Three Little SJWs From School

The Mikado poster

Nobody’s safe, for they care for none

I must admit that I have been waiting for this one. I knew that it was only a matter of time before the social justice censors came for The Mikado, that beloved Gilbert & Sullivan operetta set in a highly fictionalized version of Japan, and here we are.

(My other long-standing test for the final capitulation of our society to the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics is the inevitable future banning of George Gershwin’s sublime Piano Concerto in F, a work of jazz and blues rendered in classical form for orchestra, due to its “cultural appropriation” of musical forms pioneered by African Americans. I guarantee you that this will happen, and that picket lines will appear outside the Lincoln Center and Walt Disney Concert Hall much sooner than you think.)

Back to the present day, though, and Fort Hays State University has become the latest epicenter of SJW protests after the FHSU Music and Theatre student organization dared to put on a production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Mikado”.

Campus Reform reports:

Some students at Fort Hays State University (FHSU) in Kansas say a school-sponsored operetta production is not only “racist,” but also rife with “cultural appropriation.”

Naturally, the idea of an operetta based on late-nineteenth century stereotypes of Japanese culture and customs provided the perfect opportunity for various SJW saviour types to go charging to the defence of any innocent contemporary Japanese (or Japanese-American) people who may be offended. Never mind that the real target of W. S. Gilbert’s humour in The Mikado, as in so many of his works, is British bureaucracy and imperial custom. No; instead we must see only artistic cruelty and the helpless victimhood of a designated minority group.

One of the most damaging facets of the current craze for scouring old artistic treasures for reasons to hate and ostentatiously denounce them is the fact that everything interesting about the work in question must take a backseat to the confected outrage of the professionally offended. And sometimes the outrage obscures truly interesting detail, such as that noted by Caroline Crampton in the New Statesman:

Gilbert and Sullivan were first and foremost creating a satire, not a musical comedy. They were working at a time of wide-ranging, if implicit, censorship of the theatre, where easily affronted middle-class audiences would simply not turn up if a work had a whiff of scandal or immorality about it. Gilbert himself likened the challenge of being a late-19th-century dramatist to “doing a hornpipe in fetters”.

Like Shakespeare hundreds of years earlier, using a fictional version of Italy to host his comedies about the Elizabethan court, Gilbert and Sullivan used their “Japan” as a proxy to enable them to satirise the very middle-class audiences they courted. The Mikado’s central plot device that I find so frustrating – that flirting is a crime punishable by death – is a dig at the theat­rical censorship that would not allow any extramarital romance to be portrayed on the London stage.

Utterly ignorant of this nuance and context, a Fort Hays State student going by the name of Fatima took it upon herself to deface several of the posters advertising the event, attaching a semi-literate rebuttal in which she takes W.S. Gilbert to task for being insufficiently woke:

 

The student’s list of accusations against the production is long and rambling:

The Mikado is racist for many reasons so when I saw the Dr. Joseph Perniciaro picked this for the opera I was appalled. The Mikado is cultural appropriation, it is RACIST, it is “yellow face”, and it sure as hell shouldn’t be a production that still exists.

To begin, the opera is about Japanese People … *BUT* … it is being performed here at Fort Hays State University with an all NON-ASIAN CAST.

Quelle horreur – the student musical theater group failed to observe the unwritten rule that characters of a certain race can only be portrayed by actors of the same race. Presumably, Fatima the Outraged Student is also up in arms that Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit musical Hamilton dares to use an all-minority cast to tell the story of the white male Alexander Hamilton’s rise and rivalry with fellow white male Aaron Burr. Except of course that we all know that Fatima would cheer this casting.

The charge sheet continues:

All this production is, is an exaggeration of Japanese stereotypes. The actors put on kimonos, black wigs, color their brows black, wear sandals, use fans and small umbrellas, *OH* – and also put white powder on their face. ‘Blackface’ is universally unacceptable, so why is it okay to do a ‘yellowface’ production? Well, NEWSFLASH, it’s not. If this production was about African American people, it WOULD NOT be cast with all white people.

Absolutely. My mother took me to a production of The Mikado at the English National Opera when I was a teenager and now when I think of modern Japan, I immediately picture severe-eyebrowed, black haired warrior men and porcelain-skinned, umbrella-twirling Geishas. The world’s third largest economy and historical imperial power has never had any opportunity whatsoever to export its true culture and neither have I, a citizen of the United Kingdom with two eyes, a (Japanese brand) television set and an internet connection ever had the opportunity to see real Japanese culture and creations for myself.

More:

The show was created by Gilbert and Sullivan (who are known for such racist productions) in the late 1800’s, and it reduced the Japanese culture to an item of curiosity, fetishizing them for a profit.

I think that the widespread Western fetishization of certain things Japanese began somewhat later than 1885 and with very little assistance from late Victorian operetta, but how thoughtful, how brave of this FHSU student to get outraged at the cultural misrepresentation of Japanese people who lived and died a century before she was born, and who undoubtedly practised meticulous open-minded tolerance at every opportunity in their own lives.

This production was not okay when it was created and it definitely isn’t ok today – like COME ON, it’s 2018. Not to mention that they had to cut the N-WORD out to make it more acceptable *(like that changed how racist it was)*.

Yes, this student actually wrote the phrase “like COME ON”.

On a semantic point, how can something be both a stereotype and cultural appropriation? At one point FHSU’s student censor claims that The Mikado is based on an inaccurate pastiche of Japanese culture and custom, and on the other she accuses Gilbert & Sullivan of cultural appropriation. But how can one culturally appropriate a stereotype? And if a stereotype is culturally appropriated, who is actually harmed? Surely not the Japanese people (either contemporary or those of 1885), since what appears on stage was not a true representation of their lives when it first appeared, and certainly bears no resemblance to life in the technologically advanced, urbanised Japan of today. If one were particularly sensitive and pedantic one could say that The Mikado is glib and insulting, but cultural appropriation is an inaccurate charge.

But on a broader level, I am intrigued about the other contradictions inherent in this charge against The Mikado. Japan is a rich, powerful and historically imperial nation, and has certainly not always been a childishly innocent or benevolent actor on the world stage. Modern-day Japanese cultural and commercial reach is strong, though curiously Japan itself does not have a reputation as a cultural melting-pot particularly welcoming to immigrants. Japanese people are among the most privileged in the world, and scarcely in need of defence by do-gooder social justice warriors, fighting on their behalf from American university campuses.

Would the FHSU students protesting The Mikado also be up in arms at a production lampooning the British, either historical or contemporary? Obviously not, because Britain has been placed squarely into the White Imperialist Aggressor box, and therefore made ineligible for sympathy or outrage when her citizens or culture are mocked, parodied or criticised. Yet Japanese imperial “crimes” in recent history are real. People alive today still bear witness to them. So what precisely is it which pardons and rehabilitates Japan in the eyes of SJWs but continues to damn countries such as Britain and America?

The answer can only be a resoundingly arrogant, America-centric view of the world – a quasi-imperial view, if you will, expounded by the identity politics Left. This worldview assumes firstly that the supposed experience of a Japanese individual is the same as a Japanese-American individual, that both are in need of defending against the risk of offence or emotional harm. and that it is the place of American university students who can barely string together a coherent paragraph to act as self-appointed guardians of their wellbeing. But the Japanese are certainly not a persecuted minority in their own country, and thus far the only publicised objections to The Mikado have come from outside Japan. It takes a peculiar kind of arrogance to think that the Japanese culture and people are so weak as to need the help of American campus SJWs.

The English National Opera regularly stages productions of The Mikado. One of the ENO’s corporate partners is the Japanese piano manufacturer Yamaha. If there were any organic upset or consternation at the continued staging of this operetta whatsoever then Yamaha, a Japanese corporation, conscious of its domestic reputation and eager to avoid being associated with a supposedly white supremacist event, might well consider ending its association with the opera company. They do not do so because there are probably only a handful of individuals on Earth who are genuinely upset at the existence of The Mikado, and of those souls an infintessimally small number would actually be Japanese, the rest comprising of deluded young Western campus activists with too much time on their hands and not enough legitimate causes to support.

In fact, a similar protest did apparently take place in 2014 when another musical theater group dared to put on a production of The Mikado in Providence, Rhode Island. The Taiwanese individual who launched that particular protest was at least willing to countenance possible acceptable productions of the work:

I am aware of a production that had Asian actors in the lead roles while wearing British costumes. There is also a film “The Mikado Project” by chil kong, that shows an Asian-American theatre company producing the opera. These are both great moves. I can support a production of this material that shows some consciousness of the present day, but not a straightforward, uncritical celebration of these 1800s racial stereotypes.

The decidedly non-Japanese student(s) who launched this latest protest at Fort Hays State University, on the other hand, think that only total censorship and banishment of the work down the memory hole will do, proving that each concession to the authoritarian, regressive Left only fuels and encourages even more draconian future demands.

There is no victory great enough to sate their appetites because ultimately this is not about protecting a beleaguered minority (I have yet to read of instances of Japanese people traumatised by Gilbert & Sullivan) but rather about the exercise of power by identity politics-soaked leftist activists.

We tolerate this illiberal, censorious nonsense at our peril. Allow the SJW brigade to take down The Mikado and it will be swiftly on to the next target.

 

The Mikado - racist - cultural appropriation - FHSU

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Happy Thanksgiving – Here’s Why We Urgently Need A Similar Holiday Of Our Own In Britain

The first Thanksgiving

Most Brits probably do not know or care that Thursday 23rd November is the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States of America. Yet many of us are getting ready to hunt for bargains and pre-Christmas deals on Black Friday.

Take a trip to your local big box superstore – or virtually anywhere online – in the next day or so and you will be treated to wall-to-wall promotions about the upcoming Black Friday sales. “Get ready for Black Friday!” scream the advertisements, as one company after another tempts you with sweet promises of unbelievable savings. Yes, Black Friday is coming to Britain – again.

And so it has been for the past few years now. We in Britain have successfully imported the commercially lucrative, post-coital rump of a cherished American national holiday – Thanksgiving – while neatly skipping over all the pesky fundamentals that give it real meaning: you know, those pesky things like love, family, gratitude and patriotism, tiresome distractions that don’t give us an excuse to shop and which will never generate a good Return On Investment.

This is as strong a contender for Tasteless Corporate Act of the Year (Large Retailer category) as we are likely to witness this side of Christmas. And we Brits have certainly thrown ourselves into the spirit, crushing one another in the stampede for discounted TVs and getting into fights which have to be broken up by the police.

But apparently – and rather gratifyingly – a number of Brits have started to recognise Thanksgiving too, in our own semi-comprehending way (I’ve seen Yorkshire pudding and roast beef being served at some British Thanksgiving dinners, which is definitely cultural appropriation gone wrong), with retailers now stocking up with pumpkin pie and other traditional Thanksgiving fare in time for the holiday.

Full disclosure: I’m married to a Texan girl, so our household observes both British and American holidays – which means that Jenny gains Boxing Day while I gain Thanksgiving. And for the past five years we have held a Thanksgiving dinner the weekend closest to the day itself, and invited as many friends as we’ve been able to squeeze into our succession of tiny shoebox apartments. I’m responsible for the turkey, Jenny takes charge of the stuffing and the sweet potato casserole (you mock the idea of marshmallows on top of sugared, spiced sweet potato until you’ve tried it) and we split everything else between us with our flatmate.

And if I may say so myself, this annual event has become roaringly popular, to the extent that who gets invited and who doesn’t quite make the cut has become a rather delicate political dance. This year there will be fourteen of us squeezed into an improbably small space, and all fourteen places were snapped up as soon as my wife sent the Facebook invite back in April.

But not everybody is happy that Thanksgiving is gaining a foothold in Britain, including Daily Mail columnist Richard Littlejohn who argues that just like American GIs after the Second World War, Thanksgiving has outstayed its welcome on our shores:

Yet until about five minutes ago, none of this madness existed. Like Halloween, another tacky American import which has hijacked Guy Fawkes Night, and about which I wrote recently, both Thanksgiving and Black Friday are now fixtures in our calendars.

Supermarkets tempt us with ‘traditional’ Thanksgiving treats. Colour supplements carry recipes for Thanksgiving dinners. The Sunday Times Magazine this weekend devoted several pages to telling readers how to prepare mouth-watering delights such as pumpkin pie, candied sweet potatoes and green chilli cornbread.

Why? Do the editors imagine that out there in Middle England, people are thinking to themselves: ‘I could murder a slice of green chilli cornbread’?

He goes on to rant:

We don’t celebrate France’s Bastille Day, or Canada Day, or Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead). So why the hell should we adopt U.S. holidays?

Apparently it does not occur to Littlejohn that the British may be increasingly curious about Thanksgiving because the very idea of a unifying, non-commercialised national holiday which binds us together as a United Kingdom and calls on us to be thankful rather than petulantly self-entitled is so curiously alien to this country – especially the contemporary Britain of 2017.

A couple of years ago I took part in a TV debate on London Live, arguing that we should absolutely not make the festivals of Eid and Diwali UK public holidays, for fear of muddying the cloudy waters between religion and state yet further:

 

I was outnumbered, but I made the case as strongly as I could that what Britain desperately needs is a unifying, secular public holiday that can bring us all together as one people – not another cynical, politically correct and divisive nod to multiculturalism.

The intervening years have only proved my point, with ISIS flags flying from London housing estates, disaffected young Muslim teens stealing away from the country which gave them life and liberty to join the Islamic State and deadly terror attacks in London and Manchester. On the domestic front things are little better, with a painfully wide chasm emerging between those of us who voted to leave the European Union and those who wanted us to Remain, those who think that Jeremy Corbyn is a living saint while the Tories are evil on the one hand and people who think the exact opposite on the other.

Meanwhile, increasingly everything is being politicised and dragged into the gravity of our culture war. Only this week greeting card firm Paperchase was in the news after they were bullied by left-wing activists into a grovelling public apology for having dared to advertise in the Daily Mail, thereby prompting an equal (and deserved) reaction against the company from people who are not leftist ideologues.

In short, we in Britain are in desperate need of a reminder that we still have an awful lot in common with our neighbours, even if we vote or worship differently. But the ties that bind us together – frayed for so long by successive referenda, general elections, the culture wars and the toxic swamp that is political social media – need to be continually renewed, even if some of us do find patriotism “problematic“. And what better way to do so than with a national holiday which celebrates something in our rich, shared history of which we can all be proud?

There is no shortage of possibilities. While some seem to enjoy talking down Britain and our substantial contributions to world commerce, art, science and culture, I’m sure that if we put our heads together we might find something in the last few centuries of our national story worth elevating as an occasion of which all Britons can be proud (but please, just not the Fifth of July).

Magna Carta Day (15th June), Trafalgar Day (21st October), VE Day (8th May) or Commonwealth Day (second Monday in March) are just a few possible candidates which are existing days that could be “upgraded” to a UK-wide celebration of quiet patriotism, community service and thanksgiving, and which already have some historic resonance.

Such resonance is important. In the United States, President’s DayIndependence Day and Thanksgiving have meaning for all Americans because they are rooted in shared history and not political views, ancestry or sadly-waning Christian faith. The newly arrived immigrant can take up these celebrations immediately upon arrival at no cost to their existing traditions and without any potential religious conflict. And that is exactly what Britain needs right now.

So before you scoff at the idea of our American cousins eating themselves into a stupor for seemingly no good reason, I would ask you to do two things — firstly, spare a thought for me as I try to avoid burning a massive turkey that barely fits inside our oven while also cooking it sufficiently well that I don’t send fourteen angry people to the hospital with food poisoning. But secondly and more importantly, take some time to reflect on the reasons that you – and that we all – have for being thankful this year, and on the many traits and aspirations which we still have in common, even amidst Brexit, the culture war and the politicisation of everything.

As Abraham Lincoln – the president who in 1863 fixed the observance of Thanksgiving to be the fourth Thursday in November – implored in his first inaugural address:

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.

After another year in which the idea of what it means to be British has become increasingly muddled and uncertain, let’s humble ourselves and dare to take a lesson from our former American colonies. Let us find inspiration in our storied history, our rich culture and also from within our own hearts. Let us find that elusive common thread of Britishness that should unite us all, transcending race and religion and politics.

I would argue that maybe some of the reason that more British people are starting to notice and observe Thanksgiving as well as the Black Friday sales we have imported from America is that deep down we subconsciously yearn for the sense of gratitude, social solidarity and civic-mindedness which Thanksgiving brings, and acutely feel the lack anything similar in our own national life.

So let’s change that.

Thanksgiving Proclamation - President Abraham Lincoln - 1863

Happy Thanksgiving

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Lionel Shriver Makes A Bold Defence of Cultural Appropriation

lionel-shriver-brisbane-writers-festival

The purpose of literature and fiction writing is not to serve the grand design of the social justice and identity politics movement – and Lionel Shriver should be commended for standing up for artistic freedom against the new age censors

At a recent speech given at the Brisbane Writers Festival, the author Lionel Shriver makes a passionate and compelling defence of the concept of “cultural appropriation”, standing up to the rabid social justice warriors who would seek to impose a new cultural apartheid and the return of “separate but equal” division between races, cultures, genders and social groups.

From Shriver’s speech, which begins by making reference to college campus scandals over the supposed “cultural appropriation” and “harm” caused by non-Mexican students wearing sombrero hats at tequila parties or Mexican-themed restaurants:

But what does this have to do with writing fiction? The moral of the sombrero scandals is clear: you’re not supposed to try on other people’s hats. Yet that’s what we’re paid to do, isn’t it? Step into other people’s shoes, and try on their hats.

In the latest ethos, which has spun well beyond college campuses in short order, any tradition, any experience, any costume, any way of doing and saying things, that is associated with a minority or disadvantaged group is ring-fenced: look-but-don’t-touch. Those who embrace a vast range of “identities” – ethnicities, nationalities, races, sexual and gender categories, classes of economic under-privilege and disability – are now encouraged to be possessive of their experience and to regard other peoples’ attempts to participate in their lives and traditions, either actively or imaginatively, as a form of theft.

Shriver’s barnstorming speech goes on to list many great works of literature which would be greatly diminished or simply not exist at all were their authors (like many writers today) bullied and pressured to avoid writing about cultural experiences and customs other than their own.

Yet were their authors honouring the new rules against helping yourself to what doesn’t belong to you, we would not have Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano. We wouldn’t have most of Graham Greene’s novels, many of which are set in what for the author were foreign countries, and which therefore have Real Foreigners in them, who speak and act like foreigners, too.

In his masterwork English Passengers, Matthew Kneale would have restrained himself from including chapters written in an Aboriginal’s voice – though these are some of the richest, most compelling passages in that novel. If Dalton Trumbo had been scared off of describing being trapped in a body with no arms, legs, or face because he was not personally disabled – because he had not been through a World War I maiming himself and therefore had no right to “appropriate” the isolation of a paraplegic – we wouldn’t have the haunting 1938 classic, Johnny Got His Gun.

We wouldn’t have Maria McCann’s erotic masterpiece, As Meat Loves Salt – in which a straight woman writes about gay men in the English Civil War. Though the book is nonfiction, it’s worth noting that we also wouldn’t have 1961’s Black Like Me, for which John Howard Griffin committed the now unpardonable sin of “blackface.” Having his skin darkened – Michael Jackson in reverse – Griffin found out what it was like to live as a black man in the segregated American South. He’d be excoriated today, yet that book made a powerful social impact at the time.

(Shriver’s speech was too much for one delicate snowflake. Australian activist Yassmin Abdel-Magied, whose sheltered mind was unable to tolerate hearing of a worldview which didn’t put her own identity on a pedestal, decided to walk out during the speech and then pen a tear-stained, self-involved piece about her feewings for the Guardian, aggrandising her supposed victimhood).

But what exactly is Lionel Shriver’s beef with the modern idea that cultural appropriation is heresy? It seems that what angers her – quite rightly – is the idea that any group, marginalised or not, can be the sole custodians of their traditions, granting or withholding license to “borrow” from their culture like a movie studio scouring YouTube for pirated videos.

According to Shriver, nobody, least of all an artist, should have to approach anyone for “permission” to write from a certain perspective, include a certain character or touch on any cultural tradition:

The author of Who Owns Culture? Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law, Susan Scafidi, a law professor at Fordham University who for the record is white, defines cultural appropriation as “taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission. This can include unauthorised use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc.”

What strikes me about that definition is that “without permission” bit. However are we fiction writers to seek “permission” to use a character from another race or culture, or to employ the vernacular of a group to which we don’t belong? Do we set up a stand on the corner and approach passers-by with a clipboard, getting signatures that grant limited rights to employ an Indonesian character in Chapter Twelve, the way political volunteers get a candidate on the ballot?

While Shriver justifiably bristles at the consequences of weaponised identity politics, she does not use her speech to dwell on the reasons for the rise of this hyper self-conscious, self-censoring phenomenon. Fellow author Ian McEwan, on the other hand, is more than happy to point out the root causes of the identity politics resurgence, recently commenting in an interview:

“These children have grown up in an era of peace and plenty, and nothing much to worry about, so into that space comes this sort of resurgence that the campus politics is all about you, not about income inequality, nuclear weapons, climate change, all the other things you think students might address, the fate of your fellow humans, migrants drowning at sea. All of those things that might concern the young are lost to a wish for authority to bless them [..] rather than to challenge authority.”

To which this blog responded:

Doesn’t that just perfectly sum up the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics? A generation of students raised at a time of great material abundance, peace and prosperity arrive at university to find most of the great injustices of the past already slain by previous generations of campaigners. Bereft of purpose but still feeling the strong student urge to embrace a cause, they crank up their sensitivity settings to perceive any slight or inequity, however small or unintentional, to be evidence of the systematic oppression of one or more classes of prescribed victim groups.

McEwan’s last sentence is particularly profound – the idea that today’s young people no longer rail against authority in the way that student activists of old did, but rather make tear-stained appeals to authority figures to intercede on their behalf. This is the victimhood culture, clearly distinct from an honour culture (which would encourage the individual to stand up to minor sleights or “microaggressions” and confront the issue themselves) or a dignity culture (which would only sanction involving authorities in case of grave injury).

Later in her speech, Shriver hits out at the fad of shoehorning various “oppressed group” minorities into television shows in the name of making up some social justice quota, and the growing demand by some critics for the same affirmative action to take place in literature:

My most recent novel The Mandibles was taken to task by one reviewer for addressing an America that is “straight and white”. It happens that this is a multigenerational family saga – about a white family. I wasn’t instinctively inclined to insert a transvestite or bisexual, with issues that might distract from my central subject matter of apocalyptic economics. Yet the implication of this criticism is that we novelists need to plug in representatives of a variety of groups in our cast of characters, as if filling out the entering class of freshmen at a university with strict diversity requirements.

You do indeed see just this brand of tokenism in television. There was a point in the latter 1990s at which suddenly every sitcom and drama in sight had to have a gay or lesbian character or couple. That was good news as a voucher of the success of the gay rights movement, but it still grew a bit tiresome: look at us, our show is so hip, one of the characters is homosexual!

We’re now going through the same fashionable exercise in relation to the transgender characters in series like Transparent and Orange is the New Black.

Fine. But I still would like to reserve the right as a novelist to use only the characters that pertain to my story.

Besides: which is it to be? We have to tend our own gardens, and only write about ourselves or people just like us because we mustn’t pilfer others’ experience, or we have to people our cast like an I’d like to teach the world to sing Coca-Cola advert?

That last question is a good one – how on earth is a fiction author or television screenplay writer possibly to satisfy the competing demands to include more characters from diverse backgrounds yet avoid the unpardonable sin of presuming to write from their vantage point?

No doubt the social justice warriors would decree that fiction writing, so long a solitary pursuit, must now always be a collaborative effort, with a team of character writers standing by to offer their perspectives on a character’s true “voice” and authenticity. Or perhaps the process could be accomplished at the end of writing, by submitting draft novels to an Office of Social Justice Censorship where beady-eyed zealots who claim to speak on behalf of their entire social group go through the manuscript with a red pen, changing the author’s words and ideas to conform to some standard set in secret, behind closed doors.

You can see where the inexorable logic of these shrill demands ultimately leads: nowhere good. We either end up in a world where brilliant authors are too terrified of potential repercussions to ever pick up a pen in the first place, or one ends up with Soviet-style official “approved” art and literature, written to precise specifications in order to best glorify the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics.

As Shriver puts it:

Thus in the world of identity politics, fiction writers better be careful. If we do choose to import representatives of protected groups, special rules apply. If a character happens to be black, they have to be treated with kid gloves, and never be placed in scenes that, taken out of context, might seem disrespectful. But that’s no way to write. The burden is too great, the self-examination paralysing. The natural result of that kind of criticism in the Post is that next time I don’t use any black characters, lest they do or say anything that is short of perfectly admirable and lovely.

[..] Especially for writers from traditionally privileged demographics, the message seems to be that it’s a whole lot safer just to make all your characters from that same demographic, so you can be as hard on them as you care to be, and do with them what you like. Availing yourself of a diverse cast, you are not free; you have inadvertently invited a host of regulations upon your head, as if just having joined the EU. Use different races, ethnicities, and minority gender identities, and you are being watched.

Extra marks for the snide attack on the European Union – brilliant stuff.

As this blog has explained time and again, above all else social justice is not about fairness and equality but rather about power – specifically, the acquisition of power by the beady-eyed authoritarians who wield their weaponised victimhood and competitive tolerance as cudgels, granting them the power to determine what the rest of us can and cannot do or say. Television has already on the verge of falling to this long-running cultural siege, and the clear message coming from “progressive” reviewers in the literary community is that fiction is next.

Lionel Shriver has issued a timely warning to her fellow authors – let us hope that there is sufficient time and willpower to resist the final assault when it comes.

 

Lionel Shriver: how not to read - Do Something magazine

Safe Space Notice - 2

Top Image: Guardian, Daniel Seed

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Let’s Talk About Black Lives Matter UK

black-lives-matter-uk-protest-london-city-airport

Black Lives Matter UK should be ashamed of their childish behaviour and wanton ‘cultural appropriation’ of an American struggle

I had a friend at Cambridge who – like many students – loved nothing more than a good protest. The reason behind any given demonstration and the people involved in it were largely immaterial to him; what mattered was the marching along and shouting and getting to feel brave and revolutionary while enjoying the added bonus of missing lectures.

On one occasion (quite possibly because I was high at the time of asking) he convinced me to accompany him on one of these jaunts, and so one morning we set off on a coach down the M11 and piled off in central London, collected placards and went to join the fray. Honestly, I forget what the protest was actually about – it may have been something to do with poverty, but it was certainly domestically focused. So I was rather surprised when my friend decided that we should merge with a particularly unwashed group of protesters and start shouting “victory to the intifada!”

At the time, the Second Intifada was warming up quite aggressively. As a young student, while having every sympathy with the plight of ordinary Palestinians, I tended to take the side of Israel, supporting a fellow democracy while reserving the right to criticise their excesses and missteps – pretty much the same position as I hold now, in fact. And since I had no desire to stomp around London cheering for the suicide bombing of innocent Israelis, I took leave of my friend and went to sojourn on the south bank instead – but not before making the observation that nearly everyone around me at the march was white, upper middle class (though some affected other carefully crafted personas) and about as far removed from being personally vested in the Israel-Palestine conflict as it was possible to be.

Why bring this up? Because the same tiresome event is now playing out all over again with the childish, irresponsible and petulant antics of Black Lives Matter UK, whose members give dreary new meaning to the term “a rebel without a cause”.

From the Telegraph:

London City Airport was brought to a standstill today after a group of Black Lives Matter activists stormed the runway protesting against the UK’s ‘racist climate crisis’.

Police said nine protestors [sic] chained themselves to a tripod in the middle of a runway to ‘highlight the UK’s environmental impact on the lives of black people’.

The demonstration, which began at 5.40am and lasted around five hours, meant dozens of flights were cancelled while incoming planes were diverted to Gatwick and Southend airports.

The incident triggered safety concerns amid reports the demonstrators bypassed security by sailing a blow-up dingy [sic] across the Royal Docks.

Police arrived at the airport minutes after the demonstration began but it was several hours before any arrests were made. Scotland Yard said they had to wait for ‘specialist resources’ needed to unlock the protestors [sic].

“This is a crisis” reads the banner unfurled by Black Lives Matter UK at their edgy airport disruption attempts. And so it is. But in Britain it is certainly not a crisis of black killings by the police. It is a crisis of intellect, of character and of proportionality, all of which have been thrown out of the window by a bunch of primarily millennial young adults who look at the impassioned protests currently taking place in the United States and developed a severe, gnawing case of FOMO (fear of missing out).

This most coddled and privileged generation in history (particularly the middle class types who showed up to London City airport) cannot plausibly claim that black people in Britain are being frequently and systematically killed by the police, which is the genesis of the original Black Lives Matter movement in America. Most British police are unarmed for a start, and while there has been an historic problem with institutional racism and there remain isolated concerns, the problem is simply not as severe on this side of the Atlantic.

So what is an enthusiastic young protester to do? They can’t go to the trouble of invading an airport runway for a cause which barely registers as a problem in this country (though in terms of avoiding looking ridiculous, BLM UK may well have done marginally better to frame their protest as a “sympathy strike” to highlight the “plight” of black Americans). They need to find some reason for their theatrics.

And thus we get the rather bizarre statement that airports are fair game for Black Lives Matter UK because environmental pollution apparently disproportionally affects black people to such an extent that it constitutes an act of racism. That is seriously what this protest is about.

From BLM UK’s own Twitter account:

This is competitive victimhood at its most extreme. To call the claim that environmental pollution is a deliberate act of oppression aimed at black people “a bit exaggerated” does a disservice to a whole pantheon of overstatements, contortions and implausible stretches. The argument is simply ludicrous, a complete non sequitur.

And for those of us implacably opposed to the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics, the emergence of Black Lives Matter UK as a risible and unjustified presence on the British political scene has also provoked the delicious accusation by other SJWs that BLM UK’s white, middle-class eco-warriors are “culturally appropriating” a movement which is primarily about the treatment of African Americans by the police in the United States.

From the Huffington Post (naturally):

Black Lives Matter demonstrators have been accused of “appropriating someone else’s struggle” for their “embarrassing” protest at London’s City Airport today that affected thousands of passengers.

However, the response to the action has been largely negative, with people criticising its relevance, disputing claims the action would only impact the wealthy, and questioning why the group did not appear to have any black members at the protest.

One person described the protesters as “hipster-looking flower-crowners”.

[..] Joanne Marie was annoyed by claims that the action would only affect the well off.

She wrote: “I earn under £30k and I live in Newham. I use City Airport several times a year to fly home to Ireland to visit my sick and elderly parents. I pay around £100 return – slightly more than it costs to fly from Stansted on Ryanair. Should I not visit my parents to placate a bunch of self-righteous white people with placards who think they represent the BME community?

And that’s one of the inherent flaws in the whole social justice / politically correct movement. Because the “social currency” within this tribe of people is intimately connected with how much one is able to play the victim card and speak from a position of being “oppressed”, competitive victimhood is rife. In order to feel good about themselves, cult members must continually assert their own vulnerability at the hands of those with more “privilege”, while showing very public solidarity and deference to those higher in the hierarchy of oppression.

Thus we have seen young social justice warriors in Britain try to take down even progressive champions like Germaine Greer and Peter Tatchell for daring to stand up for the free speech of those who question the new orthodoxy on transgender theory.

Peter Tatchell – a tireless warrior against discrimination in all its forms – found himself in the crosshairs of some jumped-up young student union activist who saw the opportunity to aggrandise herself by publicly accusing him of heresy. Why? Because Fran Cowling, LGBT+ Officer of the National Union of Students, saw the opportunity to burnish her own Tolerance Credentials by shrieking that Peter Tatchell holds such intolerable and dangerous views that she could not possibly share a stage with him. Her goal: to make her peers think “Wow! Fran Cowling is so pure and virtuous that even Peter Tatchell, with all his many accomplishments, looks like dirt next to her”.

This kind of thing happens all the time. Just as perverse incentives lead politicians to over-promise and bankers to take undue risks, in the social justice community – already a demographic teeming with many of the most insufferable people in the country – the fact that victimhood equals social status is encouraging people to exalt in their vulnerability, exaggerate it wherever possible and see everything through the distorted lens of race, gender and sexuality.

And that is how, in a sick culture full of people who are encouraged to make exaggerated claims of victimhood – together their sanctimonious “allies” – it came to pass that London City Airport was shut down this week because of the past actions of allegedly trigger-happy cops in America.

Globalisation no longer simply means that the components in your iPhone come from all over the world – going forward we can expect to be picketed, lobbied, harassed, delayed and otherwise inconvenienced thanks to disputes which originated thousands of miles away in other countries – especially if those disputes have their roots in the toxic sludge of identity politics.

Welcome to the future.

 

black-lives-matter-heathrow-airport

Top Image: Guardian, Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

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Social Justice Is About Power And Control, But Not For The Benefit Of The Powerless

SJW white people dreadlocks social media

What happens when a white Social Justice Warrior encounters a mixed race person who fails to hold the “correct” opinions about cultural appropriation?

If you still need convincing that the “social justice” movement is in fact nothing to do with justice or equality and everything to do with wielding power over other people to control what they think, say and do, then let this picture be your guide.

Here we have a comment posted by a young Social Justice Warrior – an online activist who spends their time trying to police the public discourse and censor others – on the tumblr social network, in which the user Party Island (pronouns: they/them) confesses a dilemma.

You see, Party Island is very much against the phenomenon known as “cultural appropriation”, that timeless phenomenon where cultures, customs and fashions spread across different national or ethnic groups. While some Bad People might think that cultural appropriation is a good thing, responsible for everything from the pop music we hear to the fusion cuisines we eat, in fact cultural appropriation is a terrible tool of oppression in which arrogant white people claim credit for the cultural innovations of other marginalised groups, either for personal or commercial gain. Or so say the SJWs.

And Party Island was posting on the evils of white people wearing their hair in dreadlocks (a particularly contentious issue in the SJW community) when one of his mixed-race friends dared to utter the now-blasphemous assertion that people of any race or background should be able to wear their hair any way they damn well please, and that Party Island was massively overreacting.

As the complaint reads:

I’m at a loss. I posted about white people & black hair on Facebook and my old roommate, who is mixed race but white passing, is telling ME I’m overreacting and that “people should wear their hair how they want.” I don’t know how to approach this. I don’t want to talk over her because even if she’s white passing, she holds more authority over me in race related issues. I don’t know what to do.

The friend’s statement that “people should wear their hair how they want” is shocking to the ears of Party Island, who is used to playing the role of white saviour to the “oppressed” black masses by being a jumped-up, self-righteous little internet censor, persecuting anyone who fails to use the latest up-to-the-minute politically correct terminology and customs.

Now Party Island has been told to lay off, not by a fellow white person – their peer at the bottom of the inverted hierarchy of privilege – but by someone who is mixed race, and therefore occupying a more senior position in the pyramid. In Social Justice World, you see, power and legitimacy to speak on any issue derives from one’s place in the pyramid. On feminist issues, for example, being a woman (or any guy with a penis who decides to identify as a woman) gives one a certain right to speak about feminist issues, but being a black, disabled woman means you occupy an even higher position in the inverted pyramid and that your words, therefore, count for much more.

If a white person had told Party Island that they were overreacting by getting upset at other white people who “appropriate black culture” by wearing their hair in dreadlocks, Party Island could demand that they “check their privilege”, insist that they were being oppressive and send them off to educate themselves on issues of racial justice and cultural appropriation. But the friend is not white, they are mixed race. And this presents Party Island with a dilemma.

On the one hand, there is the strong instinct to “punish” the friend’s blasphemous statement that white people should be allowed to wear dreadlocks, because this is how these parasitical people gain power and influence over our discourse, culture and society in the first place – by meting out public shamings and other punishments to heretics in order to advance their own ideology. But on the other hand, Party Island knows that as a white person in the presence of a mixed race person (though “white passing”, they tell us, as mitigating evidence) their duty is to bow obsequiously and defer to whatever the mixed race person happens to say on the subject of race.

This creates an unresolvable logical error in the SJW brain of Party Island. They want to be a good foot soldier in the Social Justice Army and “re-educate” this blasphemer, but the blasphemer is of superior rank in the social justice hierarchy. It’s a bit like a zealous, well-trained infantry private discovering his captain breaking the army code of conduct. The desire to call out the crime and administer “punishment” is overwhelming, but the captain’s rank causes hesitancy and a failure of courage.

So what does Party Island do? Unable to confront their mixed race friend directly about their Evil Thoughtcrime and insufficient anger at the cultural appropriation of dreadlocks, this SJW flags his problem to the wider community in the hope that it will be seen by other properly-educated SJWs who occupy equal or greater rank in the hierarchy of victimhood, and who therefore have the power and legitimacy to correct this erroneous mixed race person. Ideally, in this warped world, a “black passing” black person who is also a transexual, disabled rape survivor will come passing by, notice the exchange and unload on Party Island’s poor mixed race friend with the full weight of their exalted position in the pyramid.

If all of this seems ludicrous and a million miles away from doing anything which might conceivably affect or help actual black people in America, you would be right. Because at its dark, festering core the Social Justice movement is not about delivering justice, equality or doing any other kind of social good. Social wrongs are merely the fuel which power the machine to perform its true purpose – controlling the language and the thinking of society in order to establish beady-eyed little zealots like Party Island as the indispensable clerisy who tell everyone else what to say and do.

Social Justice is, above everything else, about the acquisition and exercising of power. Victimhood is actively sought and eagerly weaponised by members of this Social Justice clerisy in their scramble for status amongst their peers and contemporaries. The legitimate problems and grievances of minority communities become irritating background noise, a distraction from what really matters – this finickity, juvenile, university campus parlour game in which casting oneself as the most vulnerable, oppressed but simultaneously tolerant person imaginable confers tremendous power, while the slightest slip (such as accidentally using the wrong word) can lead to immediate excommunication from the group.

That’s what is going on here.

That’s what “social justice” is really all about.

 

Bonita Tindle - Assault White Student for Cultural Appropriation - Identity Politics

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