Month: March 2017

Cultural software update

Was raised in a Christian home, but the Gospels having been written by different people about the same circumstances was really confusing to me at a young age. Of course, you adapt to the ideology of your parents usually, like Jordan Peterson describes with Pinocchio as a metaphor for being attached to your families ideology. I grew up with a friend that was Buddhist and another that was Unitarian. An already confusing inconsistency in my own religion as well as other entirely different religions really changed my worldview young. Actually turned me into an agnostic of sorts due to...

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The Romance of the 196 Kingdoms: If you don’t like what bad ISIS is doing, then help us build good ISIS.

Sometime after college, I stumbled on the fact that out of thousands of years of literature, there were four novels that the Chinese people had picked out as the greats. Think about how insane that is. One of the greatest cultures in the world has picked four novels as the best stories its culture has ever produced and I’d never heard of them. Are there people in China who only find out about the Iliad, the Odyssey and Shakespeare after college? Probably. For a supposedly global society, humanity still approaches education in a remarkably nationalistic way. And that’s a tragedy because humans can’t spot patterns when they only have one data point. If all you’ve ever known is your one national culture, then it’s way harder for you to see the broad patterns of human behavior and human societies. It’s also a tragedy because I got assigned to read Pride and Prejudice…twice. Oh, Mr. Darcy! Pride and Prejudice is great and whatever but it takes a special kind of clueless to assign Pride and Prejudice at an all boys boarding school…twice. I’m sorry but Mr. Darcy just doesn’t do it for me. You know what does do it for me? The Romance of The Three Kingdoms. Any novel so epic and action-packed that it inspires movies and video games that look like this is exactly what you should be assigning...

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This Saint Patrick’s Day, let’s all engage in Irish cultural appropriation!

Even when I was at college, there was a tremendous sensitivity to cultural appropriation that I didn’t understand. Growing up all over the world, I spent my time with ex-pats who routinely took bits of each other’s culture. We shared recipes. We took useful words from each other’s language. We adopted myths from religions we didn’t believe in simply because they were great stories. We developed a fondness for musical traditions that weren’t our own and developed a sympathy for peoples everywhere. When you grow up as a global nomad, you learn to culture shop. You learn to think like Bruce Lee. People who don’t move between cultures domestically or internationally are often pretty precious about their own culture. I naïvely figured that America was a place where cultural borrowing happened freely and often. Wasn’t America a melting pot? Didn’t everyone just steal bits of each others’ cultures all the time? Well, some people do but, strangely, some of America’s most educated people are the most ignorant to the delightful joys of the kind of free and easy cultural appropriation that global nomads enjoy. Last year, a student of Colombian descent at Bowdoin College sent out an invite to a Tequila party with the line “the theme is tequila, so do with that what you may. We’re not saying it’s a fiesta, but we’re also not not saying that :).”...

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