Secular sins


From the time people began moving beyond their tribes, intermingled and intermarried, we have been learning and borrowing from other people’s languages and cultures.

That ought to be a good thing but in the madness of modern living it is no longer, it’s now the secular sin of cultural appropriation.

Auckland restaurant Coco’s Cantina is considering a name change after being accused of appropriating Latin culture.

It comes days after the eatery’s co-founder accused a competitor of appropriation.

On Sunday, the Herald reported that Coco’s Cantina co-founder Damaris Coulter had accused Auckland restaurateurs Tom Hishon and Josh Helm of appropriating the Māori word for king in their new Britomart restaurant.

Hishon and Helm – who own Orphans Kitchen – have always maintained the name Kingi is a colloquial shortening for kingfish.

But in several heated Instagram comments, Coulter accuses Hishon of “ignoring” the concerns of Māori over the name.

Now, the restaurant Coulter founded with her sister Renee has received several accusations online that the name Coco’s Cantina is offensively appropriating Latin culture.

In response, Renee Coulter, posted on Instagram yesterday that they are having conversations about changing their name this week.

“One of the Kingi advisers [to Hishon and Helm] asked us to respond to his concerns around the name of our restaurant, as he and others find it offensive,” she wrote.

“If our eatery name has ever offended anyone, we are deeply sorry, we have never intended to ever upset, offend or disrespect anyone, and it’s important that we understand if we have.” . . 

Good grief, how high will this peak madness go?

Jonathan Pie shows how bad it’s got (if you’re sensitive to bad language, you might be offended):


Cultural appropriation is one of the sects of identity politics and that, in Antonia Senior ‘s words is  Christianity without redemption:

 . . .Identity politics has become a secular religion, and “white privilege” is one of its shibboleths. . . 

To be woke demands faith in certain creeds, with the twins Equality and Diversity as unassailable deities. It demands a knowledge of the right language. You must believe in certain disprovable evils — like the existence of a malevolent patriarchy — and like many strict sects, it punishes its apostates most severely. The Twitter storms are fierce for those who express a non-woke view but should have known better than for those outside of the faith altogether. . . 

But the problem with identity politics as a secular religion is precisely its failure to allow for absolution. The faith that Saad  espouses is utterly bleak, even cloaked as it is in words of love. It utterly fails to allow for redemption, and its most direct  religious antecedent is found in Calvinist predestination.

Under this doctrine, God has predetermined whether you are damned or elect. From the second that the right sperm hit it lucky with the most fecund egg, your place in the woke hierarchy was decided. In the modern progressive world, informed by intersectional feminists, it does not matter what you say or do, the only defining factor in your state of grace is your skin, gender and sexuality.

This is a profoundly depressing outlook for three main reasons. The first is the essential nihilism in the creed. Your intent? Irrelevant. Your deeds? Likewise. The sum of your experience, desires, longings, beliefs? Your humanity itself? Nah, not relevant.

The second dispiriting message is that the problems its aims to address are insoluble. White people are racist by their nature, and inherently incapable of seeing their own racism or addressing it. Men are misogynists, by default, witting or unwitting bulwarks of the patriarchy. If they don’t believe they are individually at fault they are in denial. And if they try to say, actually, I’m not sure the patriarchy exists, they are mansplaining misogynist bastards. This is the politics of perpetual antagonism, of a  kind of bleak acceptance that all relationships between different categories of human are necessarily fractious.

Most of us accept that racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination exist. Most of us accept that it would be infinitely preferable if they did not. But as progressive politics grip, and the more the Pandora’s box of vile isms is talked about, the  fewer of us seem to believe that it is possible to eradicate them.

The bigoted and ignorant have always been with us, and now the new bigots are those who show no tolerance for anyone who doesn’t sign up to all the tenets of their woke religion.

The third problem with Puritan wokeness is that it sinister echoes in the history of predestination. When the creed reached its zenith in the seventeenth century, the logical hole at its centre became insanely obvious. If it does not matter to God how you behave, because your salvation was pre-determined at birth, why not behave however the hell you want to?

A society which does not allow for people to atone, to be redeemed, and to be judged on their intent and actions is a miserable place. Most people interact with each other without antagonism most of the time. We should start being a bit more forgiving to each other, ditch the Puritanism and learn to cherish the well-meaning stumble towards decency. Even if, sometimes, we fall.

Some of the words in the 60s song Melting Pot would be regarded as offensive now, but surely the message is still relevant:

If you lump it all together
Well, you’ve got a recipe for a get-along scene
Oh what a beautiful dream
If it could only come true . . 

It won’t come true if identity politics with its doctrine of dissection, division and adherence to the creed that makes cultural appropriation a sin is allowed to triumph.

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