For the past several days I have come across several articles discussing the idea of “Cultural Appropriation” most notably one or two mentioning some idiotic students at some University complaining about their sushi and orange chicken being culturally insensitive. The idea of cultural appropriation is one of the most shameful idiotic and dangerously illiberal concepts adapted by the intellectually bankrupt and embraced by the perpetually offended mentally ill.
The history of human culture and society has been one of cultural appropriation. Nations, Cultures, and People do not live in walled off cages. Cultures have given and taken from each other since the dawn of time. We have shared and adapted technological, agricultural, artistic, and linguistic culture from each other, most often taking the best from one and incorporating and innovating in another. The idea that adapting another culture into your own is somehow a bad thing is a shamefully moronic concept. I think that the professors of History and Social Science peddling this nonsense should be ashamed of themselves. The display of historical and cultural ignorance is shameful and speaks volumes about our educational system.
Our history is one of cultural appropriation. I am sitting here communicating with you using the English language, a language with Germanic roots that has incorporated French, Latin, Gaelic, and many other languages. I am writing English down using the Latin alphabet and when I wish to communicate a number I will use the Arabic system. Open a history book and you will see an almost unlimited amount of examples of cultures appropriating and adapting from each other. The Romans appropriated Greek culture, in turn, the Northern European Gauls and Celts adopted Roman culture. Theater, myths, stories, film, automobiles and all our holidays have been passed through cultures, some dead, some still thriving today.
If one takes the nonsense of cultural appropriation to its logical conclusion it leads to a world of stagnation and stupidity. The exact opposite of the liberal values of cooperation, understanding, and enrichment that I value. I read and enjoy Samurai history and Shinto texts because I respect and enjoy Japanese culture and I believe that the practices can be mixed with my beliefs in order to better myself. I practice Yoga because I respect and believe it to be a fantastic mental, spiritual, and physical exercise specifically when adapted and combined with western bodybuilding practices. The cultural appropriation zealots would deem me a disrespectful racist. This stupidity taken to its extreme would also condemn an African novelist writing in English after all the novel form is a European and Japanese creation.
Living as an American in Japan the stupidity of “cultural appropriation” being an issue in America becomes even more glaringly obvious. The narrative of most complaints pits White Americans as the perpetrators of cultural appropriation from minority cultures. It’s usually centered around Cinco De Mayo, Dia De Los Muertes, Native American Dress and Symbols, African American music such as Rap, and the current dumbness of serving warm sushi. Being here in Japan I have for the first time seen the exact opposite, the blatant cultural appropriation of white American culture in a foreign country.
The Modern period of Japanese history and culture starting with The Meiji Period 1868 and followed by the Allied-occupied period and the contemporary is one of rapid and blatant cultural appropriation and growth. Japan during the previous Tokugawa shogunate was a prosperous but closed off country. Upon its inevitable opening to the rest of the world, it had to play a catch-up game with the rest of the industrialized world. A task which it accomplished with a vengeance propelling itself into a world power by WWII. Postwar Japan also appropriated and adapted the culture, both social and political of the Allies propelling itself from defeat into a 1st world power and the world’s 3rd largest economy.
The Japanese appropriation of Western and American culture was blatantly obvious to me on the first day here. I wandered the streets of Yokosuka under beautifully illuminated Christmas lights and decorations. Everywhere I went I saw Christmas trees and other decorations. Of course only a very small minority of Japanese are actually practicing Christians, yet the Japanese have adopted Christmas as a holiday. But in true cultural appropriation fashion, they have changed and adapted it. Not only is Japanese Christmas barely recognizable to Christians but it has very little in common with the Christmas secular atheists like myself and other Americans know.
Japanese Christmas is not a family holiday where families gather around the tree for a magnificent dinner. Where the kids wake up on Christmas Day and run to open presents left under the tree by their family. In Japan Christmas is a couples holiday. Japanese couples will celebrate Christmas by going out to nice restaurants and exchange gifts. It has more in common with Valentine’s day in practice. Another interesting bit is that the traditional Japanese Christmas meal is actually Kentucky Fried Chicken, not sure where that comes from but I’m guessing it has something in common with Coca-Cola and Macy’s inventing a lot of our Christmas traditions.
Does the fact that the Japanese have appropriated the holiday bother me? Absolutely not. They have taken Christmas Trees, lights, reindeer, mistletoe, carols, snowmen, and stripped them of the traditional Christian, European Pagan, and Western meanings, turning the holiday into a unique Japanese one. I find the whole experience enlightening and as a lover of history fascinating to observe.
If I had the time and will I could write down and discuss hundreds of examples of amazing and interesting cultural appropriation and exchange between Japan and the United States alone. Hamburgers, Anime, Samurai Movies, Cowboy Movies, sports cars, video games, and hundreds of loan words. I could go on and on. One could fill volumes if we expand to the appropriation of cultures worldwide. Of course, our current histories of civilization are quite adequate. Only people lacking in common sense and looking for offense will say otherwise.
I for one enjoy and embrace cultural appropriation. I will continue to do my Yoga and meditation, I will eat as much Sushi and Ramen as possible and I will smile fondly at my Japanese friends celebrating Christmas, Valentines Day, and Halloween while they eat the fantastically appropriated Navy Burgers.