The “Culture” Culture, or Yossarian’s Deal

When I was younger, the newspaper would do that thing where schoolkids would draw pictures of their dads for Father’s Day or send in letters to Santa Claus or directions for how to cook a turkey for Thanksgiving and the paper would print them. The part of this that my parents enjoyed the most was reading out the “black” names and making fun of them.

My folks were racist, and it wasn’t because they were a product of growing up in the South or weren’t educated or anything, it was because they didn’t like black people and felt they were inferior. Pretty much the same reason most racist people are racist.

A lot of things about black people bothered them, but it was the names that really stuck in their craw. Those ridiculous black names. “Who names a child this?” my mom would ask, feigning concern for this kid. “That’s not even a real name,” she’d tell her son, whose name was a word in a language neither of them spoke.

You can still hear a lot about “black names”, enough that there’s an entire legion of urban legends about them.

I think the reason why the defenders of American “culture” (which means things that appeal to white, Protestant, lower-middle-class, straight people) get so infuriated by “black names” is because they perceive it as a middle finger to that “culture”. For the hegemony, the worst sin one can commit isn’t not being part of the group, it’s not wanting to be a part.

For the culture warriors, it’s not enough that everyone look, act, dress, live, worship, and vote exactly like they do, everyone also has to admit that these are the right and proper ways to do it. Any other way is not only different, it’s wrong. In fact, I would say that this second requirement — acknowledging the superiority of white culture — is almost more important to them than actually participating in it. A poor unwed black mother who names her child “Katelyn” is at least trying to do the right thing, and showing that although she isn’t part of the dominant culture, she aspires to be. That’s worthy and noble to the culturistas.

It’s not just about race. The other day I was reading this article on how tough it can be for “out” atheists in America. Nobody’s saying they’re being treated like Jews in Nazi Germany or anything, just that there are huge swaths of this freedom-loving nation that will make sure you know you’re wrong if you don’t believe in god. There’s a movement now, referred to as the “New Atheism” and it particularly bugs theists. Nothing is new in the atheism of New Atheists — they pretty much still don’t believe in god — but what’s different is, they aren’t content to just be quiet and never mention this and not interfere with anyone’s Jesusing.

The old atheists were fine so long as they didn’t call any attention to themselves. The new ones, though, they are rude because they would like to have a voice as well. And again, it’s bad enough that they don’t believe in god, what’s even worse is, they won’t admit that god is actually real and religion is actually true and that they secretly wish they were religious. They talk about atheism to such an extent that it becomes very difficult to imagine they’re actually just jealous of Christians! They seem to feel that atheism is actually more valid than theism! How can we be expected to tolerate someone like that?

So too with Occupy Wall Street and the class warfare going on. Mitt Romney isn’t the only one who thinks that anyone who would question the distribution of wealth and power in this country is just jealous. We all heard the stories of the folks who went out to OWS protests offering jobs and got few to no takers, indicating that OWS people are just lazy bums who don’t want to work. Part of this is because, as I’ve said before, many Americans can’t understand the idea of someone protesting on behalf of someone else. That is, OWS isn’t about “things aren’t fair to me”, it’s about “things aren’t fair, period”, and one or two getting a job wouldn’t change anything. But again, it’s also the idea that by rejecting those jobs the OWS protestors reject my culture in favor of something weird and alien that can’t possibly be right or else I’d be part of it.

This whole Arab Spring thing is starting to go sour, and will go even more sour once white America realizes that these countries are not about to replace their systems with ones that look exactly like white Capitalistic Protestant ones. Why did we liberate Iraq, people will wonder, just to replace a brown Muslim with another brown Muslim? Don’t misunderstand, America loves other countries, but only so much as they look just like America, or at least make the attempt. (Though they do appreciate if some of the folks still wear their weird clothes and speak their weird languages and have their weird festivals. These both make the place more interesting for white Americans to visit and are useful for showing just how much we rescued these people from their own backwardness.)

The hegemony doesn’t want to be merely joined, it wants to be adored. In fact, the hegemony will grudgingly allow you to not be a part of it so long as you’re willing to speak kindly of it. You’re more than free to disagree with the hegemony so long as there’s no evidence that you disagree. Anything else is anathema, and will not be tolerated. Do your own thing, if you must, but under no circumstances should you ever suggest it’s the right thing.

This entry was posted in Thought and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The “Culture” Culture, or Yossarian’s Deal

  1. TrentB says:

    Much love for you, sir.

  2. die Geisthander says:

    This is pretty much the best thing I’ve read today and am likely to read all week.

  3. Blathering says:

    I had a black(and yes, she preferred black & not African-American) coworker who hated “made up” names. And would pick on our young student workers if she didn’t approve of their names. I mentioned to her that one of our student’s names was also my great grandfather’s middle name since it was from the old testament. She responded with “well those bible names are ridiculous too.”

    So there you go.