[ExI] it's the yoga! was: RE: The Doomsday Clock

spike at rainier66.com spike at rainier66.com
Fri Feb 9 05:00:47 UTC 2018



From: extropy-chat [mailto:extropy-chat-bounces at lists.extropy.org] On Behalf Of Will Steinberg
Sent: Thursday, February 8, 2018 8:20 PM
To: ExI chat list <extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org>
Subject: Re: [ExI] it's the yoga! was: RE: The Doomsday Clock


Obviously culture mixing is good.  


People take the idea of appropriation too far, but it clearly does happen, when it's a mockery or a "look how interesting/weird/different [insert culture] is!"


What I don't get is like...those people are the trolls of the group.  The trolls get more press while the majority of people with real claims are ignored.  Why engage with said trolls' discourse?


Sorry, but I don't get it.  Of course yoga is good.  Of course covering music is good.  There might be covers that are a poor choice, but then...just don't do them.  If doing the cover would stray too close to insult/mockery, it's bad.  


Just seems simple to me.  Mix cultures without being insulting.  And fuck the trolls! :)





OK sure.  Your response is well-reasoned.  Let’s think about it, shall we?  The notion of patents covering pretty much anything you want to cover is recent.  In 1967 for instance Doug Englebart applied for a patent on the computer mouse.  He was told that it was just a trackball turned upside down with software that reversed everything, and software isn’t patentable, so no patent for you.  So he created a variation on a theme which wasn’t as good: it had two wheels.  This was different from an upside down trackball, so he got his patent.  However… he never did collect any royalties on it, because Jobs and Wozniak recognized that the track ball was patented, the two-wheel mouse was patented but the inverted trackball (single ball mouse) wasn’t patented, so they were royalty free, so… they used those, and they are with us to this day.


That was in the 80s.  Then things went to such a crazy extreme that you can patent anything you want, but good luck in ever making it stick.


So you can own knowledge.  To some extent you can own styles.  You can copyright music.  Where does that leave us when it comes to culture?  The question I am asking goes to the propriety of making claims to ownership of a culture.  How do we define a culture?  If a professor scorns “white people” from doing yoga, is that legitimate?  Or is it only legitimate if they do yoga with some kind of nod to Hinduism?


Now it will sound like I am going off on a tangent, but it is related.


In the 1970s, a science called ethnobotany really took off.  It recognized that rain forests were being mowed down as fast as they could plant cows on them, but that was causing extinction of so many native plants that have medicinal value.  So… a discipline arose which was to go find indigenous cultures, find out what they were using for medicine, then take some of it back to the lab to see if it could be synthesized.  A Harvard guy named Wade Davis went to Haiti to study zombies.  He learned the witchdoctors were extracting toxins from a certain native poisonous frog.  This stuff was absorbed through the skin and caused deathlike symptoms.  It worked like this: a local criminal could do pretty much whatever he wanted: they have very little on the way of a police force in most of Haiti.  Family comes to the witchdoctor, who cooks up frogs, extracts poison, puts it on the floor of local thug, he appears to die, they bury him, witchdoctor comes back, digs him up, gives him the antidote which does bring him back to life to some extent (with plenty of permanent neurological damage), tells the thug: I killed you, and I brought you back.  Now you are a zombie.  But I can kill you again.  You must stay right here in this cemetery and live off the land.  That is pretty much the legal system in the Haitian outback.


The witchdoctors knew how to get the toxin.  But they were apparently convinced they needed to say the magic words.  Without the spells, the toxin alone wouldn’t work (according to them.)  Dr. Davis thought otherwise, and eventually did get the recipe for this toxin, and now it is in the western medical toolkit.


OK then.  What Davis did is kinda like cultural appropriation.  We can take any kind of ethnic food, figure out what is in it, improve it with modern technology, any kind of fashion, create it with superior materials with modern technology.  Take any kind of music, improve on it (as the Beatles did with Hindu traditional music (note melody in Norwegian Wood) and make it ours.  There is no legal means of protecting cultures from appropriation.


So now I ask: in what sense can it be said that it makes sense to scorn the notion of cultural appropriation?  And if we do, why is it Americans don’t seem to have much heartburn when we see other cultures appropriating stuff we invented?



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