Category Archives: Cultural Appropriation

Cultural Appropriation


An article in the Daily Beast shares the information that students on college campuses are against classes in yoga. They are in fact against something called cultural appropriation. Since we stole yoga from Asia while we were exploiting them during an era when Colonialism was the order of the day we must now give yoga back to Asia, at least that seems to be the message of the Daily Beast article. This appears to be part of the whole political correctness movement that is rocking campuses and is attributed to extremists on the left this time. Apparently the PC police are actually student vigilantes who demonstrate on campuses all over America to oust any speech/thought they think is culturally backward or insensitive.

While it is a great thing to know your mind and be strong, tolerance is also a valuable attribute and one that should be most at home on a college campus. Whether intolerance is practiced by the left or the right should not matter. College is a time to share ideas and debate ideas, not to squelch ideas. From our position in the 21st century colonialism earns our disapprobation. We are possessed of the power of hindsight. We have become “enlightened”. That means that we would be wrong to view other nations as our colonies today but we are equally wrong to hold our ancestors to the standards of the present. People were colonized and we eventually saw that this was wrong as people objected and either won back their independence or were given independence.

If we try to backtrack and give back everything we “appropriated” from another culture we will lose much of our own cultural richness which is one of the few positive effects of having been global bullies. Now that the world’s cultures are mixed, can we un-mix them? Can’t we just keep reminding everyone that we remember the origin of our culturally appropriated (stolen) treasure and continue to express our appreciation for what we have learned. Maybe I just don’t want to have to give up yoga, but I don’t really see the point. Perhaps other nations don’t mind our appropriations as much as we think they do. After all “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

I have not been immersed in any campus for quite some time and this trend has obviously been developing for a while. It appears to arise out of course work which examines America and European past practice, tracing historical insensitivities that trivialized other cultures enough that we felt justified in exercising dominion over these cultures. I’m sure that students and faculty have explored the resulting homogenizing influence these incursions have had on a once far more diverse world. I see no way to backtrack and give cultural belongings back unless we go back to being far more isolated from each other than we are. If we were to return to a “dark age” would things appropriated from another culture automatically die out? I would rather not find out the answer to this question.

It seems that the political spectrum or continuum may be more like a Mobius strip than an actual continuum. If we look at the traditional spectrum drawn on a line it looks like this.


If we replace the word Communism on the left with the word Authoritarian and the word Fascism on the right with the word Authoritarian and then fold one end over to meet the other it allows us to easily see that going too far towards either the left or the right sort of puts us in the same totalitarian dilemma, although with different factions calling the shots. The Communist Party may have been formed from “the people” but it soon assumed a position above the people and bossed everyone around. Even within the pecking order of the party there was a hierarchy. Fascism seems to give power to business owners and corporations, but the same hierarchies apply and in either case there are ever stricter punishment for those at the bottom of the heap.

There are as many new political spectrums being designed as there are people who wish to portray what is going on in politics and these continuums can be skewed toward a political ideology quite easily, although the skew is quite easy to see in such a simple graphic. I did find one that is drawn in circular form, although not as a Mobius strip.


Here are a couple of other example that are also interesting.



I believe that the point I am trying to make here is that liberalism on campus may have gone off the deep end or it may have rounded that corner on the Mobius strip where it actually meets the extreme right wing and offers the same dangers to our democracy that the Tea Party has come to represent. I see all this extremism and I, once a lefty, now find myself somewhere nearer the middle and I find myself hoping that people at both extremes come back from the edge and abandon the positions they hold that threaten our freedom from both directions. Meanwhile I will keep going to my yoga class until we give it back to the nation where it originated.

Would a simple thank you for your contribution to our physical well-being and our emotional stability be enough? As long as I stay off campus it might.

By Nancy Brisson