Sunday, July 26, 2015

Cultural Appropriation / The Internet Was Mine First

I have a lot of anti-capitalist bleeding heart idealistic friends, and I like them.

I'd have to say I'm one of them, if I'm one of anything. But sometimes they're dumb. A dumb thing they love right now is the idea of "cultural appropriation."

My girlfriend is Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, so now I want her to rock this at work.

The idea is that you shouldn't wear an indian headdress if you're a drunk white kid at a music festival, because that's stealing. You actually shouldn't wear shirts with Native American designs on them if you're not a Native American. And you shouldn't rap if you're not black. 

The thinking goes, I think, that the people who created these motifs and artforms should be the ones who get to use them, and the ones in charge of what they mean to everyone. 

This is utterly ridiculous, and would halt entirely the gears of human thought and progress if taken to its logical conclusion.

I smoke tobacco -- a native american plant with ritual and symbolic importance. I drink green tea, which was likewise significant for the Japanese. Words for Roman gods are the words for my elements and planets. Writing itself was probably born in some highly specified ritual context. There is nothing I do that isn't ripping off and remixing and torturing old traditions, and you're in the same boat. 

Especially if you're using the internet.

I remember when it was just us. The pioneers. I would dial in at 300 BPS and hit up newsgroups that would load so slowly you could watch the individual letters get printed to the screen.

Ours was a deliberately fostered culture of science and free inquiry. Of ideas having sex. Utter promiscuity of information.

But I feel, lately, like our cultural and its artifacts have been . . . appropriated. People are using the internet, built on the backbone of open source "please steal this idea" code, and using it to promote an agenda of weird ethnically-bound memetic property rights.

It's offensive to me.

And if we're going to argue about appropriation, you can send me your thoughts about it on paper.