Short Shot: Prom Dress Blues

The debate over a Caucasian teenager wearing a cheong sam as a prom dress offers conclusive proof that “cultural appropriation,” whatever its original validity, has become an instrument of social tyranny deserving of ridicule and opprobrium.

Going forward, whenever someone suggests that I join the Democratic Party instead of holding fast to my lonely Eisenhower/Tory hilltop, I will add to my list of reasons for demurring the left’s tyrannical defense of cultural puritanism.

The progress of man is as much a story of adoption as it is of adaptation. We share and borrow the best and most beautiful aspects of our cultures so that our cultures will themselves advance. To construct artificial walls around cultures is to consign humanity to cultural silos, to a future wrought not by unified advance but by fragmentation and chauvinism.

Such a future could never be described as the outcome of progress, but a smoky path into a new Dark Ages. That is not a future worth dying for, but a future that begs to be fought, and fight it we must.

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Author: David Wolf

An adviser to corporations and organizations on strategy, communications, and public affairs, David Wolf has been working and living in Beijing since 1995, and now divides his time between China and California. He also serves as a policy and industry analyst focused on innovative and creative industries, a futurist, and an amateur historian.

3 thoughts on “Short Shot: Prom Dress Blues”

  1. Except that this isn’t “the Left” David.

    As Matt Groening hints here https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/18/arts/television/simpsons-matt-groening-apu.html the “outrage” over Apu — a character beloved in India — is exclusively from Indian Americans.

    Same same over the “cultural appropriation” nonsense you correctly condemn. This sort of misplaced outrage is symptomatic of the social media age, and relentlessly bipartisan.

    There was similar “outrage” from the white-right over a particular casting decision in a cartoon movie https://www.theguardian.com/film/2010/dec/17/white-supremacists-boycott-thor — note the name of the group being outraged here: the Council of Conservative Citizens!

    The “two minute hate” from Orwell’s 1984 isn’t exactly how he pictured it, but what is the “outrage of the day” but that?

    Oceania has *always* been at war with Eastasia.

  2. I am happy to stand corrected. It was not my intention to use this as a partisan shot so much as it was to express disgust with a sentiment that is singularly un-American and is antithetical to the spirit of a nation that values the unparalleled breadth of its cultural heritage.

    In fairness, though, do you not think that while the cultural appropriation issue may not be rooted in contemporary identity politics, that the latter has done much to legitimize the former? (And I ask that in full awareness that resurgent white-supremacism has made identity politics bipartisan as well.)

    Either way, I think we have to acknowledge that America is neither an assimilationist Melting Pot nor a communalist Salad Bowl, but that it is perched somewhere between the two, and that we are engaged in an ongoing effort figure out just where we belong on that scale.

  3. I think “identity politics” hews to no particular principles or party, and is rooted in the desire so many have to be “recognized” as a member of a specific tribe.

    We’ve talked before about “toleration” — the idea that my rights to live my life by my own lights are best secured by me defending _your_ rights to live your life by yours — and I think that idea is critical to modern life.

    The societies that “win” in the long term are open and liberal, with laws that relentlessly seek to level the playing field and reset accumulated advantages.

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