October 21, 2017

Satanic triggers: "Cultural Appropriation!"

Sitting on top of a carved idol gives a
new meaning to getting head.
As some of you folks know, I recently returned from a week out of the country. I took a Greyhound from Ontario to North Carolina to celebrate my brother's wedding, and this resulted in me having way too much time to do nothing but elucidate my thoughts on current events but also catch up on podcasts. Lately I've been enjoying the Naked Diner podcast as well as the refreshingly unpretentious Black Mass Appeal podcast

I can't say that I've agreed with everything the hosts have said--as it happens, I don't agree with everything that anybody says--but one of the more interesting discussions that came out of the most recent podcast was about the cultural appropriation and alleged racism of tiki bars. Lemme tell ya: if I had a dollar for every time I've watched a Satanist de-activate rational consideration and immediately fly into ICANDOWHATEVERIWANTANDYOU'RENOTTHEBOSSOFME mode at the barest mention of cultural appropriation, I'd have a small pile of money.

And you know, I can totally see where those Satanists are coming from. After all, isn't that why Satanism is so appealing to all of us who take the name of the Dark Lord? Isn't there a delicious allure to accepting that your life is frequently happier and more satisfying when you just embrace telling people to get the fuck out of your business? I'm not a fan at all of carrying around useless guilt and the unwanted baggage that other people try to put on me.

I can also see where those Satanists are coming from because often enough the moment somebody forbids clothing, food, language, hairstyles, or anything else with the dirty curse of CULTURAL APPROPRIATION! it can feel a lot like a soft kind of segregation where what can feel like a patronizing sort of respect results in the same boundaries that would otherwise be erected by the racists who'd like to turn the clock back to Jim Crow. So the story goes, the concerned white person puts a figurative fence around a minority group because it's in the minority group's "best interest" to not be diluted by mixing with the majority group. At what point did the concerned white person ask the minority group what they wanted?

I think forced segregation is a terrible idea. I think that it's generally preferable to have more exchange of practices, knowledge, and traditions between cultures as opposed to less. Fluidity is important to prevent stagnation, and to that end one of the political goals that I think makes a lot of sense is open borders (or at least a very relaxed immigration policy.) I think that cultural exchange happens constantly and the fluid process of exchanging values, ideas, practices, and traditions is the method by which cultures evolve and adapt to the dynamic world in which we live.

And for me, the key word there is "fluid." Water surely seeks its own level, and some water rises while other water falls, but in a fluid situation the movement is reciprocal. When one half of an exchange doesn't acknowledge the other side, this results in what's called CULTURAL APPROPRIATION! The concerned people will line up and say, "You can't do that!," and the indifferent people will line up and say, "Just try to stop me!" There's surely no law against gaudy tiki bars and their nonexistent relationship to south Pacific culture, but in the rush to assert one's right to indulge in tiki bars, how many people have stopped to consider if they should indulge in tiki bars?

My observation from a Satanic perspective is that Satanists despise being told what they can't or shouldn't do, but if you introduce into the conversation the question of lesser magic and the question of how indulging in tiki bars closes doors among Polynesians and Pacific islanders, and well, all of a sudden the conversation turns a different direction. "Hey, man--isn't it wild that we're drinking a drink that's not served anywhere outside North America from a cup shaped like another religion's deity, eating food with no basis in south Pacific culture, sitting on chairs that are made to look like cultural icons important to Pacific islanders, and listening to Hawaiian steel-guitar music that everybody else thinks is fucking retarded?" ... "Huh, I hadn't thought about that. I suppose it would be a good idea to not invite my Polynesian boss to lunch here next week before I apply for that big promotion."

Or, if you couch the question of CULTURAL APPROPRIATION! in terms of Epicurean selection, then the choice between a plasticized tiki bar filled with artificial creations intended as kitschy entertainment pales in comparison to taking the time and energy to seek out an authentic restaurant with food, music, drinks, and entertainment that are a cut above the manufactured sights put out for the tiki tourists.

I think that the discussion of CULTURAL APPROPRIATION! is important and worth having for the perspective that it offers and the length to which it prevents me from forgetting past orthodoxies or imposing my own solipsistic interpretation onto a world which resents the filter through which I expect them to interact with me, but I also think that if this discussion is going to happen among Satanists--a famously prickly bunch of people if ever there was one--then it's got to be framed appropriately so that even if a particular piece of the vocabulary is missing, the discussion still leads to a productive and stimulating conclusion which is satisfying for everybody involved.

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Freedom of Expression =/= Freedom from Consequences