Author Topic: "Rules of Engagement," article on modern debate-me culture from The New Republic  (Read 9309 times)

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Offline superdave

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I get the sense a lot of people, across all spectra, totally underestimate how cognitively difficult some of these social justice concepts are, and then bandy them around without full understanding.  This is probably just bias on my part but that's the sense I am getting. 

That was the origin of my struggle with the idea of cultural appropriation.  Scholars and experts in the field, that I generally trust, are pretty consistent that cultural appropriation is bad.  This did not jive with my interpretation, and that was causing some dissonance.  But the choice is that either the experts are wrong and I have stumbled onto an insight that is totally new to the field, or I am lacking in a full understanding.  One of those is much more likely than the other.  So the goal shouldn't be to prove the experts wrong, it should be to learn as much as possible about their reasoning to prove to yourself why they might be right.  Of course, there is a chance they are wrong, and some of this comes down to opinion, but at least it should be an informed opinion.

« Last Edit: April 30, 2019, 10:46:57 AM by superdave »
I disavow anyone in the movement involved in any illegal,unethical, sexist, or racist behavior. However, I don't have the energy or time to investigate each person and case, and a lack of individual disavowals for each incident should not be construed as condoning such behavior.

Offline Quetzalcoatl

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That was the origin of my struggle with the idea of cultural appropriation.  Scholars and experts in the field, that I generally trust, are pretty consistent that cultural appropriation is bad.  This did not jive with my interpretation, and that was causing some dissonance.  But the choice is that either the experts are wrong and I have stumbled onto an insight that is totally new to the field, or I am lacking in a full understanding.  Of course, some of this comes down to subjective opinion.  Ultiamtely wherther or not cultural appropriation is "bad" comes down a to a value judgement, but it should be an informed one.

Who are these scholars? Do they exist outside of the US? In what fields do they have expertise?

I'm going to re-post the original quote I referred to in the other thread, and the original blogpost deserves to be read as a whole:

Quote
The point I’m stuck on is this: If culture can be appropriated, who is it appropriated from? In other words, what defines who the “rightful” owners of a cultural practice are? Is it based on race, nationality, country of birth, or something else entirely?

For instance, if I were an ethnically white person adopted by Japanese parents and raised in Japan, would it be cultural appropriation for me to wear kimonos or collect Japanese art? Conversely, what if I were ethnically Japanese but born and raised in America with no particular connection to Japan? Would I be exempted from charges of cultural appropriation, just based on the DNA I happened to be born with?

My point is that there isn’t and couldn’t be a definitive answer to these questions. There’s no high arbiter of culture to rule on what’s acceptable and what isn’t. Some people may be happy to see their cultural innovations appreciated and adopted by outsiders; others may be staunchly opposed; still others may be indifferent. None of these opinions are more right or more wrong than the others, and if it seems wrong to mock or fetishize another culture, it seems equally wrong to grant a heckler’s veto to anyone in the world who wants to stake a claim on the matter.

It’s always a good idea to approach cultures not your own with respect and sensitivity. But an overly rigid insistence on sharp lines of demarcation strikes me as suspect. It perpetuates the essentialist fallacy that cultures are distinct and homogeneous groups of people who are all like each other and unlike everyone else. Such balkanization has no basis in reality: there’s no unique essence that all Japanese people, all Indian people, or all American people have in common. Every culture is enormously diverse; every culture blends with and bleeds into others at the edges.

Ultimately, all human culture is a remix. Starting from childhood, we learn by imitating others around us. Civilizations intermingle and cross-pollinate, absorbing ideas from each other, regardless of whether they meet through trade, migration or war. We borrow and adapt words, food, fashion, art, music, religion. Almost everything we do “comes from” somewhere else, and I’d be willing to bet that’s true of every human cultural practice or invention, going back to the knowledge of how to knap flint into spear points. Cultures only seem distinct and static on the short timescale of individual lives; over many generations, they diffuse into each other until it’s impossible to answer the question of who came up with what.

If these objections were seriously and ably answered, I would seriously reconsider my position.

See, I even state my objections and that responses to them would change my mind. Something entirely different from heyalison's "Agree with me!" posts that so strongly impresses Harry Black.

Of course it comes down to value judgement, in part. I am a cosmopolitan in my outlook. I oppose segregation, I oppose Balkanization, I oppose viewing people as members of collective groups based on superficial attributes rather than as individuals with their own intellectual commitments, etc.
"I’m a member of no party. I have no ideology. I’m a rationalist. I do what I can in the international struggle between science and reason and the barbarism, superstition and stupidity that’s all around us." - Christopher Hitchens

Offline superdave

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I dont want to derail this thread with specific argument about cultural appropriation, my point was to use it as an example of how hard it is to debate something without full understanding of it.
I disavow anyone in the movement involved in any illegal,unethical, sexist, or racist behavior. However, I don't have the energy or time to investigate each person and case, and a lack of individual disavowals for each incident should not be construed as condoning such behavior.

Offline random poet

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Yes, quetz, you have abundantly demonstrated your lack of understanding of that concept. Would you just give it a goddamn rest? That is the whole point of this thread. How about you read the article a few more times? It might help! Probably not, though!
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Offline Ah.hell

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Its also awfully easy to just assume the reason someone disagrees with you, is because they don't understand you.   Having read the article, it mostly just sounds like, "we shouldn't even try to explain ourselves to those that disagree because they're dishonest." 

They don't understand so they disagree and they're dishonest so we don't even need to listen to them. 

Offline Billzbub

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Let me see if I can summarize what I thought the article said.

People who dictate what is true have a lot of power, and it is people in power that can dictate truth.  Because of this, what they think of as the truth only takes into account their experiences, and their version of the truth does not take into account the experiences of the marginalized.  It is a self-reinforcing cycle, and the difference in the truths controlled by the powerful and the truths known by the marginalized are so great that discourse between the two sides is nearly impossible.

Am I close?  I have a hard time parsing philosophical writing like that.
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Offline Soldier of FORTRAN

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I think there's a niche use-case for when a dominant culture jams up a non-dominant culture by redefining shit (e.g. Nazis ruined swastikas in the west)

But regular left-wing discourse finds appropriation under every instance of whites adopting non-white culture.  It looks like a lazy, pseudo-intellectual games of one-upsmanship to me.
« Last Edit: April 30, 2019, 01:05:08 PM by Soldier of FORTRAN »
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Offline heyalison

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I think there's a niche use-case for when a dominant culture jams up a non-dominant culture by redefining shit (e.g. Nazis ruined swastikas in the west)

But regular left-wing discourse finds appropriation under every instance of whites adopting non-white culture.  It looks like a lazy, pseudo-intellectual games of one-upsmanship to me.

OK, that's a fair initial response, but I think it's missing the broader context. You can't talk about cultural appropriation (CA, to save typing) without cultural context. But even that is not enough, you have to show up with the understanding that there has been an intentional and coordinated effort to undermine the concept by bad actors such as 4chan, 8chan and others. Part of their playbook is to post online as though they are proponents of CA, but then describe ridiculous examples that are easily undermined. Pretty much the entire CA thread has been expressions of these "But I saw this on Tumblr!" efforts, which work to make the concept seem ridiculous and not real. I'm not being a paranoid conspiracy theorist, chatroom dumps of 4chan and 8chan show us these are intentional and planned. They have used online outrage tactics again and again to feed false narratives into the discussion of social justice issues.

This is how we end up with responses such as "I guess we're just awful people for saying that making tacos doesn't harm anyone," from the CA thread here. After how many thousands of replies we end up at such a disingenuous comment as that isn't by chance. It's because bad actors have infected the discussion so much so that either intentionally or not, people pick up these ideas and arguments against a strawman CA. It appeals to many white guys who feel like they are being personally attacked by the advances of minorities to be able to dismiss their concerns as unfounded.  It appeals to many who've also picked up essentialist ideas about free speech without consequences from those same bad actors. And that's not even out and out racists, but it is a gateway to further radicalization. Its intent is to radicalize white people against the concerns of racialized people and minorities.

So with that well so badly poisoned, then I think it is up to white folks to be aware of that, and how they're being manipulated by a message meant to lure them to the side of believing minorities are coddled and lie about their hardships. It makes having an unbiased take on CA very difficult for white people, even moreso if they question the intent of the examples they're being told, i.e. the 4chan and 8chan etc. disino efforts. Is that a hill you're feeling 100% confident to die on? These are extreme times, and as a white person I'm not willing to make that bet. Knowing how easily we are manipulated into bias, and knowing how minorities are actually treated--that leads me to use my critical thinking to go "Hey, wait a sec." And when you engage with actual examples and explanations of CA, and not as a thing to be debated--as many people tried to do on the CA thread--you might come away with both a greater empathy for the experience of minorities and a stronger critical filter.

Online John Albert

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I get the sense a lot of people, across all spectra, totally underestimate how cognitively difficult some of these social justice concepts are, and then bandy them around without full understanding. This is probably just bias on my part but that's the sense I am getting.

Are social justice concepts really that inscrutably rigorous? The concepts are really not so hard to grasp when compared to, say, differential calculus, thermodynamics, or French symbolist literature.  ;)

Seriously, I've read quite a bit about dialectics, intersectionality theory, and feminist epistemology. None of the underlying theory was all that difficult to understand. The main problems I had were that some of the core concepts are highly subjective, much of it is predicated on collectivizing and generalizing people, and some of the ideas are denialistic and even hostile to science.

It's no mystery that we all have different feelings and attitudes with regard to demographic groups outside our own, and we all need to understand where each other are coming from before we can even begin to address the myriad social problems. But I don't think we're going to get there by declaring moral superiority, drawing battle lines, fighting stereotypes with ever more stereotypes, and vilifying anyone who disagrees with our opinions.

That said, I still believe there's great value in many of the concepts of Marxist feminist theory. I just don't think the ideology as a whole ought to be asserted on general principles without question. As freethinkers, we ought to question everything.
 

Scholars and experts in the field, that I generally trust, are pretty consistent that cultural appropriation is bad.  This did not jive with my interpretation, and that was causing some dissonance.  But the choice is that either the experts are wrong and I have stumbled onto an insight that is totally new to the field, or I am lacking in a full understanding.  One of those is much more likely than the other.

A third alternative is that a lot of the material was inherently subjective, hence neither true nor false but a matter of personal opinion.


So the goal shouldn't be to prove the experts wrong, it should be to learn as much as possible about their reasoning to prove to yourself why they might be right.

I disagree with that approach. When I hear something that seems unreasonable, my first inclination is not to try and prove to myself why it must be correct. My first inclination is to look for the evidence and line of reasoning behind the conclusion being presented.


Of course, there is a chance they are wrong, and some of this comes down to opinion, but at least it should be an informed opinion.

Yes, this is correct. Social theories are not like scientific theories which can be objectively verified through experiment. There is a chance they are wrong, or that it's simply a matter of personal opinion and opinions may vary.

As with any other subject, skepticism prescribes that we apply the rules of basic epistemology.

History is full of ill-conceived social theories which looked reasonable at first, but ended up causing a lot of damage in the long run.

That's why it's important to have critical discussions about these concepts, to examine and critique them in detail, instead of just accepting them at face value and personally denigrating anybody who questions or disagrees.
« Last Edit: May 01, 2019, 04:00:28 PM by John Albert »

Online John Albert

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This is how we end up with responses such as "I guess we're just awful people for saying that making tacos doesn't harm anyone," from the CA thread here.

That particular response was an attempt at defusing the exasperation with a little absurdist humor.


Offline Quetzalcoatl

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I am still waiting for superdave to name some of these experts who support the concept of cultural appropriation.

Yes, quetz, you have abundantly demonstrated your lack of understanding of that concept. Would you just give it a goddamn rest? That is the whole point of this thread. How about you read the article a few more times? It might help! Probably not, though!

I have some questions and objections to the concept, I even quoted them. No attempt has been made to answer them, instead I am met with ad hominems. Harry Black and you are apparently impressed.

My tentative conclusion is that neither you, Harry Black, or heyalison have the ability to make a substantive reply to these questions and objections. It would certainly explain why it has so far not come. As for the reason the three of you support this concept despite seemingly not being able to defend it against critiques and objections, I can only speculate.
"I’m a member of no party. I have no ideology. I’m a rationalist. I do what I can in the international struggle between science and reason and the barbarism, superstition and stupidity that’s all around us." - Christopher Hitchens

Offline superdave

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Trying to prove to yourself why you are wrong is not always the best approach but it makes sense in a situation where you are at odds with experts.  It is much more likely that you have overlooked something than they did.  Otherwise you are no better than the "If people come from monkeys why are there still monkeys?" sort.
« Last Edit: May 01, 2019, 10:06:02 AM by superdave »
I disavow anyone in the movement involved in any illegal,unethical, sexist, or racist behavior. However, I don't have the energy or time to investigate each person and case, and a lack of individual disavowals for each incident should not be construed as condoning such behavior.

Offline heyalison

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And there's a point where arguing in bad faith will demotivate people from engaging with you. It doesn't make you right, it means you're untrustworthy.

Ironically, this brings the point back to the original article, and how the debate-me crowd will declare victory in the absence of engagement on their terms.

Offline Quetzalcoatl

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Trying to prove to yourself why you are wrong is not always the best approach but it makes sense in a situation where you are at odds with experts.  It is much more likely that you have overlooked something than they did.  Otherwise you are no better than the "If people come from monkeys why are there still monkeys?" sort.

Again, I have yet to see any evidence of an expert consensus on cultural appropriation, as you refuse to show it. For clarification, the opinions of heyalison and Harry Black are not qualified to be expert consensus.

To compare doubt about the validity of the concept of cultural appropriation to creationism is ridiculous. A more apt comparison is that believers in the concept seem to have a creationist-level understanding of human culture and human history.

Show me the consensus and answer the objections I have linked to multiple times. I am not going to take it on faith, or believe in it just because it is part of the beliefs of some political tribe.
"I’m a member of no party. I have no ideology. I’m a rationalist. I do what I can in the international struggle between science and reason and the barbarism, superstition and stupidity that’s all around us." - Christopher Hitchens

Offline superdave

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Trying to prove to yourself why you are wrong is not always the best approach but it makes sense in a situation where you are at odds with experts.  It is much more likely that you have overlooked something than they did.  Otherwise you are no better than the "If people come from monkeys why are there still monkeys?" sort.

Again, I have yet to see any evidence of an expert consensus on cultural appropriation, as you refuse to show it. For clarification, the opinions of heyalison and Harry Black are not qualified to be expert consensus.

To compare doubt about the validity of the concept of cultural appropriation to creationism is ridiculous. A more apt comparison is that believers in the concept seem to have a creationist-level understanding of human culture and human history.

Show me the consensus and answer the objections I have linked to multiple times. I am not going to take it on faith, or believe in it just because it is part of the beliefs of some political tribe.

http://lmgtfy.com/?q=cultural+appropriation+site%3A.edu
I disavow anyone in the movement involved in any illegal,unethical, sexist, or racist behavior. However, I don't have the energy or time to investigate each person and case, and a lack of individual disavowals for each incident should not be construed as condoning such behavior.

 

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