Has it ever occurred to you that you are probably a hypocrite?
Quite recently, there was a highly publicized debacle surrounding the University of Ottawa for cancelling a campus yoga class because they felt it was ‘culturally offensive’. The argument, as I understand it, is that yoga is a spiritual practice as well as physical, and that everyone got their knickers in a twist because non-Hindus leading yoga classes is culturally insensitive, and gross “misappropriation”. Basically, if you’re not Hindu, you just can’t engage in this part of the culture because you’re ignorant to the meaning behind it, and that would just be insulting.
And yet, I bet half or more of the people who felt that way go for sushi every week, only to rub their chopsticks together to remove splinters, spear their food with one chopstick (because they can’t be bothered to learn how to use them properly), pile ginger on top of their sushi, mix wasabi in their soy sauce, drown said sushi in said soy sauce, and then leave their chopsticks sticking upright in a bowl of rice.
Congratulations, you’re considered insulting and rude to the Japanese for sullying a centuries-old practice used to honour the dead.
But it’s okay, the whole sushi restaurant heard you talking loudly to your friends (two of whom have Chinese characters tattooed on them, one of whom is sporting an Ankh because it looks cool), about how you made sure the school didn’t continue facilitating such a culturally offensive activity, and how sensitive you are to all the cultures of the world, blah blah blah. Do us a favour and take your self-righteous yapping to the elders of these communities and ask them how they feel about it. I can almost guarantee that they will look at you in genuine confusion, and be half-tempted to ask how old you are, because you’re displaying the maturity of an eight-year old.
We are the tolerant generation. We are so tolerant, its becoming intolerable. Why is the community elder looking at you in confusion? Because he can’t understand why you care so much about something so trivial; why you are causing an uproar over an issue that no one knew existed until now. The problem is this: either you abandon eating sushi like any North American would, or you continue eating it while simultaneously preaching your “sensitivity” garbage, which makes you a hypocrite. (Note: this is an extremely general comparison, using the examples I have already provided for clarity.)
The point to be made here is that if we continue to treat people from different cultures and religions like they might explode if you say the wrong thing, we will eventually devolve into saying nothing at all. And we are pretty much already there. Any discussion surrounding Syrian refugees and Islamic culture (I use this topic because it is relevant now, and particularly poignant), has been largely self-censored to the point where the only acceptable opinion is the one that pats everyone on the head equally. When everyone is saying the same thing, we might as well all say nothing at all. There is so little (intelligent) dissent to be found in these conversations because those who observe any issues in the situation do not bring their concerns forward, out of fear of being called a racist and a xenophobe. What kind of one-sided conversations are we so used to having now that this is acceptable? Frankly, I find it both boring and ignorant.
(And luckily, there’s a term for this kind of behaviour [so ha, I’m not just a ranting lunatic]; it’s called groupthink, and it is toxic to any team of people that ever want to get something done. This is because when people are pressured into keeping their dissenting opinions to themselves, we lose that point of view in the discussion. It could be nothing in the end, but it could also address a huge hole in the boat they’re trying to build that no one spotted yet, and would never have spotted if it wasn’t brought up.)
I think we are tolerant because its popular. It’s cool to stand up for cultures other than your own, and don’t get me wrong, it is. But stop creating ideas of oppression where none exist simply because you want to be seen being a social justice warrior.
Because even though you managed to take down the big, bad, offensive yoga class at your school, you will never be able to stem the tide of LuluLemon, Starbucks, and neon-bright yoga mats. And you shouldn’t. These people are just doing something they like, and no one except you thought about how offensive it could be to a culture you don’t even belong to.
Stash your white guilt elsewhere, and stop ruining fun things for regular people.