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.

Even Jordan Peterson’s followers must beware of groupthink. My thoughts on his talk at The Hammersmith Apollo:

Yesterday evening I went to see Jordan Peterson speak at the Hammersmith Apollo. I’ve been a huge fan of Peterson ever since his Channel 4 interview with Cathy Newman, which has always seemed like a pivotal, slightly euphoric, moment in the culture wars, not so much between the political Left and Right, but between the Far Left and common sense. Like many, I felt a (rather evil) satisfaction as Peterson demolished so many of the Lefty arguments we’ve become sick of hearing, thrown at him by Cathy Newman.

One of Peterson’s famous bits of advice is to be wary of group identity in favour of individualism, which is why the first part of his show caused me alarm. It felt like something of a rally, as he was introduced to the stage by Dave Rubin – an American political commentator, seemingly on the same ideological spectrum. As compère, Rubin did an excellent job stirring the audience up, and when Peterson entered the stage much of them hypnotically rose to their feet and applauded. I watched in horror; it was as if someone had shoved a mirror in front of my face. Am I in a cult? I wondered. Is it possible I have been so concerned about left-wing collectives that I, myself, have inadvertently become part of another? Perhaps…

Thankfully, the talk settled and the Jordan-mania calmed down, too. Even so, I do think – myself included – that Peterson followers must watch out for their own ‘cultish’ tendencies. Understandably, many are sick of being demonised by the scary Left and thus see a saviour in Peterson, who serves an important existential purpose – batting away overly-promoted sociological constructs (patriarchy, privilege) that could have sinister consequences. But this shouldn’t mean taking Peterson’s every word as gospel, nor view him as a type of messiah. This thinking merely makes us the type of group we purport to fear. We must keep a critical mind, and be prepared to disagree with Peterson (and I’m sure he himself would agree on that…)

Back to the event, anyway. Peterson has an amazing mind, and is a hundred times cleverer than me – so excuse my criticism, but I did find his talk too free-flowing, like his 12 Rules book. It needs more signposting; often I do not know how we got from A to B, or if we’re even on Z, in terms of his thought processes. Like I say, I love the guy, so none of this is to slight his analyses or conclusions, just how they are packaged and pulled together. From my perspective, Peterson is best when he’s being interviewed or debating, which focuses the discussion. I also like his parenting and life advice, as I am a sucker for self-help. Who isn’t, ey?

Overall, I found it astonishing that Peterson’s event has come to exist at all. It says a lot about how scared people are to speak their minds that we now need famous figures to do it for us. Peterson and pals aren’t actually saying anything radical, merely speaking common sense. It is just that common sense has become the new controversy.

Part of the reason men and women especially need Peterson is his academic understanding, as we are locked in ideological warfare. The Left often misinterprets science or creates pseudo-intellectual arguments to advance itself (last week I read an ‘academic’ article arguing that white women tears are a type of racism…), thus there’s a new demand for opposing heavyweight intellectuals. This is why Peterson works so well, who’s able to use multivariate analyses as if it were a huge baton to hit idiots with.

The talk did make me wonder how prevalent far-Left ideology actually is, as I stared at the droves of people there – ‘the silent majority’. I suspect the SM is way bigger than the SM thinks, and has been mobilised greatly because of the internet. The internet has so much to answer for in terms of social fractures. It has meant that individuals from completely different geographies are now thrown into dialogue with each other. We have got to the point where Jane from Dorset is now debating with Stacy the Guardianista on Twitter. They are so far apart by virtue of their locations that it shall be almost impossible for them to reach a middle ground. This is we can never achieve a rational, constructive dialogue, instead our TV debates are raging wars between Left and Right. (I confess I have gone a bit free-flowing in this paragraph, hypocritically after my earlier critique).

Can Peterson sew the world back together? Perhaps! Ultimately he serves an important function, providing an alternate view to Left-wing groupthink. Peterson believes individualism is what can save us all, but at the same time I hope no one misinterprets that advice as encouragement to retreat from their opponents, which would only polarise debate further. If there’s one thing his audience figures suggest, it’s that lots of other people have the same thoughts, which is all the more reason to break up from each other and talk to the opposition, lest we become guilty of groupthink! We must not be so afraid to tell others of our opinions; we must take heart from the bravery of Peterson.

Why should we feel hope over fear?

Now that Donald Trump has been confirmed to come to the UK on Friday 13th of July, Sadiq Khan of course had to Tweet to showcase his virtuous credentials, posting: “If he comes to London, President Trump will experience an open and diverse city that has always chosen unity over division and hope over fear. He will also no doubt see that Londoners hold their liberal values of freedom of speech very dear.”

It is an irksome statement in many ways, not least because it is anti-diplomacy. 

Khan’s worst offence, though, is his love of ‘liberal’ platitudes; the usual guff we have become accustomed to hearing… “hope over fear”, “unity over division”. 

Much of these terms have been said in the wake of terrorist attacks and other violence. They do little to solve either of these dangers, which loom over us all the time. They are a means of suppression, in a sense; a way to delegitimise people’s natural concerns while London goes down the bin.

Khan is currently on track to become one of London’s most hopeless mayors ever, because of his obsession with cheesy soundbites. Too often he sounds like he wants a job at the Guardian, rather than to be a tough London mayor.

As everyone knows, the biggest crisis Khan has to solve is knife crime, which mainly affects young men. To be fair to him, it’s a tough one to fix – mainly born out of socioeconomic circumstances – and the mayor is trying.

Even so, he is so distracted trying to please left-wing feminists, censoring bikini outfits and the rest. All the while, people keep being stabbed to death.

These dangerous times are why Khan is wrong to lecture on “hope over fear”, which he says to divert attention from his lack of ability to solve violence. “Hope” has ultimately become a synonym for “I don’t know what to do”.

Moreover, this idea that we should choose “hope” is utterly daft. Being fearful or hopeful is not some sort of decision; fear is sometimes a reasonable response to an unreasonable situation. It’s an evolutionary reaction that drives us to take action. Were leaders more fearful, perhaps we would have solved the housing crisis, knife crime and much more right now.

There is another flipside to fear, too, which makes Khan wrong to ridicule it. Fear is something that politicians do need to instil at times. 

One of the UK’s biggest problems is that our politicians are not strict enough. They sound more like sex therapists – “love not hate”, “let’s hold hands” – than leaders. 

The result is that the public becomes unruly and undisciplined. This explains why we have so many protests these days driven by crazy millennials. It may even partially explain rises in violent crime. There is no sense of authority around.

The public has ultimately started to wield power over our politicians, even using Twitter as a democratic tool. They create the fear instead.

I don’t want Kim Jong-Un in charge, incidentally, but we do need firmer leaders. They must act more like the teacher at school you respected; who was strict, but right.(Remember, the teachers who were too nice always got bullied.)

Leaders who continuously spout “hope over fear” messages are ultimately not respected.  They are not inspirational, either, because they are not talking at an individual level. 

If you ever watch motivational speakers, they say the word “you” a lot. This wakes people up; they think “who, me?!”

But I digress. Khan cannot simply go on spouting cheerful soundbites, and expect this to please the public. Not least because there is no “hope” if you are dead from knife crime, or lying in a hospital bed with a slashed stomach.

Frankly, Khan should look to London’s own problems, instead of lecturing Trump on Twitter.

There are a lot of reasons I can protest the American president. I didn’t like how he pretty much molested Macron last week, for starters. 

But because I choose “hope over fear”? No, no. I experience fear. 

And until the mayor does something radical, who can say they feel anything otherwise?

Left-wing, free pass to abuse

Comedian Robert Webb has spent the last year lecturing all and sundry on gender stereotypes, which he says are very bad in his book How Not To Be a Boy. So grave are his concerns that he has cautioned his young daughter to be wary of the patriarchy – ‘the trick’ – as he calls it, and warned everyone not to use the expression ‘man up’, lest it damages men’s mental health.

With all of these modern sensibilities, it did strike me as out of character of Webb when he called the journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer a “thick Oxford twat” on Twitter yesterday. I confess it is something of a rule of mine to avoid blokes who describe women – let alone anyone – as “twats”, but maybe I just need to man up.

Hartley-Brewer had been involved in a debate on education. She had addressed the question of whether going to Oxford University was the result of privilege, or something else. In typical Hartley-Brewer style, she said the wrong answer; that she had won her place due to being “clever”. Feminist Webb did not like that argument very much. Clever? Woman? No, no, no. He Retweeted her adding: “I didn’t go to Cambridge because I was clever. I went because I was a white male from a stable family who encouraged me to work hard at an excellent state school. That’s all privilege. All of it. You thick Oxford twat.” This post – a masterclass in left-wing bingo (“white male”, “privilege”) –  received 12,000 endorsements at the time of writing.

Watching events unfold, I did wonder when the feminists would swoop in to save Hartley-Brewer. But such expectations were daft, because Hartley-Brewer is right-wing, and right-wingers do not need saving, only abusing. And left-wingers are now given a free pass to say what they like; they are so socially conscious, after all, that even their most demonic utterances must surely serve some higher purpose. This state of play is not only obvious from the anti-semitic abuse that goes unpunished in the Labour Party, but from the media pundits that represent the left. Frankie Boyle regularly writes for The Guardian and has 2.8 million Twitter followers. He also made a rape joke about Katie Price’s disabled son, which he has never apologised for. But don’t forget the rule! Abuse doesn’t matter if you’re left-wing.

Were someone like Toby Young to call a woman a “twat” or make rape jokes, we know for certain it would be game over. All right-wingers realise that some are more equal than others, namely by virtue of their Corbynista credentials. Yes, forget being “clever” or a “white male”; left-wing identity is the real privilege these days.