To Appropriate Or Not To Appropriate: That Is The Question

I have two things I want to post about and not a lot of time, so I don’t doubt that there will be some typos here.  I was thinking about appropriation again this morning, and once more how it is used today irked me.

Yes, no one has to convince me that Hitler stealing painting, or stealing of artifacts is inappropriate.  Notice the similarity of the word appropriation and appropriate.  If I think of stealing artifacts, or creating artworks, which are fake copies of an original, or promoted as created by someone famous, with just a little integrity we know this type of appropriation is not appropriate.

But is there another type of appropriation that is appropriate.  Think about it.  In most cultures, there are take-ons from other countries, which have made cultures richer.  The Chinese written language was appropriated by the Japanese who had no written language of their own, and so was much of their food and the medicines of the time.  They have also appropriated Western dress at least in most people’s daily life, but interestingly enough the add-ons to their writing system of their own making includes words which have been appropriated from other countries with an intentional desire to show them as not being originally Japanese.  For example, you have air con for air conditioner with a simplified set of symbols to show they are appropriated.

Confusing, right, so let me clarify.  The basic Japanese writing, called Kanji, are Chinese characters, although they may have changed the pronunciation from the Chinese and added new meanings to the characters with new pronunciations, thus leaving many Kanji to have six or seven meanings or more with not all of them sounding the same and changed from the Chinese sounds.  As a result, a Chinese person may be able to read the Kanji, but not know how to pronounce it.

If that is not complicated enough, the Japanese place the verb at the end of the sentence to which they have added there own symbology for the sounds of the Japanese language, since they have more verb endings than any language in the world.  They also use this symbology for prepositions, but here is the icing on the cake.  They have another modified symbology of Japanese sounds distinctly for foreign words, which then distinctly stand out and are changed to Japanese pronunciation.  As in how air conditioner becomes ‘air con’.

Although Japanese is probably the most convoluted, taking from other languages has been a pattern in the development of many languages where if you learn one language, you will know much of another language–such as Spanish and Portuguese.  And what about the very English language that is spoken in numerous parts of the world, and not just the United States and Britain.  Whether or not this has happened through the usurping of boundaries or imperialism is not the question here.  We know those things are not pretty, or appropriate ways of being, though humanity reeks with it.

The thing is about giving credit.  With music this has always been the case.  You learn the roots of different styles of music.  With food, we learn the roots of many dishes with some explicitly called fusion.  With mathematics, we know Algebra comes from the Middle East.  In fact, there are stories that indicate it was formulated to know how to distribute inherited wealth at the time of one’s death.

As I grew up, I learned about many things through appropriation.  To be truthful, what would have been my impression of American Indians or Africans, if I had not learned anything about their culture back then, or about African crafts and stories.

Wrapping up here, there are two things that I have found that disturb me.  One came to me when I heard about a book now popular to help children go to sleep.  What they were working with were techniques found in hypnosis, Ericksonian therapy and Neuro Linguistic Programming.  But the Media promotion on a newscast gave no credit to where this idea comes from, and even further back disputes about if subliminal advertising works or not are in the same stratosphere.  Someone gave me a hard time, because I said the idea was nothing new without realizing that for me it was really appropriation, which I refrained from saying to them.  So then, we have the issue of people not giving credit where credit is due.  For me, this is also not fair play.

What has hit my heart in an unnatural way are the shrieks about appropriation when it has to do with something that society is learning from, acknowledges where it came from, and makes the world a better place.  Please don’t scream at me about the cheap labor that created many products.  Yes, I know, and I am against our sweatshops overseas, and many things that happen in the global marketplace much of which is too long to go into here.  The thing is how do we learn to appreciate other cultures and their gifts?

Away for Ten Days

I am in a Masters Program (MFA) in Creative Writing.  Now is our ten day residency, so it is a very busy time, and I will not be posting until the first week in August.  There is so much on my site….take some walks on it, till I return. Hope you’re enjoying the summer.  



I had an interesting experience this week. I don’t like statistics and their loopholes, so I don’t trust most of them. I put up a meme that happened to have a bunch of numbers in it, which I thought was the other side of a story and had some interesting points to it. I did it because I’m tired of polarized thinking and, even though I am liberal, I like to look at a lot of sides to things. The next thing I knew, I had someone, who later I found out from a friend was a radical from the 60s, jumping all over me. I had intentionally asked him to IM me with his opinions and what he viewed was wrong with the article. I was sincerely trying to learn from him, and even though he knew it was my Bday and I asked to talk with him the next day he pounced. I thought I was dealing with a kid from his belligerent attitude. Any attempt of mine to get some information from him he twisted into something to use for his attack. One of his moments he said to me, “Why don’t you admit you are a bigot.” In the end, I sent him an article I wrote which you can find here and on my Power of Metaphor Page called ‘Talkin Bout Differences.’ I tried to tell him how hateful his whole manner had been to someone who was sincerely trying to learn something from him. He said something to the effect that the only people I hate are those who try to take advantage of poor people, which is far from anything which I am known to be interested in. I told him how he had just taken advantage of someone who had been really sincere with him, and why was his version of hating and discrimination towards people any better? He didn’t get it.

Considering that I post memes on Facebook at least one hundred times a week with a portion being my own writing, one could think that I would occasionally post something that is not correct. I once saw someone who had a weekly radio show, think that an onion article was true, and people dumped all over him who knew him. When I posted about the psychology of tattooing as a present trend and what it might mean, people who knew me got angry because they had tats, as if I was telling them they shouldn’t have tattoos, which I had never said or even thought. Where did my freedom of speech come into their thinking or trying to understand the present times?

I have had all kinds of things happen on FB. I have often thought that I might start a page where I posed as a person of color and another where I posed as someone Asian just to see what people’s reactions are like, when they don’t think I am white. It’s interesting what goes on there, and not so interesting to see people becoming what they fight against, and being clueless about it. 

***Written in response to a Facebook friend’s status update about communication these days.  We both agreed after that if you are a writer, there are going to be people who don’t agree with you.



“There were lynching in the sixties,” she said to me.  I had to forgive her on the grounds of youth.  After all, she was half my age.  In her mind, there was a nothin’s changed attitude with cycles of ups and downs in the economy, political ideologies and social interactions always swinging like the pendulum on a clock, but in my mind there was too much missing context in her thinking.

Following her line of thinking, it was easy to rewrite history.  You could take the surface data, and match them up side by side–the 60’s and this year’s racist displays– and to an extent I’d have to agree with her, though I knew how misguided she was.  I had woken up to the understanding she was refusing to succumb to, and started to think it through more. The words Climate Change came to me in a new way.

We think of climate change as related to the environment, but what about our social environment?  And that is the key.  The social milieu of the sixties was one that welcomed change.  The present social environment is one that wants to cling to centuries of old ideas, even if they have become stodgy and no longer fit the times or the needs of the people.  It is a ‘retro’ mentality at not its finest hour, but at its most rigid and antiquated, even if the profit only goes to those whose pockets are already stuffed with bills.  People don’t like admitting when they’re bamboozled.  As a result, you have an adult culture trying to cling to old ways as if they will be saved by them.  Meanwhile, those holding the purse strings redefine core values into something they were never meant to be with a bait and switch attitude keeping people in a survival mode, while they take the money and the jobs away from the people of this country, unless you are one of the ones allocated to play their game.

In the sixties, you had a culture that produced jobs. My first stabs at looking for employment in the New York Times on Sunday was sifting through four inches deep of newsprint pages.  I’d mark off on Sunday more jobs than I would ever call, and by Monday evening I would have four courses of Interviews per day.  Employers called you back to let you know if you hadn’t made the grade, but of course there was enough staff at companies in those days—even walking into a place like Target, there were employees at every section ready to help you.  You didn’t have to scout them out.  You didn’t have to press one for God, two for his assistants and three for the dark side, when you called a business (let alone for anything medical). In an atmosphere like that, you found a job in two weeks if you had any skills, and often you would be trained on the job and promoted from within–manufacturing jobs had not been hijacked overseas. 

Feminism arose to the call of equal pay and equal rights in that abundant atmosphere.  Walking down the streets of Manhattan past construction sites, cat calls changed to seeing women in hard hats, even if they were in the minority.  Still you had an economy, which could support a woman staying home to raise her children, and heck she could always go back to school afterwards without being in debt for the rest of her life, and start a new career while the kids were in school.  You had a generation of freed thinkers who did not want to sit and just be couch potatoes.  Archie Bunker was alive and well, if you wanted to strum the boob tube.  People were exploring their inner being not just what would put money in their wallets.  Meditation became a known word.  Going to India and visiting other countries was high on the agenda list of many–making international friends awesome.

In that kind of burgeoning environment, the Civil Rights Movement grew. But when the shots rang out that killed the Kennedys, King and Sadat fear resonated in people’s hearts the sacrifices entailed by the voices of freedom.  It moved like a shock wave through the nation.  Hippies became yuppies, job jumping and who gave the best benefits replaced hanging on to things, which one needed to give loyalty to.  The divorce rate soared.  The bedrock of a culture of experiment with change was closing in on itself, and those who wanted the power back in their hands took advantage of the times, which  sought for the nirvana of an environment of trust and harmony.  Slowly like a cancer those who never wanted to see anything like another Vietnam protest movement again, ruptured trust’s membrane and catapulted society down the garden path with a politically correct need for survival, as an aftermath doing nothing but pleasing the stockholders..

As a result of all of this, we have fallen to our knees in the face of the new demigod of Corporate Personhood, or is it parenthood.  Parenthood of the kind that abuses its children. The present killing of blacks, burning of churches and even lynching laid down in this retro environment, which does not want to let go of outdated modalities and fears intersecting, even if it drowns out this countries chances of survival, is not the climate of the sixties with its people ready to join hands.  It is the old guard rising up in revenge and fear of annihilation amidst a populace becoming more and more deprived. 

Unfortunately, these corporate giants are negligent in the recognition that what they are trying to hold fast to will bring down a worse annihilation than the one they are attempting to avoid.  This time it will not be the dismantling of a Czar, or Imperial Family, or slave owners, it is the very foundation of this planet and her gifts, which is at stake, and only unity can overwhelm the abusive forms of corporate parenthood willing to rape and pillage her body.   


Kogi Elder

About a week ago, I suggested to my friends on FB to watch two movies on Netflix, which one can download.  One was Purrurambo and the other was Aluna (about the Kogi people).  Today, I found out that the Dalai Lama is about to meet with Kogi Leaders, as well as the Hopi and others.  This is the best news I could get on the 4th of July–the very best.  The Dalai Lama has said,

“Peace and the survival of life on earth as we know it are threatened by human activities which lack a commitment to humanitarian values. Destruction of nature and nature’s resources result from ignorance, greed and lack of respect for the earth’s living things.”
– Dalai Lama

This is the link, and I highly suggest watching those two movies, and thinking very deeply about what it truly means to be human, and how and what we have to teach each other.


9/ll Anniversary (the following day)


MY THOUGHTS NOW THAT ANOTHER ANNIVERSARY OF 9/11 HAS GONE BY. It was a strange day yesterday filled with people popping up from long ago and not remembering their misdeeds (and thinking about how we are so capable of blocking … Continue reading

Metaphorical Writing for the Day–July 27, 2013 A Scene from Lady Murasaki’s Tale of Genji


A scene from Lady Murasaki’s Tale of the Genji……Tale of Genji by Lady Murasaki is world renowned historical fiction, and its renowned is amplified by the fact that it is written by a woman in a time (Heian Period Japan) … Continue reading