Cultural Thieves

I thought I’d share this piece with everyone, seeing as it was entirely researched, written, and verbally debuted in Ireland tonight at the Westside Library for Open Mic night. It was written as a response to a prompt for Creative Writing class from Mr. Kevin Higgins. The assignment was to write our own modest proposal. For those who have not yet read Jonathan Swift’s satirical essay, “A Modest Proposal,” it is a response to the growing problem of hungry Irishmen during the famine and a proposed solution to the financial problem the poor in Ireland posed to the British Empire. Without spoiling anything, the solution is quite… creative. If you want to read it, and I suggest you do if you like satire, you can find the link to it here.

Anyway, I tried to decide what really irked me enough to write about, and I settled on the issue of cultural appropriation. My stance on that issue is going to be fairly obvious from the piece, but for those who don’t know, cultural appropriation is the latest buzzword regarding race and ethnicity in America. It means taking something from another culture, like dreadlocks or Chinese characters or sombreros, and sporting it like a costume when you do not belong to the culture it came from, thereby stripping it of its significance. The debate for that is extensive, but here’s my take on it. This is the product of hours of research and was fairly well-received tonight at the reading. Please remember that it is meant as a work of satire. Any issues you are free to address directly with me. Enjoy!

Cultural Thieves

There is a disease sweeping the world, wherein thieving human beings see a culture and its customs and take it for their own use, stripping it of its significance and laying claim to it as though it has always belonged to them.

The problem is, of course, multiculturalism. The world has become too mixed. People travel across the world and bring their own culture with them, allowing the host culture to steal it and pass it off as their own. Worse, travelers breed with people outside their culture, and confuse their children, giving them two identities to bring to a new place so they can be robbed of both their cultures and their significance.

But fear not! There is an easy, three-step solution to this accursed pestilence that will ensure no one steals anyone else’s culture again.

Firstly, I propose we immediately and henceforth outlaw interracial and inter-ethnic marriage in all forms. That way, in several generations, no person will be able to lay claim to two (or more) cultural identities, and cultural purity will be secured. Moreover, it will eliminate the exhausting business white people tend to get up to where they tell one another, “Oh, I’m 16% Irish, 25% Italian, 35% Dutch, 5% Native American….”

Secondly, we must ban immigration in all forms for all reasons. Anyone not born in the country they currently reside, and more than that, anyone whose great ancestors weren’t born in the country they currently reside will be immediately deported back to their country of origin. Borders should henceforth be closed and strictly maintained. No one may enter or leave. If one wishes to travel, he or she must obtain a special permit by the government, undergo rigorous sensitivity training, and sign a contract stating they will not procreate abroad and that they understand doing so will incur serious fines and prison sentences.

No one may speak more than one language, the native language of his or her home country. If we eliminate the chance for someone from another culture to understand what we say, we make it more difficult for those people to steal from us. Books written by anyone from another culture are also banned to prevent the spread of another culture’s ideas and customs to anyone wishing to steal it.

Thirdly, all cultural artifacts must be returned to their rightful owners. Renaissance paintings must return to Florence and Rome. Lucy the skeleton must return to Africa. Greek vases must return to Greece, French impressionist paintings to France, and mummies to Egypt. Unfortunately, we cannot allow the unclean and stealing eyes of non-Italians to gaze upon Renaissance works, or non-Egyptians upon mummies. We must therefore have special task forces from each nation and culture, forced to undergo many hours of rigorous sensitivity training, assigned to take nondescript white panel vans, unmarked and untraced ships, and unmarked cargo planes all across the globe to collect their cultural artifacts under the cover of night. I propose we have one night where all these committees come in while the rest of the world sleeps and loots the museums of what is rightfully theirs. And it cannot just be the museums. They must clear gift shops and novelty stores of any item bearing replication of these cultural artifacts. Mona Lisa notebooks? Gone. Greek letter jackets? Gone. That punny mug about the Eiffel Tower? Also gone.

But that does not go far enough. No, in order to prevent plebeians of another culture from corrupting the beauty and innovation of your culture, everyone must stop using or give up anything that does not specifically belong to his or her own culture.

This doesn’t just refer to Native American symbols or African hairstyles or Chinese character tattoos. That’s a start, but it doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the much wider issue of multiculturalism the world is experiencing. I propose we ensure that all cultures maintain their inventions, discoveries, religious traditions, and symbolism and never again have to share them with people who don’t appreciate them or their great significance to the world.

If, therefore, you are not of some African descent, you must immediately avoid the following: CAT scans, dreadlocks, afros, rap music, boxer braids, cornrows, and modern slang such as “woke” and “lit” and “on fleek” (a tragedy for millennials, surely). They must also close down all blood banks, stop using mathematics, and refrain from altering their bodies in the forms of tattoos and piercings.

If you are not Chinese, say goodbye to some of the essentials: paper, moveable type, alcoholic beverages, and clocks, to name a few. Americans and English, Fourth of July and Guy Fawkes Night are both canceled; fireworks and gunpowder belong to the Chinese. Do you enjoy your afternoon tea times? Not anymore, unless you’re of Chinese descent. Enjoy getting wet, because you may no longer use umbrellas. And college students beware, ramen noodles and Chinese takeout are officially off the menu. You may not receive acupuncture, use porcelain, fly kites, or exchange goods and services for paper currency. Californians are out of luck when the next earthquake hits, because seismographs belong to the Chinese as well.

If you cannot prove Arabic or Islamic ancestry, much is to be lost. For you, the concept of zero no longer exists. Musicians, return your guitars, for they are an Arabic invention. Even the great Ted Nugent’s guitar will be forcibly removed from his home by a task force made up exclusively of Muslims. Basic white girls can kiss their morning Starbucks run goodbye; coffee disappears too, as do toothbrushes, marching bands, hookah bars, and hospitals.

If you cannot boast Italian ancestry, good luck finding something to eat: pizza, pasta, pretzels, espresso, and ice cream cones are banned outside Italy. You may no longer use cologne, wear glasses, or power your electronics with batteries. Violin music, Jacuzzis, radio, and the telephone also belong only to Italians (Marconi technically held that patent, after all). Grandma better learn how to chew without teeth, as dentures will no longer be available. It will be impossible to find ballets, Montessori schools, liposuction procedures, pianos, operas, paddle boats, pistols, and stilettos outside Italy.

Not French? You may no longer pasteurize your food and drink. If you were unfortunate enough to be born blind or become blind later in life, find another way to read, as Braille is a French invention and belongs solely to French people. You may not can your food any longer, fly in hot air balloons, eat mayonnaise, use refrigerators and sewing machines, or make out either. Especially, you may not open a cannery inside a hot air balloon while consuming a refrigerated mayonnaise sandwich and making out with a lover amongst the clouds.

Those without Hispanic or Latin heritage had best get used to dreaming in black and white: color television is banned for you. You may also not use contraceptives, ballpoint pens, mops, or pocket knives. You may not receive a stent, take up photography, or use drug patches. No more astronauts may exit the stratosphere, as space suits were invented by the Spanish, and there shall be no more Jesuits outside Spain.

Are you Indian? No? Your chess team is henceforth disbanded, and you should begin digging a hole in your backyard—flushable toilets are banned. You may not measure using rulers or scales, farm using ploughs, or wash your hair with shampoo. Numbers no longer exist for you. White, suburban mothers must leave their yoga classes, and refined sugar is outlawed outside India, as are cotton and ink.

Those not German may no longer wear lederhosen, eat bratwurst, or travel by car, motorcycle, or helicopter. Neptune and Uranus are no longer part of your solar system, unless you are German. No more cell theory, laws of motion, Levis, Fanta, Gummy Bears, kindergartens, MP3 files, hole punchers, glue sticks, morphine, aspirin, contact lenses, accordions, air bags, gasoline, or clarinets. And whether or not you love holiday traditions, you may no longer put up a Christmas tree or tell your children about the Easter Bunny, as those are part of German folklore and to do so would be insensitive appropriation.

And if you cannot prove American, return your smartphones and computers. The Internet is part of America’s culture and innovation, not yours. Additionally, you must stop using lightbulbs and film, eating cotton candy, traveling by plane, wearing sunglasses, making chocolate chip cookies, wearing nylon, making purchases with credit cards, using computers, and using Google Maps’ GPS to navigate. Additionally, if you aren’t Native American, you may not kayak, wear moccasins, play lacrosse, eat potato chips, canoe, use syringes, own dreamcatchers or bunk beds, or chew gum.

Naturally, we need a way of enforcing these statutes and eliminating the potential for insensitive contraband culture to make its way across borders. We will create jobs for our own people with the establishment of the Monocultural Enforcement and National Treasure Anti-appropriation League in every country. This League will be authorized to work at the borders, in customs at the airports, in cities, towns, and small villages. They will be allowed to search any premises at any time for any reason in an attempt to catch those engaging in multicultural behaviors.

I do believe this will effectively eliminate all forms of cultural appropriation, ensuring that what belongs to a culture remains property of that culture only and is never stolen or underappreciated by the rest of the greedy world.


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