Saturday, January 9, 2016

“Cultural Appropriation”: The Latest Nonsense from the Regressive Left

Hysterical screaming and whining about cultural appropriation is the latest rubbish from the regressive left. It refers to the borrowing or adoption of elements of one culture by people from another. But typically – as in so much regressive left nonsense – there is a blatant double standard: apparently it is only evil White people, Western civilisation or “dominant cultures” that are to blame for this, because such “appropriation” supposedly oppresses, insults or disrespects the minority cultures. In its extreme form, regressive leftists are now complaining about “culturally insensitive” Halloween costumes and even Western fondness for ethnic food since it is evil “cultural appropriation.”

Strangely, nobody – as far as I can see – says anything about how the non-Western world has engaged in massive “cultural appropriation” of Western culture and products of Western culture. Why? Because (1) this doesn’t fit the regressive left victimology and (2) any rational Western person won’t care less that non-Western people borrow Western culture: it is a total non-issue. For example, if people in China or Japan wear Western-style clothing and business suits, who in the West could care less? If people in Japan want to dress up as cowboys or in German or French national costumes, do you care less?

If people in India or Bangladesh want to eat British pork pie, are they bound to learn everything they can about British culture and eat it in a way showing “respect” to the British culture that produced pork pies? If they were to eat pork pie with other Indian dishes or cook it in a way different from the way British people do, is this showing disrespect for British culture? Clearly not. The very idea is bloody absurd.

This latest meme of white or Western “cultural appropriation” is truly bizarre, because for years the Western Postmodernist multiculturalists have been saying that the introduction of new cultures into the West and our adoption of new cultural practices, customs and food etc. is a very good thing that “enriches” us. But now, apparently, it is proof that we are all a bunch of culturally insensitive racists – which just goes to show how incoherent and unhinged is the Postmodernist and regressive left in this day and age.

Finally, there is another issue: this stuff is so ridiculously trivial, given the really serious problems in the world.

Every year literally millions of children are dying in the developing world from easily preventable or curable diseases long banished from the West, an issue which could be largely fixed by relatively trivial aid from the industrialised world, if only there was a mass popular movement in the industrialised world to do something about it.

But today’s leftists at universities would rather p*ss their pathetic, sorry lives away screaming about sombreros or Mexican halloween costumes. Words cannot describe my contempt for such people.


  1. Not a lot to disagree with here. The pomposity and complete lack of any regard for pragmatic solutions to serious problems is irritating.

    The world view is everything.

  2. This must put the white Western leftists who embrace yoga, meditation and drug tripping using plants from shamanistic cultures in an awkward situation.

    1. Look for the yoga appropriation link I posted here a while ago.

      This is a deeply pernicious idea because it not just conflates race and culture but is intended as a cudgel to foreclose debate.

      Nice to see this post LK, since when I snarked about this earlier you told me to "get a grip." Glad to see you now have a firm grasp! :)

    2. Incidentally, regressive is nugatory above.

    3. Agreed that the regressive left is mind-numbingly stupid and that self-respecting leftists should not waste their time on such trivial nonsense, but I wanted to ask Ken about an idea he has brought up before:

      "This is a deeply pernicious idea because it not just conflates race and culture."

      This makes me curious as to what you think the basis for race is, given what we know about it scientifically. You're talking as if there is some firm separation between the race and culture, but it's well-known that race has no real scientific basis; it's a constructed category. And as the term implies, constructed categories are largely determined by cultural conventions, not objective scientific laws. How exactly do you conceive of the separation between race and culture when the latter constructs the former?

      I'm not necessarily arguing it's impossible to do so, because there's no scientific evidence that the reverse is true either--i.e., that race constructs culture. (which reaffirms, of course, that there is no scientific basis for racism) I'm just genuinely curious as to what you think the relationship between culture and race is.

    4. Not sure how Ken B would answer, but

      (1) I agree the concept "race" is highly problematic.

      (2) yes, historically speaking, ideas on what races are or many they are have been socially constructed to some degree.

      (3) but it is absurd to deny that they are no biological/morphological differences between groups of human beings, which arise out of isolation, genetic drift and microevolution.

      (4) the problem is: what is a rational and defensible scientific classification of human beings into subspecies that have historically arisen owing to isolation, genetic drift and microevolution (even if populations have often intermarried and mixed etc.)?

      There is a scientific literature on this and the biological criteria are not just "socially constructed" but objectively real:

    5. LackMinsky,
      Race is scientifically real phenomenon. Only recently scientists have discovered computer processing power to analyse genetic variance and tell from which continent a DNA sample comes from.
      Ref- Political correctness makes race and genetics taboo in the west,Which is why China is winning.-Breitbart.}.The article also states that some medicines can be more effective on certain races than others.

    6. Race has a definition in biology. Races are sub populations of a species prevented for a long period from significant interbreeding such that genetic differences can accumulate. That's not meaningless or problematic.
      But in this case, I mean these fools insist skin color and ancestry should govern everything.

    7. FWIW I fully endorse LK's answer here. Consonance in music has no crisp definition, but more or less consonant does, for most pairs of notes. High ground and low ground have no crisp definition either. That does not mean it's just an arbitrary

  3. Have you read Carrier's thoughts on the matter?

    Incidentally, I am rather disappointed that even erudite men such as Carrier are wasting time on complaining about cultural appropriation.

    1. That post is abysmal. has become infected with the regressive left nonsense.

  4. LachMinsky, all categories are constructed. There is no scientific basis for categories. We construct categories because they are useful for our purposes(scientific or otherwise), not because science supports the idea of Platonic ideals.

    The concept of race is no more problematic than is the concept of species(or sub-species), which is itself fluid, imperfect, changes based on the context, not accepted by everyone etc. Speciation is the title of a good bok by Orr and Coyne on the topic(speciation that is, not race).

    Some people might respond and claim that species is a better defined concept than race that has to do with the ability to reproduce with other members. Such people can be pointed to numerous examples where this distinction breaks down, for starters, asexual species. Another example: There are groups of animals which do not "naturally" breed in the wild but can be 'fooled' into doing so in lab settings. There are ring species. Hybrid species. When we run into these situations(and there are many more, except for mentioning asexual species, I mostly focused on animals with the examples, with plants and bacteria a naive idea of speciation is even more problematic), we update our definition to what is useful.

    Life is a continuum, if you were able to bring back every organism that ever existed you would have an ever harder time categorizing. We separate groups of organisms into discrete categories because it is useful. Are those categories socially constructed? Absolutely. However, those criterion which we use to create those cateogries are 'real,' that is, testable, falsifiable, and observable. So we can for example say that we base the idea of species on close genetic relationships(not that there haven't been other sorts of definitions of species), but how close? Where does the cut-off begin? There is no firm rule. It's like asking what is the definition of a tree. There are multiple definitions. They depend on the context, none of them are perfect. Incidentally not everyone even agrees how you define life, and where something like a host cell line infection fits, is not clear. But this lack of perfection or idealization of essence does not mean we are not doing science.

    Also, it is actually trivially easy to categorize people racially. Genetic clustering does exactly that. You set a number of populations, and statistical analysis(multivariate analysis basically) does the rest for you. As it turns out, for example if you set K=3(needless to say, whether we consider 3 poulations, or 20, or 2 to be useful at all, is a question of instrumentality), you get three populations that basically correspond to: Sub-Saharan African, East Eurasians, and West Eurasians. Also, generally the more data you feed into this, the stronger this tendency becomes. Now, one might note that, these are exactly the sorts of categories old physical anthropologists came up with, using a variety of methods, some of them pseudoscientific, some of them not. These ideas were later abandoned and considered racist by anthropologists, but genetics has vindicated them. It is not just genetics either. In forensic anthropology, similar techniques that were used by older physical anthropologists are still utilized to this day and we can with some accuracy predict a person's race or ancestry or whatever term one prefers based on skeletal features and the like. Here is a post by paleoanthropologist John Hawks for reference:

    1. (1) "... all categories are constructed. There is no scientific basis for categories.

      This is a stupid, ignorant statement.

      No "scientific basis for categories", you say?

      So there is no objective, empirical basis for the category "star" versus "liquid water"? No objective, empirical basis between the concept "cat" and "dog"? lol..

      (2) "Are those categories socially constructed? Absolutely. However, those criterion which we use to create those cateogries are 'real,' that is, testable, falsifiable, and observable."

      That statement is utterly incoherent. Categories cannot be "absolutely socially constructed" if the criteria for determining them are objectively real.

    2. LK,
      You are being misled by the word constructed. All judgments have an element of the subjective. Is that measurement of accuracy to 12 places close enough. That sort of thing. 1111 is pointing that out, and arguing correctly that LM is distorting that mundane and well known fact into something it isn't.
      At base all definitions in electromagnetism are defined operationally for example, and so rely on this . That doesn't make it socially constructed as LM seems to think.

  5. On genetics, when we say we can use genetic clustering, what we are doing is measuring genetic correlations among a number of genetic markers between groups. It does not mean that we have a specific gene that fits one into a particular group, or lacks one, or any such thing. It is actually the amount of correlations on a population level that make the difference. So to simplify, in Group 1 we may find strong correlations of having X, Y, B, and Z, but that does not mean you will not find members of Group 2 that have those traits, or that members of Group 1 must have them all.

    Also what I am not claiming is that the sheer variety of neutral variation(allele frequency) will explain observed differences. Naturally, individual variation is great, and if you compare individuals from different groups and compare the amount of total variation, you will find there is more variation within groups rather than without. But this does not mean you cannot statistically place people into groups which are correlated, because certain differences are stronglly correlated at a group level, they cluster. Some people have been confused by this and think greater within group variation is a contradiction to the idea of group differences, but it is not(look up "Lewontin's fallacy").

    It may also be worth noting that much variation is neutral, and that you can have both a great deal of in-group variation say between different dog breeds, and a great deal of similarity between dogs in general, and this still would not mean that a pomeranian could not possibly be much different from a great dane(obviously). On the contrary, you will find certain genes that make these two different from each other, in size for example, even if those genes that influence the size differences are a tiny part of actual observed variation.

    1. Wait, what you say here contradicts the extreme social constructivist nonsense you said above.

    2. No. Jeez LK, what has got into you here? It's like you are arguing that a distribution with an nth moment of 0 must have 0 for all moments. 1111 is noting there are different kinds of clusters, which have non random explanations. True.

  6. With all of that out of the way, it must be said that the concept of race is a very old one, most people understand it intuitively, and all of the efforts to say you cannot scientifically group people or whatever has always been among a group of leftist academics who live in a bubble. Ordinary people understand the concept and it's frankly annoying the amount of misinformation on the topic out there. The idea didn't go away because cultural anthropologists, postmodernist philosophers, or other assorted fools made rather shoddy efforts to make it so(One of the funnier examples is that the largest Latino advocacy group in the U.S. is actually called "la raza." The idea of race, it's something some academics deny, the rest of the world ignores them). A hick farmer from hundereds of years ago would never have had any trouble with the concept, no one would need to explain genetics or evolution to them for them to "get" it. I do so only because among certain more educated people have this idea that evolution does not apply to humans because racism, so I point them to the fact that there is a whole field called population genetics(in addition to information from other fields, I mentioned physical anthropology).

    If people want to deny the concept of race because they simply do not like the word "race," or because they do not like its history, they should be honest about that. But I think they're wrong and should not seek to misinform people(and I think it's frankly a waste of time to come up with a new term, many people have an idea of what race means, so it's useful to use that term imo). Anyone with an ounce of common sense knows the ability of people to develop keen in-group vs out-group sensibilities, or to commit atrocities against each other is not reliant upon an ideology which has a concept of genetic relation, so in my opinion leftist academics just need to get over it and accept the reality of genetic differences between groups and stop pretending doing so is likely to lead to a re-surgence of the Nazis or something. Most people were not paying them much attention anyway, so what's the harm? BTW I'm not accusing LachMinsky of any particular motivations, when I criticize people for misinformation and such, I'm referring to the people responsible for the ideas. People like Lewontin, Gould, and too many anthropologists to name.

  7. Toe rings