman has written, economic growth has been a great driver of a more moral society.

Second, “trickle-down” is not a theory but a pejorative used by those on the left to describe a viewpoint they oppose. It is equivalent to those on the right referring to the “soak-the-rich” theories of the left. It is sad to see the pope using a pejorative, rather than encouraging an open-minded discussion of opposing perspectives.

Third, as far as I know, the pope did not address the tax-exempt status of the church. I would be eager to hear his views on that issue. Maybe he thinks the tax benefits the church receives do some good when they trickle down.

I’d like to add, fourth, that the Church did such a great job that it only took seventeen-hundred years before it significantly improved the quality of life of all Europeans, which just happened to coincide with the Industrial Revolution and the rise of capitalism.

h/t Instapundit

UPDATE: David Harsanyi elaborates. A must-read. (h/t Kathy Shaidle)

UPDATER: Ludwig von Mises:

Of course, as a rule capitalists and entrepreneurs are not saints excelling in the virtue of self-denial.  But neither are their critics saintly.  And with all the regard due to the sublime self-effacement of saints, we cannot help stating the fact that the world would be in a rather desolate condition if it were peopled exclusively by men not interested in the pursuit of material well-being.

(h/t Cafe Hayek)

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Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is sophistry gone berserk

Capitalism was slavery gone berserk.

Only a Harvard-tenured professor could say anything so stupid and unmoored by reality and get his own documentary series on PBS.

For many of us, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. was the guy who over-reacted to a police officer responding to a call at his door and ended up having a beer with the president for some bizarre reason.

"Down that beer like you down the chains of social injustice."

“Down that beer like you down the chains of social injustice.”

For the cultural and academic elite, Skip Gates is a distinguished scholar and social critic with impeccable credentials in blaming Whitey for everything.

His documentary follows this tack:

Slavery in the United States was once a roaring success whose wounds still afflict the country today.

So says Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who examines both its success and shame in The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross, his new PBS documentary series that traces 500 years of black history. “Slavery is a perfect example of why we need limits on the more unfortunate aspects of human nature,” he says. “Slavery was capitalism gone berserk.”

Here is Gates’s reasoning: capitalism is bad, slavery was bad. Ergo, capitalism = slavery.

He is a lot more nuanced than that, of course. He sees that one group makes a lot of money during slavery, therefore capitalism was involved in some way. QED.

One could just as easily say that “slavery was socialism gone berserk.” You see, on a small scale, a plantation was like a place where everyone worked for a higher purpose, and everyone (save for the minority elite) was treated exactly the same. It’s a specious analogy, yes, but so was Gates’s.

Or, you could say that “slavery was communism gone berserk.” No one, save the elite minority, had rights and everyone worked “from each of his abilities” to the “needs” decided by the central authority. This analogy holds more true than the previous one, because where ever it was implemented, communism was essentially slavery.

Slavery – “the supreme hypocrisy” – was always an essential ingredient of the U.S. experiment. White Americans always drew heavily on the labour, culture and traditions of blacks while denying them due credit in exchange, not to mention their human rights. The father of the United States, George Washington, was one of its largest slave owners, even as one of his slaves, Harry Washington, understandably fled to join a British regiment and fight against the patriots.

Gates lives in a world without objectivity. Otherwise, how else could he redefine “capitalism” to mean work without wages, where parties don’t freely exchange goods, services or resources?

“Because of the profound disconnect between principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and the simultaneous practice of slavery, we’ve had historical amnesia about slavery,” Gates said in a recent interview. “We still see the effects, and feel them.”

Even the site for the U.S. capital city – Washington, D.C. – was chosen to accommodate the mighty bloc of Southern slave owners.

The African Americans doesn’t fall prey to white scapegoating. For instance, Africans practised slavery long before white Europeans cashed in, and Gates journeys to Sierra Leone, where he visits with Africans whose forebears profited from it.

And therein lies the weakness of Gates’s argument. There were Africans who profited from slavery, then as well as now. Yet places like Sierra Leone never flourished economically, either during the slave trade or after. Slavery never brought prosperity in Africa.

Likewise, slavery wasn’t a product of capitalism in the United States (nor was it socialism or communism). The institution was a part of the agrarian, mercantilist, neo-feudal South. Slaves played the part of indentured servants, plantation owners the minor feudal lords.

Wealth came about via ownership of fertile property, and despite slavery, not because of it. Initially, the prime agricultural areas of the South created plenty of valuable products and fostered a fast-growing population.

However, the Industrial Revolution coincided with the American, which led to the North’s economy booming past that of the South. Slavery kept the South from succeeding. Not only was the institution abhorrent in both nature and practice, but it was counter-productive to the ends of its proponents.

The fact that the abolitionist North far outpaced the slave-owning South eludes Gates. He simply doesn’t see his contradiction, nor does he consider how true “capitalism gone berserk” in the North during the latter half of the nineteenth century created wealth and opportunity for everyone, including those blacks escaping the Jim Crow South.

Speaking of Jim Crow, does Gate even realize that those laws were passed by government because legislators sought to restrict berserking capitalists from hiring or serving the upstart black population?

Sorry, that was a stupid question. Of course he doesn’t realize this, because to realize this would up-end his grand narrative, not to mention his plan to indoctrinate every schoolchild in America with this historicistic tripe.

Gates should stick to drinking beer.

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Ration Your Passion

This video of Charles Murray has made the rounds on the interweb over the last few days, mostly because of his admission that he was “fooled” by the rhetoric of Barack Obama in the 2008 campaign.

It’s worth listening to in whole, but check out what he says in the last few minutes (starting at about 3:30):

That used to be a central American tenet, that all you needed to do to be equal of every other American was to take care of your family and work hard, and what you worked at and how much money you made was irrelevant…

People were respected for holding a job, a menial job, and taking care of their family, and people who didn’t do that were stigmatized like crazy.

That used to be the basis of American equality, and it no longer is.

The person holding down a menial job can be taunted and teased…

This is not an inner-city phenomenon. This is one of those things that’s in the white working class. You know, “It’s beneath your dignity to be working at McDonald’s,” like that…

That is stripping from a large number of Americans what should be their birthright, and that birthright is, “I’m as good as anybody in this country if I do a few simple things.”

Evidence for the increasing disconnect between those who control the “big” ideas and those who implement them, as well as the ramifications of this divide, can be found in Murray’s Coming Apart.

Very much related is Mike “Dirty Jobs” Rowe’s acclaimed “TED Talk” (actually, the related “Entertainment Gathering”) from 2008:

What would happen if we challenged some of these sacred cows?

“Follow your passion.” We’ve been talking about this for the last 36 hours. Follow your passion. What could possibly be wrong with that?

It’s probably the worst advice I ever got. “Follow your dreams and go broke,” right?

That’s all I heard growing up. I didn’t know what to do with my life, but I was told if you follow your passion, it’s going to work out.

I could give you 30 examples right now. Bob Combs, the pig farmer in Las Vegas, who collects the uneaten scraps of food from the casinos and feeds them to his swine. Why? Because there is so much protein in the stuff we don’t eat, his pigs grow twice the normal speed, and he is one rich pig farmer, and he is good for the environment, and he smells like Hell, but God bless him! He’s making a great living. You ask him, “Did you follow your passion?” He’d laugh at you. The guy’s worth–he just got offered, like, sixty million dollars for his farm and he turned it down, outside of Vegas. He didn’t follow his passion. He stepped back, watched where everybody was going, and he went the other way.

I hear that story over and over and over.

We’ve declared War on Work. As a society. All of us.

It’s a civil war. It’s a cold war, really. We didn’t set out to do it. We didn’t twist our mustache in some Machiavellian way, but we’ve done it.

And we have waged this war on at least four fronts.

Certainly in Hollywood. The way we portray working people on TV? It’s laughable. If he’s a plumber, he’s 300 pounds and he’s got a butt crack. Admit it. You’ve seen it all the time. That’s what plumbers look like, right? We turn them into heroes, or we turn them into punch lines. That’s what TV does…

We’ve waged this war on Madison Avenue. So many commercials come out there, in way of a message, what’s really being said? “Your life will be better if you work a little less, if you didn’t have to work so hard, if you can come home a little earlier, if you could retire a little faster, or if you could punch out a little sooner.” It’s all in there, over and over, again and again.

Washington? I can’t even begin to talk about the deals and policies in place that affect the bottom-line reality of the available jobs, because I don’t really know. I just know that’s a front in this war.

And right here, guys, in Silicon Valley. How many people have an iPhone on them right now? How many people have their Blackberrys? We’re plugged in, we’re connected. I would never suggest for a second that something bad has come out of the tech revolution…but I would suggest that innovation without imitation is a complete waste of time. Nobody celebrates imitation the way “Dirty Jobs” guys know it has to be done: your iPhone without those people making the same interface, the same circuitry, the same board, over and over. That’s what makes it equally as possible as the genius that goes inside of it. We’ve got this new toolbox. Our tools today don’t look like shovels and picks. They look like the stuff we walk around with.

So the collective effect of all of that has been the marginalization of lots and lots of jobs.

And I realized, probably too late in this game…the most important thing to know, and to come face-to-face with, is the fact that I got it wrong about a lot of things…I got a lot wrong…

The thing to do is talk about a PR campaign for “work.” Manual labor. Skilled labor. Somebody needs to be out there talking about the forgotten benefits…

The jobs we hope to make, the jobs we hope to create, aren’t going to stick unless they’re jobs people want.

(Rowe’s background on the talk is found here.)

Related to these both is the terrific Scott Adams op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. It’s worth reading in full, but this is the best bit:

But the most dangerous case of all is when successful people directly give advice. For example, you often hear them say that you should “follow your passion.” That sounds perfectly reasonable the first time you hear it. Passion will presumably give you high energy, high resistance to rejection and high determination. Passionate people are more persuasive, too. Those are all good things, right?

Here’s the counterargument: When I was a commercial loan officer for a large bank, my boss taught us that you should never make a loan to someone who is following his passion. For example, you don’t want to give money to a sports enthusiast who is starting a sports store to pursue his passion for all things sporty. That guy is a bad bet, passion and all. He’s in business for the wrong reason.

My boss, who had been a commercial lender for over 30 years, said that the best loan customer is someone who has no passion whatsoever, just a desire to work hard at something that looks good on a spreadsheet. Maybe the loan customer wants to start a dry-cleaning store or invest in a fast-food franchise—boring stuff. That’s the person you bet on. You want the grinder, not the guy who loves his job.

For most people, it’s easy to be passionate about things that are working out, and that distorts our impression of the importance of passion. I’ve been involved in several dozen business ventures over the course of my life, and each one made me excited at the start. You might even call it passion.

The ones that didn’t work out—and that would be most of them—slowly drained my passion as they failed. The few that worked became more exciting as they succeeded. For example, when I invested in a restaurant with an operating partner, my passion was sky high. And on day one, when there was a line of customers down the block, I was even more passionate. In later years, as the business got pummeled, my passion evolved into frustration and annoyance.

On the other hand, Dilbert started out as just one of many get-rich schemes I was willing to try. When it started to look as if it might be a success, my passion for cartooning increased because I realized it could be my golden ticket. In hindsight, it looks as if the projects that I was most passionate about were also the ones that worked. But objectively, my passion level moved with my success. Success caused passion more than passion caused success.

So forget about passion. And while you’re at it, forget about goals, too.

Amen, brothers.

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