Cultural Appropriation Terrorists

Too strong a title? Well when the literary class of 2017 resorts to name calling on Twitter and firing editors who upset their sensitivities what else should you call it? And especially so when so many of the mob with the burning torches call themselves writers and authors.

(The difference being anyone can call themselves a writer – even me – but few can call themselves an author which implies in my mind at least completing a piece of major work let along getting it published…but I digress.)

So I’m leaving the last word to Andrew Coyne and his excellent front page National Post article “So, we are all agreed then?”

This is top notch writing and not just because I agree entirely (although that helps) but because it makes sense and shows what happens when one group attempts to get its way (regardless of how worthy or unworthy the objective) by beating up those they perceive as being the problem.

The result is we’re left with two literary magazines now looking for new editors after resigning in the face of the mob at the door. Maybe one of our indigenous writers might want to apply…oh but wait…would that be kosher?

Kinda makes sense why the Canadian government hasn’t made any progress with this group in the last 200 years but now I’m just being mean to the afflicted.

Let’s leave the last word (at least for now) to Post letters-to-the-editor writer P.K. Rangachari of Hamilton who wrote about his amazement upon reading Robert Kaniglel’s The Man Who Knew Infinity a story about the life of Srinivasa Ramanujan. Mr. Rangachari said he was “amazed at how well the author had captured the mind and soul of my people.” Nice.9781487001117__HR_fe605d7e-dd24-4f7f-bbf9-d4bbea26df3d_1024x1024

BTW not that it matters but I’m currently reading The Break by Katherena Vermette who I subsequently discovered is a MĆ©tis writer from Winnipeg. This is a very good book written by a very good author who quite frankly I couldn’t have cared if she was born on the moon and raised by wolves.

Mixed metaphors aside at least I’m accidentally culturally correct in my late night reading šŸ™‚

Watch Ms Vermette and Candy Palmater during their Canada Reads CBC video. The world needs more Katherena Vermette and of course more Candy.

Jesse Wente Won’t Like This…

…or maybe he will.

The controversy surrounding cultural appropriate blew up over the weekend with two editors of prestigious magazines quitting and me, as an ageing white male heterosexual Canadian-born settler, firing off a Tweet to @jessewente with a copy to @metromorning.

My notification setting on Twitter (@oakvillerider)Ā startedĀ binging away every couple of minutes this morning so I decided my 140-character response needed more space.

So here’s go…

For a long time I was either a news journalist or an editor. I went to work everyday with the actual thought in mind that this day might be the day I would quit over a matter of principle.

I never had to quit but I did have to offer my resignation on a couple of occasions where my aggressive manner went over the line.

When I became a news editor and later a group national magazine editor I told my staff and later my group of editors that my job was to make their jobs easier. It was my job to protect their jobs and to protect them from the vulgarities of their publishers and complaints of advertisers and even readers.

I told them so long as they told me first what happened I’d do my best to shield them and only edit their writing when necessary (spelling, grammar, structure) or make changes to copy with their input.

They always had the right to quit and I had the right to fire and we both were very careful not to do either.

And now we come to Jesse Wente…

I like listening to Jesse Wente, a regular contributor, on CBC Radio. Mr. Wente is intelligent, compassionate and knows how to tell a story. I’ve long known he is an indigenous Canadian writer and broadcaster and the indigenous part was for me – inconsequential. However, it seems for Mr. Wente it is central.

Fair enough. You get to be what you want to be in my world. But somehow being an indigenous person especially one in the media has become something else…something I don’t recognize as helpful.

You see this current debate began last week when the editor of The Writers’ Union quarterly Write magazine Hal NiedzvieckiĀ wrote an essay where he said: “I don’t believe in cultural appropriation.”

Within hours the cultural roof fell in and Mr. Niedviecki had quit under barrage of criticism on Twitter and Facebook. The Writers’ Union Equity Task Force (whatever that is) issued a statement that said they were “angry and appalled” and demanded that all staff at the magazine be re-educated in the ways of anti-racist writing.


A second editor Jonathan Kay of prestigious The Walrus magazine quit after writing on Twitter that “the mobbing of Hal Niedzviecki is what we get when we let identity-politics fundamentalists run riot.”

Gee I wish I’d said that….sorry fundamentalists.

Here’s the issue as I see it:

If we go along with the identity-politics fundamentalists then Elvis wouldn’t ever have been allowed to sing black blues music. Shakespeare would have been shunned for writing about the love affair of a couple of Italian kids. Maybe indigenous musicians shouldn’t be allowed to play white man’s rock and roll (which was appropriated from Mali musicians and adopted by black (and white)Ā Americans living along the Mississippi River and universally loved by many…including old white heterosexual men like me).

Oh the list goes on and gets really silly in a hurry.

What’s not silly but is very serious is the way mainstream culture supports and encourages (or shuns) other cultures whether they be indigenous or different culturally, religious, by sexual orientation or whatever else you can think of.

When I was an editor it was my duty to be inclusive and to encourage even seek out different voices. It was never my job to shame writers who wrote of things I may not have understood. It was never my job to gang up on creatives who dreamed dreams that were not mine.

Yes the past was filled with terrible things done by one culture to another and indigenous peoples aren’t exempt from the view of history anymore than white culture.

But the way to healing the wounds of the past are not to be found in the shaming and bullying tactics being used in the present. I won’t dare to suggest how to find healing in one’s heart but I do know I wouldn’t find it by being critical of others.

I do know my own heart is lightened when I open it to the stories and pain of others even when I don’t understand or even agree with what I hear.

Being in pain, being oppressed, being shamed, being bullied are all things that aren’t okay with me whether it’s happening to me or happening to you or happening to someone else and I will object.

Remember you are my brother (or my sister) whether you like it or not.

Peace be with you.


The 50K Ride

Yup I just finished a 50k ride from Oakville to Burlington and back to Lakeshore Park east of Winston Churchill and then home again.

For the most part the ride was pretty easy. It was the sitting that was hard….and still is. I’m going to have to go into Gears and talk to them about their butt measuring device.

It was an adventure ride with the early in the ride fairly intense car crash just ahead of me as a women accelerated on Lakeshore to pass me (accelerating to pass a cyclist is so dumb) and ran into the back of the last car in a line of cars stopped as somebody made a right turn into their driveway.

Didn’t appear as if anyone was hurt but it was pretty good crash and fortunately didn’t involve me.

Riding 50k had me sitting way back on my saddle (I’ve switched back – for now – to the standard Fizik.) to avoid too much pain over bumps. The butt back position was a lot Ā more aerodynamic and for the most part my legs were fine it was just my butt that was holding me back…sort to speak.img_0944

BTW anyone who has access to my Strava stats can see early in the ride when I caught up to the very pretty 25-year-old who was passed by three big guys I was using to set a pace.

It was easier to stay with her than keep up with the boys (who were hitting over 30km/hr) but it’s early season and I’ll get better. BTW the telltale numbers are when I spiked at 150 bpm.

At my age happens all the time: I can catch’m I just can’t stay with them šŸ™‚ I can still keep up to Marion…at least for now. She’s training with Petrina at The CyclingCentre.Ca this summer and should be in great shape by mid season.

Maybe the European bike tour isn’t out of the question?