Cultural appropriation? More like cultural stupidity

Jamie Oliver

Poor Jamie Oliver can’t get anything right these days. Whether it’s sugar tax, his chain of Italian restaurants, or something else, he has become one of the nation’s most detested figures, right up there with Bono and Meghan Markle’s Dad.

I’ve always liked Oliver, though, ever since those tasty Naked Chef days – and that’s not just the lasagna. So I felt rather sorry for him this week when he released new product called “punchy jerk” rice. You might think that it was named after someone kicked out of Wetherspoons at 2am, but was, in fact, a title guilty of “cultural appropriation”.

Labour Shadow Equalities Minister Dawn Butler was first to put forward this charge, writing to Oliver on Twitter: “I’m just wondering do you know what #Jamaican #jerk actually is? It’s not just a word you put before stuff to sell products… Your jerk Rice is not ok. This appropriation from Jamaica needs to stop.” Across the internet others chimed in to tell Oliver what a monster he had been, and he has since had to defend himself.

Cultural appropriation – for those who don’t know – is, according to the Oxford Dictionary, “the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society.” It has become one of the biggest social deaths for white Westerners, who feel increasingly worried about how to prevent such terminology being levelled at them. Earlier in 2018, a young American girl was hounded on Twitter for wearing a Chinese dress, and there have been other examples of well-meaning souls attacked in quite traumatic ways for engaging in “cultural appropriation”.

To some extent I empathise with cultural appropriation arguments. There are communities who do not get as much commercial value out of their creations as Oliver has received, and perhaps retailers should pay more attention to making sure that is remedied.

Even so, the direction of the argument has become extreme and McCarthyite. It has moved from being a social debate to a way of making people feel ashamed for wanting to eat a prawn masala.

Embracing different cultures is almost always a compliment, and was once seen as a mark of a progressive society, but is now almost always judged as sinister. Some of the accusations have become ridiculous and hyperbolic, as well as trivialising history. On Twitter today, Clive Lewis suggested that Oliver’s act fitted into a “whole picture” of oppression, writing “We didn’t just ‘adopt’ other cultures. We actively raped, pillaged, enslaved and destroyed some of them”. That a respected MP would escalate a packet of rice to rape leaves one questioning the faculties of all the rest.

Cultural appropriation is part of a “whole picture”, but that is one of the West gently eating itself up. There is something Maslowian about our search for everything wrong in our society. During a recent trip to Cambodia, I spent a day at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields, discovering the evils of the Khmer Rouge. I thanked my lucky stars to be alive, let alone live in 21st century Britain. When I logged onto Twitter later, I found that the nation had spent the day arguing about cultural appropriation on Masterchef. I wondered what on earth we were all up to – why our energies are so negatively invested?

It seems that the freer the society, the freer the outrage, and so we will go on having these cultural battles until we are met by something more sinister than supermarket rice – Russia, warfare, Trump, who knows – and forced to turn our attention outwards. Yes, Oliver probably doesn’t know much about jerk rice, but making his efforts to try new recipes out into a national scandal? That’s cultural stupidity.

What happened to self-responsibility?

What on earth has happened to Great Britain? This country, which once defeated Hitler, has descended into something utterly unrecognisable. It has become a land where self-pity and defeatism rule, and victimhood is the new supremacy. It’s now fashionable to say “my life’s bad… and it’s all because of you!”

Take yesterday – when crime appeared in the news. Who’s making everyone stab each other? The government, obviously! On Twitter, Jeremy Corbyn wrote: “Under the Conservatives spending on youth services has been cut by 52% and 600 youth clubs have closed. The next Labour government will ensure that youth services support our young people and tackle the causes of crime.”

The causes of crime are complex and have economic origins. But we now must assume the only thing between someone being stabbed or not was whether Dave went to play snooker. We’ve reached the point where every single societal problem is now automatically someone else’s fault, and when I say “someone else” I mean Tory cuts, white old privileged rich men and “the system” – whatever that means. Personal responsibility? What’s that all about…

In the case of knife crime, the insistence that social investment is the main prevention sends a terrible message to young people, suggesting they have no ownership for their behaviour – and that nothing can be done about crime until investment flows in.

Repeatedly we are told that every social ill in Britain has been caused by external factors. But older generations have lived through much harder times – World War II, for instance, where there was bombing all over Britain. So how did they turn out alright? “Oh, but it’s a different time for the kids now,” they will say. What, worse than the Blitz?!

The only thing on the decline in Britain is its stinking attitude to every societal wrong. Almost daily someone, or something, is getting blamed for another person’s issue. Didn’t get good grades at school? It’s the exam system! Didn’t get a good job? Discrimination! Nobody fancies you? Toxic masculinity… The list goes on, and on. How refreshing it would be to hear the words: “sorry, the problem was me.”

It’s no wonder that our society has become so disrupted as a result; when politicians tell the Xbox generation that someone else caused their woes, this merely encourages huge resentment. It creates a self-fulfilling prophecy where the electorate believes it can never triumph – so great are the forces against them.

Britain isn’t perfect, but we’ve been brainwashed into a ridiculous vision created by the Left, whose descriptions increasingly make us sound like North Korea. This couldn’t be further from the truth, as we are one of the most fair, meritocratic and successful societies, which is why so many people move here.

More stoic societies wouldn’t have so much laughed at us, but overtaken our country while we threw vegan sandwiches at each other. There have been brutal civilisations by comparison, but none so hopeless at taking personal responsibility: the sign of true civility.

Why do female MPs complain about sexism then indulge in it?

In recent years, Labour MPs Stella Creasy and Jess Phillips have been some of the most passionate and prominent feminist campaigners. Creasy has famously promoted abortion rights in Northern Ireland and cautioned Toby Young several years ago on his misogyny. “I really hoped that you would get with the 21st century and stop tweeting about women’s tits in Parliament”, she told Young on Newsnight, receiving much praise. Phillips has her own book – Everywoman – to remind the sisterhood they can “kick-ass”. In a blog for The Huffington Post she once wrote that “gender equality is the key to solving so many of our current national challenges”.

Fair enough, but with all this in mind, it did seem odd to me yesterday that these two MPs accepted an invitation, along with Lucy Powell, to speak on This Morning. It was not for any intellectual discussion, instead to muse over the proceedings of ITV’s Love Island. “Oh yeah, I’ve watched it with Harriet Harman in the Lady Members’ Room”, boasted Jess Phillips. I’m sure Harman has never been so grateful for the mention… Afterwards Creasy, Phillips and Powell pouted for a photograph.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with MPs relaxing over Love Island. The question is: why do women get asked to talk about it on television? Would Margaret Thatcher, for instance, have pondered Dani and Jack, or Megan’s buoyant boobs? One imagines Dennis Skinner being asked to comment on The Hideaway, and the mind boggles. A male MP wouldn’t have been asked to chat about such matters in the first place.

As a society, we are often reminded that sexism has many discrete and subtle forms. The depressing reality is that not even those who are most informed and educated on it can see it staring them in the face. In journalism I see similar instances of sexism in the tasks women are asked to carry out. Why is there no demand for men to discuss their sex lives, dating disasters or mental health in the same way women are encouraged to? Female suffering has become a type of currency – all the while men are expected to do Brexit and economics. This double standard will not stop until women learn to say no to an opportunity or two.

Creasy, especially, ought to know better. As one of the most talented, articulate parliamentarians, her energies are wasted commenting on a series that barely passes as low-brow entertainment. The pity is when women take up these opportunities, they reinforce limitations on what all of us are allowed to comment on. Next time ITV rings, the sisterhood would be thankful if the Labour ladies hang up the phone.



Progressives’ obsession with socialisation could harm the LGBT+ community

Last week, an NHS doctor was fired from a governmental position for suggesting gender is determined at birth. He was deemed “unfit to work” after refusing to identify patients by their selected gender. Some time earlier there was similar furore when a professor from the University of Washington School of Computer Science said that women are less likely to pursue computer science because of sexual variation in the brain. In an article for Quillette, he wrote “If men and women are different, then we should expect them to make different choices”.

Clearly, arguing that aspects of identity are biologically determined is extremely controversial in 2018. Progressives, especially, take umbrage with this idea namely because it undermines the socialist perspective that, with the right conditions, anyone can be anything. There is another understandable reason that the general population questions biological theories: wariness over the eugenics movement, which hypothesised that people are the product of genes alone. It has now become mainstream to believe the likes of gender are socially constructed.

But this way of thinking has its limits and contradictions. It can be dangerous to claim that we are simply the result of socialisation, and LGBT+ groups could be impacted the most. Take sexuality, for instance. Most would agree that being gay, straight or in between is not a choice, but something one is born with; there are even studies that demonstrate the existence of genes for sexual orientation. If someone insists that we are all the product of conditioning, this would give ammunition to homophobes, and those who push gay conversion therapies, as they could argue sexuality can be learnt and therefore unlearnt.

The transgender community, too, can be helped by biological arguments – contrary to what some might expect. Researchers have found evidence that genes play a large role in shaping sex identity and gender identity. A study led by Belgian University found that the brain activity of transgender boys and girls corresponded to the gender they most identify with. Findings like these can help to counter arguments that trans-identity is a choice, but they are then undermined by the progressive argument that gender has no neurological basis.

Most psychologists would argue that nature and nurture are actually equally important in human development, and interact with one another. The danger is when we start to push one over the other, which can inspire bigotry in different ways. If we promote socialisation, we suggest that facets of ourselves can be removed through conditioning. If we rely on nature, we become too rigid about humanity. Something in the middle can help us all, but progressives must not demonise biology. It has helped win some hugely important battles.

Sexual-assault reduction classes are a form of victim blame

Florida Atlantic University now offers a course titled “Flip the Script”, which aims to reduce sexual assault on campus. It is estimated that undergraduate women have a greater than one-in-10 chance of experiencing rape or attempted rape. Flip the Script teaches these women to look for the signs that could lead to rape as well as how to prevent it. The course boasts impressive statistics, having been found to be responsible for a 31 percent reduction in rape. Even so, it is a form of victim blame.

As we all know, in the UK and America, classes aimed at tackling sexual assault have become all the rage among liberals. Huge numbers of young men are now encouraged to take consent classes to learn about the nuances of sexual communication. Perhaps some blokes need such lessons, but Flip the Script takes us in a direction that we should not welcome.

No one should have to take lessons in how not to get raped. This is no more sophisticated than telling girls not to wear skirts on a night out, or flirt with the guy by the bar. It puts the onus onto potential victims to ensure that they are not attacked. It suggests that the main thing between getting raped and not raped is knowledge. It literally says “you can flip the script”, as if getting raped was a choice of destiny.

Furthermore, sexual-assault reduction classes could cause serious psychological harm to victims. Imagine if you did not have time, or the inclination, to take one of these courses (Flip the Script is 12 hours long). The implication could be that you could have done something to stop this from happening. This is a horrible idea for victims to have to contemplate.

Again, people should not have to do courses to stop themselves being raped, nor should anyone assume that awareness training can stop the chances of being assaulted. It may merely be that awareness training encourages segregation of the sexes, which lessens the chance of these attacks.

The proliferation of these courses is no good thing. Not only do they victim blame, but they potentially exaggerate the level of campus assaults, scaring off young women who might want to go to university.

Having been an undergraduate only eight years ago, the furore around consent has always looked utterly hysterical to me. On behalf of a few bad men, we now talk down to the whole male population as if they’re predators, encouraging their rehabilitation by way of ‘consent classes’, which appear to teach common sense.

Campus assaults are often portrayed as epidemic, but I believe this is because we’ve conflated serious attacks with the results of sexual miscommunication, mostly caused by alcoholic inebriation. It has been found that alcohol is involved in 96 percent of college sexual assaults. The UK and US have dreadful drinking cultures, so it is no wonder that sexual relations have deteriorated, which by their very nature require the cognisance of both partiesThis is not the whole picture, but cut booze out of the equation and we might be looking at a completely different profile of life on campus.

Is there a correlation between arts degrees and hating Jordan Peterson?

Something concerning of late is the number of Left-wing journalists laying into the scientific theories of Jordan Peterson, even though they have arts degrees! I have nothing against arts degrees, incidentally, but I do take issue with people pontificating about areas they know nada about…

This they do over and over again, particularly around psychology – which is Peterson’s specialist area. Yesterday it was the turn of Jared Yates Sexton, who accused Peterson of “bad science” and “patriarchal pseudoscience” – whatever that means.

Yates Sexton had taken offence to Peterson’s recently publicised hypothesis that enforced monogamy serves a protective function against male violence, whereas sexual frustration in men can lead to aggression. This observation does not seem unreasonable to me, considering most terrorists seem to be young blokes who weren’t getting any (nothing against virgins, incidentally).

It’s actually quite a complex theory, and certainly not a literal instruction for forced marriages, nor any suggestion that violence doesn’t happen within monogamous relationships. It deserves nuanced academic contemplation, but we are not in that sort of age.

Yates Sexton’s ‘critique’ resorted to nothing but insults, before he accused Peterson of relying “on shaky research and logical fallacies”. All of this prompted yours truly to investigate the background of Yates Sexton: how does he know? Is he a scientific researcher himself?

It turns out that he’s in fact a creative writing professor (though his prose tells another story). That someone whose job is making stuff up is tasked with analysing a Professor of Psychology says everything about the desperate state of academic debate.

Indeed, every time I see Peterson criticised, his opponent seems to have some sort of arts degree – be it English, creative writing or something else.

Like I say, I have nothing against arts degrees; I did music, art and drama at school and find literary people very attractive. It’s only that I am exhausted with “arts-plaining”; writers with no understanding of psychology trying to lecture on it. The expression “know your limits” comes to mind!

Much of the reason they find Peterson controversial in the first place is they haven’t studied psychology, nor dared to read about the topic, therefore they are hearing many theories for the first time through him. They take him way too literally; “Jordan Peterson wants forced marriage!” It’s hilarious at times…

Their infantile retorts (he’s “bad science”, “dangerous”, “alt-right”) are ultimately a smokescreen for their lack of scientific knowledge from which to draw.

Much of Peterson’s assertions are reflective of psychological research, not ideology. I know this because I studied psychology and his analyses chimes with the research. It is merely that facts do not always make Left-wingers happy.

Generally, the Left has huge issues with psychological theory. This is because of their belief that people are ‘blank slates’ who can be shaped by the environment, so as to justify their desire to engineer it. Thus they cannot stand anyone who cites biological variables in human development – for example, personality traits have genetic components – as Peterson and all psychologists will do…

This aversion to psychological theory is part of the reason why I have never been published in this subject in a left-wing publication. I have a First Class Honours BSc in Psychology and 86 in a neuroscience paper – sorry for the brag, just making a point – yet I am deemed as “right wing”. Why? Because I was always accurate about reporting my studies. It is astonishingly frustrating to have an ideology planted onto you for being factual.

All the while I have watched numerous Left-wing journalists cover psychology, even when they have no background in it. It is not a problem to lack qualifications… I am not an academic snob and love self-taught people, as well as thinking that university is overrated. But the issue is having no interest or knowledge of topics; it shows!

One of the worst examples of this was Owen Jones’s criticism of James Damore last year, who was fired by Google for writing a memo that suggested sexual differentiation in the brain. Owen accused him as ‘alt-right’, increasingly code for: “I don’t know what to reply”. Everything Owen wrote was wrong. But is it any wonder? He has a history degree!

It strikes me that one of the greatest diversity issues in media is actually academic diversity, as there don’t appear to be many scientific writers in the mainstream. Of course, by its very nature, journalism will attract arty, literary types. But if we do not have more BScs over BAs, is it any wonder journalists react to Peterson, as well as other scientists, with such horror?

Of course, Peterson covers numerous other areas like economics, history and religion which others may want to touch. These are ones I am more reticent to partake in; psychology is my area, and I really do know my own limits!

By all means people should criticise Peterson, but it is not enough to hurl insults, nor assume that sanctimony is a replacement for expertise. I am not against psychological criticism of Peterson, but, bloody hell, let’s have some facts. Until then I will keep count on the correlation between hating Peterson and arts degrees.

My nightmare trying to claim O2 insurance (day 6)

On Saturday, I broke my iPhone by dropping it on the floor. It has a broken screen and I can’t use it. I have insurance with my phone provider, O2, so I assumed this would be easy to remedy.

On Sunday I went to an O2 store and explained the situation. The assistant there told me to ring O2’s insurance line, which I did in the store. On the phone, the advisor pointed out that I would need proof of purchase to go ahead, which the store could not offer as they only provide receipts for up to six months and my phone was purchased in 2016. It also transpired that my IMEI number does not match to the IMEI number O2 has on records for me. An IMEI number is a method of identification.

My IMEI number does not match for this reason: in 2016, I had an iPhone SE. When it was time to upgrade, I chose a Sony. The Sony broke in the first few weeks of having it – the screen peeled away. I went back to the O2 store to complain and the assistant swapped me back to an iPhone SE. However, this advisor did not register my new IMEI number on the account. Thus I have been paying insurance towards a different IMEI number for God knows how long. Essentially, it is an admin fault on the part of O2 that these details were not synced.

I explained this event in the store and the assistant passed me over to her manager, who then communicated on my behalf with an O2 phone advisor. The phone advisor seemingly understood the IMEI issue and remedied it. He went through my details and informed me they would update the system and send me a proof of purchase so I could go ahead. He said this would take 24 hours to go through. I waited. Nothing reached my email account.

So on Tuesday, I contacted an online advisor and relayed all the details of what had happened in the store. I said I hadn’t received my proof of purchase. They told me that they would send me a new one and were reassuring – telling me that it would come through.

On Wednesday, I had received no proof of purchase. So I contacted two new online O2 advisors. One told me that my proof of purchase could not go through because of the IMEI number sync issue. I was not happy about this response, seeing as I had explained the IMEI issue already in a store, and online, and been led to believe that this was fixed. I asked the online advisor to escalate the concern to their manager who gave me the same response. It shocked me that I had been given such contradictory feedback every step of the way. Two advisors gave me the impression my proof of purchase was coming through, along with the correct IMEI, two others said no to this.

I tried ringing insurance next, for want of knowing what to do. The conversation concluded in him telling me I couldn’t make an insurance claim, and that I needed to ring the store to get a proof of purchase.

I rang the store up again. The man who answered the phone said he couldn’t help me, as the proof of purchase records only go up to six months. Which, of course, I was told at the beginning, but I was running around in circles at this point. He told me he could not help and to phone customer service.

I rang up customer service and spoke to a nice woman. I explained to her all the difficulties I’d had, and the story of my IMEI number, and she seemed to understand this. She took my IMEI number down and said that she would put this through on the new proof of purchase. It seemed that everything had finally been solved!

I received my proof of purchase, and I rang up insurance. Insurance told me to forward my proof of purchase to an email address. The chap on the phone received my email, and said he would forward this on to the claims department. I asked him when I would know if my claim had been sorted, and he said that I needed to phone insurance. I pointed out my lack of phone, and asked if they could email. He said they would.

On Thursday, today, I had no such email. I phoned up an insurance advisor to ask what had happened to my claim. Astonishingly, she told me that they cannot put my claim through because they have the wrong IMEI number on their system for my phone.

I feel like I am in Groundhog day. I do not know how many more times I can recount the story of my IMEI, and when someone is going to actually listen and sort it out. Moreover, I cannot believe the amount of contradictory advice I have received. I pay O2 £10 a month for my insurance, which adds up.

I still don’t know what is happening with my phone, incidentally, so this blog can get longer. It’s up to O2…

Like I said, I would elongate this blog the longer my complaint was not settled.

A few facts I have learnt in the interim:

  • I have paid £210 towards insurance since I got it in September 2016.
  • My insurance is O2 premier insurance (trying not to laugh at the misuse of the word ‘premier’)

What happened on Thursday (day 5 of life without a phone):
So yesterday I posted this blog on Twitter, which always gets companies’ attention. O2 didn’t so much help, but sent me through some emojis, which I suppose they consider to be ‘customer service’. An advisor told me to message customer service privately on Twitter.

Among our many messages, my Twitter advisor told me “We’ll be back in touch ASAP”, and also “We’ll be in touch shortly” but this took 8 hours. I am getting used to O2’s generous definitions.

Eventually I decided to email O2’s customer service line repeatedly to make sure they would process my complaint.

Eventually a customer advisor got back to me, and said this:

“I would like the opportunity to discuss this matter further. I have attempted to contact you on the number provided, however, I have not been able to reach you and have left a voicemail.”

Funny, that… Because my mobile phone does not work!

Luckily I was able to find a landline to call this advisor from.

Do you remember that sketch in Little Britain called “computer says no”? It was very accurate for talking to this advisor, who also used: “broken record technique”, telling me over and over again that my insurance claim would not be processed because of the IMEI number syncing issue. I explained that three advisors had said that this would be fine to remedy, but she could not compute this, although she did admit that I had been “misadvised”. O2 can find that on the call if they want to… 

This advisor was suspicious that I had bought the phone from another store, and that this was the reason why O2 does not have my IMEI number. I told her over and over again that it was O2 who’d given it to me, and I have no interest wandering into the Apple shop, nor anywhere other than my provider, not least because I am completely disinterested in mobile phone stores, and this would be expensive for me. Seriously, what would be the point of that when I can get a free upgrade? I also have insurance so that if my phone breaks I can only get it through O2.

I pointed out three things to the advisor:

  • The current make of my model is the same was the model whose IMEI number is registered under my insurance. Therefore the repair would be exactly the same. The sensible thing for O2 to do would be to admit they had made the mistake of not registering my IMEI number correctly, and update this on my purchase form.
  • I have paid insurance since September 2016, so where has all this money gone?

Additionally, all of my bills are sent to my mobile phone number, so can O2 not track this link between my policy and the handset I am using? 

Today I have been texted by O2 twice, and have two missed calls from a number that looks like it may be O2. I’m not sure how many more times I can tell them that my phone is broken.

At this point, this is what O2 needs to do:

  • Switch the number on my proof of purchase to the correct IMEI number
  • Apologise to me
  • Fix my phone
  • Give me a temporary phone in the interim, complete with iPhone functions
  • Reimburse me for the 6 days I have been without a phone