As a Canadian living abroad, I have the incredible opportunity to witness the world through lenses stained with the mis-educations of the west. Experiencing first-hand the lack of reach social justice academia has in this part of the world is both liberating and bizarre. I can’t help but quickly process much of my day to day happenings through the “if this were the west…” filter, running alternate reality simulations like a computer.
For example, today I saw a young woman wearing an Áo Dài and exaggerated conical rice paddy hat in stereotypical Vietnamese fashion. She was a waitress standing outside a “Saigonese” restaurant and was beckoning customers in by calling out the specials of the day. I couldn’t help but wonder what outrage might be provoked had this happened in the west—say, a young white woman donning a problematic representation of a Vietnamese person for the purposes of advertising lunch specials. I’m sure we all recall the Cheongsam prom dress fiasco.
But then I ran a rare additional simulation. I dismissed the ethnic swap. I left the waitress as she was, a Thai. Would the outrage persist, or would there be any at all? The answer begs years of consideration—not!
One of the greatest oddities of the manifesto of cultural appropriation is how there is an assumed allowance for PoCs to appropriate other PoC cultures with relative impunity. Back in 2016, after Coldplay released their hit single “Hymn for the Weekend,” the music video caused some controversy for its appropriative elements. Taking place in India, the band traverses highly theatrical Indian scenery featuring the usual suspects: mystical swamis, heavily pierced women in saris, and coloured-dust filled streets of cheering Indian people.
A significantly lesser element of the controversy was the brief appearances by Beyoncé donned in full Bollywood attire—henna, bangles, face chain, and an elaborate silk headscarf and sari.
While people were quick to dismiss Coldplay’s behavior as stone-cold cultural appropriation and fetishization, there was a debate over Beyoncé’s participation. Time Magazine eventually published a full defense of Beyoncé, written by University of Texas’ own Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley.
The principal excuse utilized boggled my mind: Beyoncé is black. And there are some black people in India and Sri Lanka. So, close enough.
Tinsley goes further to state that Indians have mucked up beauty standards anyhow, their favoring paler skin and slim facial features, so Beyoncé was doing them some sort of a favor by injecting a darker skinned body into their cultural dress.
The close enough argument seems to be at the crux of much of the selectivity of cultural appropriation outrage. More accurately, that a group who somewhat resembles the color, features, and/or general region of origin of the group whose culture is being appropriated can’t be held to fault. This logic ascribes a certain assumption that the experiences of groups similar in presentation are similar in nature.
Which is insane. Demonstrably so.
Returning to my observation of the young Thai waitress—Thailand actively participated in the French colonization of Vietnam and parts of Laos to secure its own power in the region. Further, anti-Vietnamese sentiment was rife during the red scare days of Thai’s staunchly anti-Communist Parliament, and individuals suspected of being Vietnamese Communists were imprisoned, deported, or brutally tortured.
So, now what? Does the Thai girl still have a right? Or is the outrage quelled merely because most of the otherwise-outraged intelligentsia wouldn’t be able to readily tell the difference between a Thai and Vietnamese individual? I recall a dinner I had with a very left-wing University friend at a trendy sushi restaurant back in Canada. The waitresses were wearing elegant spring yukatas as uniforms, and my friend, dejected, said
“They’re so beautiful! I wish I could wear one of those without it being offensive or looking ridiculous.”
“Why is it offensive?” I asked, knowing the answer but playing dumb, “Why couldn’t you wear one?”
“I am not Japanese. It is not my place.” She said sincerely.
The waitresses were Korean.
However, close enough wasn’t the only argument made against the existence of PoC-on-PoC social justice criminality in Tinsley’s article. Her argument led to an echo of hivemind replications across social media and racial commentary sites. AfroPunk and Konbini agreed, chalking a PoC’s inability to be guilty of cultural appropriation to “power imbalances.” Again, this argument is rife with potential areas for contention.
Who determines which group has more or less power?
What or how is power defined as, specifically? Is it economic? Social?
Economically, many PoC groups outearn whites by high margins (Indians, Japanese, Chinese, and West Indies blacks especially). Socially, there would seem to be a certain amount of social power present in the ability to define what power does and does not constitute. Not even historical power is safe from contestation, seeing as all groups, at one point or another in history or the present, have had power over another group. History has no examples of a perpetual, persisting victim.
And, most curiously, why is culture necessarily provided a racial quality in issues of culture appropriation quarrels? The liberal left has long argued against the existence of a specific racial character to elements of culture, hasn’t it? After all, that is the assertion made by white nationalist types who insist on the preservation of certain cultures being intrinsically tied to the existence of certain racial groups.
Even in Tinsley’s article, she decries the unbearable light-skinnedness of some famous Indian Bollywood stars—Sunny Leone, Amy Jackson, etc. These people are ethnically Indian! And yet it is not enough for them to represent their own cultures because they could be mistaken for belonging to another, whiter one. This is incredibly ironic, considering the parallel cry of “fetishization!” that tends to accompany claims of cultural appropriation. Fetishization, of course, being nothing other than the wholesale generalization of an entire people into a single, two-dimensional identity for quick consumption.
But perhaps that’s the problem with social justice endeavours as a whole. They often mimic far too much of what they purport to want to replace—compartmentalized groups battling for importance and supremacy. Does it really matter that the stated intentions are different, if everything in practice results in the same outcome?
While I ponder this question, I’ll enjoy my last few months in a part of the world that’s still so foreign to the concepts western academia has sworn by. Right now, I’m sitting across from a Krispy Kreme, staring at the sign advertising their Lunar New Year special—a donut with a slit-eyed caricature of a Chinese man wearing a mandarin hat frosted on the top.
I might get one. But if this were the west…
Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been the Prime Minister of Israel for the last 10 years has been charged by the Israeli Justice Ministry with corruption. This marks the first time in Israel’s 70-year-history that a prime minister is under indictment.
This development threatens to end the 70-year-old prime minister’s career (which was already in a precarious position due to the failure of Netanyahu’s Likud party to create a coalition government in the Israeli parliament). The corruption charges were levelled against Netanyahu by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who told reporters that it was a “heavy-hearted decision” according to the Associated Press.
Among the charges is one in which he allegedly implemented regulation for a telecom company in exchange for favourable coverage of himself on popular Israeli news site Walla! News.
Other fraud and breach of trust charges deal with Netanyahu allegedly introducing legislation that would damage one of a newspaper’s major rivals in exchange for the paper giving friendly coverage to Netanyahu. Both the prime minister and the newspaper publisher deny the charges.
The prime minister is also facing bribery charges related to receiving approximately $300,000 U.S. from an Australian billionaire and a Hollywood producer. The gifts include jewellery cigars and champagne, which Netanyahu claims were just gifts between friends.
In response to the indictments, Netanyahu said that he would “continue to lead the country.” He claimed during a televised address that “the tainted investigation didn’t pursue the truth. It pursued me,” and “It’s a case of selective enforcement on steroids.”
Tim Hortons is introducing a new smoked sausage sandwich to their menu and Canadians are horrified. After releasing the image of the new sandwich, Tim Hortons was inundated with critical replies.
The sandwich will contain egg, cheese, and two sliced sausages placed side by side, according to the Saskatoon Star Phoenix. Tim Horton fans were blown away by the design and took to Twitter to voice their opinions.
The vast majority of the responses were negative due to the sandwich looking “artificial” or “bland.” Indeed, when scrolling through twitter, it was almost impossible to find any positive comments.
Not everyone was delighted by the look of the “smoked sausages” with some people even comparing the sandwich to a hot dog.
Even the shape of the sandwich was criticized due to the two sausages being placed side by side.
The only positive reaction The Post Millennial was able to find was this one here.
All in all, this probably hasn’t been the best opening for a Tim Horton’s sandwich in their history. The executives in their head office must be hoping the taste makes up for the odd appearance.
Is Dr. Jordan Peterson a “gateway drug” to the alt-right? Heterodox Academy has published a research summary that attempts to answer that question. What’s weird is that these kinds of questions keep being asked of a mild-mannered psychology professor and author who has helped thousands upon thousands of young people straighten out their lives.
This study used machine learning tools in a similar way that Becca Lewis did in her infamous and debunked Data and Society report. (Lewis, by the way, was recently caught spreading misinformation about Peterson and his daughter on Twitter.) It also cites as evidence this panic-driven Cornell study that embarrassingly refers to moderate Conservative Canadian MP Michelle Rempel as “alt-lite” (whatever the hell that means).
Much of Peterson’s draw has been from the young, white, male community, and once he realized they were listening, he has reached out to this demographic. This is the same demographic that, in the spirit of righting old wrongs, has been so vilified. However, to say that he reached out to this demographic because of their identity would be a mistake.
Prior to the YouTube video on pronouns that sparked his international fame, Peterson was giving lectures on religion, mythology, and virtue. He was talking about the importance of personal responsibility and the lessons of western culture. The people who wanted to hear how they could change their lives for the better, without waiting for an organization, or government, or society to change it for them, listened. Once Peterson emerged onto the bigger stage, that message was amplified, and even more people were able to hear it.
Are those people hateful? Are these folks who go to YouTube to try and make themselves better, bad? How can this be quantified? The way that these people are organized into groups is pretty much arbitrary, as are the groups they are classified into. Studies like this look first at viewers because it is so hard to quantify what constitutes hate speech.
What this means is that instead of trying to identify the language that is hateful, those who are “hateful” are identified, their language analyzed and tracked across the platform. After users have been assigned to groups based on perceived identity, the language within the channels used by those groups is deconstructed to see where it overlaps.
This is the information that is used to determine whether or not Dr. Jordan B. Peterson is a “bad guy” or whether he should “do better.” The conclusion is that he isn’t quite, but he should do better somehow, use different language. The idea is that he should not make himself attractive to those individuals who may otherwise tend toward disenfranchisement. We’ve got to a point where a person’s perceived proclivity is enough to make them untouchable.
But here’s the thing: Jordan Peterson’s entire project is not about identity, not even a little. It’s actually anti-identity. Identity politics is being grafted over him where it does not actually exist. The reason people feel comfortable doing that is because we live in an identity-based age, where it is assumed that everything boils down to identity eventually. It is probable, even likely, that for many people, identity factors are irrelevant to how they live their lives.
The authors claim that they do not want Peterson to “self-censor.” But then they go on to say, “Instead, we would encourage Peterson et al. to consider ways they may be able to make the same points, just as forcefully, while avoiding a particular set of tropes.”
What is “avoiding a particular set of tropes” if not self-censorship? You can use as much window dressing as you want on your authoritarianism but it doesn’t change the fact that you are an authoritarian.
Sometimes a problem requires a simpler explanation. Yes, there are bad actors in the world. And yes, the internet is full of them. The alt-right spreads hate and panic and their vile ideas must be combatted. But the notions of guilt-by-association or guilt-by-proximity that studies like this propagate are dangerous and counterproductive. We used to know this.
Peterson has been able to tap into the hated white cis male category of people, and for that he is vilified. It’s been determined that people who fall into that identity category are a problem, but they deserve compassion, too. How people are identified is not always how they identify, and either way, a person’s identity should never be used against them. We used to know that, too.
Peterson is as clear and concise as possible, and if his ideas reach people who are operating in the world in dangerous, destructive ways, there’s every reason to believe that they will rethink that behaviour. Not all audiences can hear the same message in the same way. If these angry young people can’t hear messages of inclusivity, anti-racism, and personal responsibility from the trending leftist sources, there must be voices, like Peterson’s, speaking in a way that they can hear.
Regardless of their mindset, these young people do not deserve to be lost, tossed aside, or dismissed. Their lives have meaning and Peterson tells them that. The truth of the matter is that Jordan Peterson has been a great force for deradicalization in ways that are not easily explained by elaborate data sets. There are countless examples people whose lives have been improved by his advice that will never be tracked by IP address or pixel.
It seems strange that of all platforms, Heterodox Academy, which purports to promote “open inquiry, viewpoint diversity, and constructive disagreement in institutions of higher learning,” would run such a narrowly defined piece of research. It appears to be the kind of identity-obsessed scholarship that Heterodox Academy usually fights back against.
We live in an era that depends too heavily on machine learning. Peterson preaches the exact opposite of this: deeply personal, human, and humane learning. He is not easily quantified because his message based in neither identity nor algorithm, but in classical values. Concepts that can’t be instantly categorized as either left or right don’t have a place in the easily digestible, portion-controlled ideological landscape.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault says the CN Railway strikes have left la Belle Province in dire straights, as the province is left with less than five days worth of propane—a shortage which would cause mayhem in hospitals, nursing homes, farms, and barbeques everywhere.
The province, which is left with about 12 million litres of propane, uses roughly six million litres per day and has since rationed the daily usage down to three million litres.
Premier Legault says hospitals, retirement homes, and health centres have been given top priority to the precious resource, with farms being second priority.
Legault says he’s optimistic that a settlement between CN Rail and its employees will be met, but called upon Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to pass urgent emergency back-to-work legislation.
Canadian Propane Association CEO Nathalie St-Pierre told The Canadian Press six-hour truck lines for propane have already been formed in Sarnia, Ontario.
Roughly 85 percent of Quebec’s propane comes by via rail, with most of it coming from Sarnia and Edmonton, both known for their propane.