Friday, May 12, 2017

Arrest Him for Assault[ing Political Correct Sensibilities]

"In my opinion, anyone, anywhere, should be encouraged to imagine other peoples, other cultures, other identities."
"I'd go so far as to say there should even be an award for doing so -- the Appropriation Prize for best book by an author who writes about people who aren't even remotely like her or him."
Hal Niedzviecki, (past) editor, Write
Hal Niedzviecki, former editor of Write Magazine, wrote an opinion article in the latest issue of the quarterly magazine advocating for more cultural appropriation in Canadian literature.
Hal Niedzviecki, former editor of Write Magazine, wrote an opinion article in the latest issue of the quarterly magazine advocating for more cultural appropriation in Canadian literature. (
"The Writer's Prompt piece offended and hurt readers, contributors to the magazine and members of the editorial board."
"We apologize unequivocally. We are in the process of contacting all contributors individually."
"The intention behind the magazine is to offer space for honest and challenging discussion and to be sincerely encouraging to all voices. The Union recognizes that intention is not enough, and that we failed in execution in this instance."
"We offer the magazine itself as a space to examine the pain this article has caused, and to take this conversation forward with honesty and respect."
Writers Union of Canada, apology

"It felt like an intimate betrayal."
"Their voices [White privileged] are lifted up, while the people who are from those cultures are pushed down and kept outside the industry."
Alicia Elliott, indigenous Tuscarora writer

"I can't, should not, and will not speak for any indigenous writer, but what I do attempt to do, in my life and in my work, is to listen to others who do not move through the world with my level of privilege."
"Canada has a long history of settler colonialism and of cultural and physical appropriation.... I vehemently disagree with the notion that cultural appropriation is not real -- it exists and it causes real harm."
Nikki Reimer, member, editorial board, Write
It is now in such excruciating bad taste to 'appropriate' anything ethnic or cultural from a source not reflective of one's own background, that to do so is to invite an avalanche of negativity to fall on the reputation of anyone daring to confront the stupidity of it all. But because of the injured demands of the unprivileged that the perceived privileged do them homage as victims harps endlessly on in the violent trauma suffered by the unprivileged when customs, language, food, artwork or anything else usually linked to a specific group is used by anyone outside that group, it has become a cause celebre.

One that anyone who dares confront the situation with a reasonable enough argument that it is a reflection of sheer nonsense, risks reputational obliteration. As due punishment for the anguish caused to the defenceless. Is it unreasonable for a writer of fiction, as an example, to do their utmost to portray a character and a setting unfamiliar to their own experience, but which draws them on as a writerly challenge? To succeed in such endeavours, is, after all, the hallmark of an inventive mind and a talented novelist.

As a literary challenge it forces the writer to expand his/her mind, research the subject, practise ingenuity and inventiveness and if successful, become the proud creator of a piece of literature worth publishing. Non-Jews write about the Holocaust. Non Hispanics cook Mexican and Spanish dishes with gay abandon. Non-Gay writers attempt to portray the difficult choices that gays often must confront. Language appropriation means that the popularization of broadening the English lexicon with the inclusion of rich-meaning words from another language is now verboten.

Should only Jews eat cream cheese, lox and bagels? What about pasta dishes? Reserved only for those of Italian heritage? Are gold hoop earrings too reminiscent of beautiful Roma women, thus proscribed for all others? The shrill denunciation of self-interested people wallowing in the swamp of victimhood and vengeance on an unfair world stifles the imagination and the courage of those who mumble about freedom of expression and the idiocy of a minority culture that holds everything about themselves to be sacrosanct and beyond the reach of outsiders.

The editor of the Writers' Union of Canada's magazine, Write, owned the courage of his conviction for a too-short time. He wrote of his conviction that cultural appropriation is an absurd notion, that it should be shelved, and in so doing earned the disapprobation of his sensibility-afflicted peers by his presumption that he had the moral authority to defy what has become de rigueur. He assaulted the sadly afflicted, earning the pathetic outrage then heaped upon him.

What made his opinion piece even more outrageous to his offended readers is that it was published in an issue of the magazine dedicated to indigenous writing. His argument was that Canadian literature is "exhaustingly white and middle class", reflecting  the fact that writers meet discouragement for writing of people and places unfamiliar to them. He wrote, in other words, that the writer's creativity should be unleashed, not chained to a feeble argument for 'respect' leading to avoidance.

Now, it little matters how much he may grovel and scrape at the feet of his unforgiving critics, in an enterprise where he was once respected and admired; his error of judgement was reputationally fatal.
He has responded like a man desperately besieged, to regret "that my words failed to acknowledge the profound and lasting adverse impact of cultural appropriation on indigenous peoples", apologizing as well for his "sloppy use of anecdotes".

To no avail, poor man, who would have been better off with a Gallic shrug. The Union's Equity Task Force has issued demands for the magazine to devote its following three issues to indigenous and other racialized  editors and writers; that furthermore, the next editor of the magazine be a writer of colour, "active and respected in indigenous sovereignty or anti-racist cultural movements for at least three years". Priority, go the demands, given to "writers with disabilities and trans writers" for future hires.

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