Deleting Stereotypes

One of the more overt and disquieting symptoms of the English-speaking world’s sleepy descent into totalitarian self-obliteration, aka “social democracy,” is the recent trend in the publishing world towards the shameless raping of famous works of literature in the name of rendering them more inclusive (read relativistic and propagandistic), by revising their content — i.e., changing the words and ideas bequeathed to us by dead authors — to reflect current progressive attitudes regarding cultural differences, racial identity, sexual fluidity, body image, and the rest of the neo-Marxist hocus pocus.

Though undertaken thus far largely in the realm of popular reading, “merely” violating the souls and civilizational contributions of such beloved authors as Roald Dahl and Agatha Christie, there can be no doubt that the normalization of such bad faith stewardship by major publishing houses and their radicalized infiltrators will spread exponentially and ever deeper into those repositories of classic literature which form the very essence of civilizational self-preservation, and serve as our species’ most viable and indispensable contact with our collective human heritage, and with all the wisdom, beauty, and alternative paths of life that have been found, and then forgotten, in the fog of time. Today, the infantilists are coming for the children’s books and popular fiction; tomorrow, it will be Aristotle and Locke being culled for sins of moral antiquation, and their masterworks, without which these progressive busybodies would have no hint of rationality in their minds at all, rewritten in the name of bringing their epoch-defining ideas into line with current pieties, lest any unsuspecting university scholar be harmed by the insensitivities of a non-compliant philosophy, i.e., lest anyone be challenged, or permitted, to think.

Before we get to that point of committing purgation-by-rewrite against the greatest works of genuine civilizational progress our ancestors have bequeathed to us — and that day is likely months, not years, away — let us use this simpler moment of priggish moralism, this trend of baby book book-burning, as an object lesson in what is being done to us, step by collective-memory-deleting step.

Dr. Seuss, the most famous name in beginner reading for English language toddlers, in one of his fanciful rhythmic-and-rhyming books, described Chinamen as having “eyes at a slant.” In another, he represented a boy trying to catch an Arab in a turban as an exotic animal for his zoo. For such sins of cultural stereotyping, several of his books have been withdrawn from further publication by the copyright holders.

Questions for the right-thinking crusaders against “racial insensitivity” who are reveling in this moment of cultural cleansing: Have you ever actually seen a real live Chinese person (prior to the increasingly standard “medical vacation” to Korea for plastic surgery)? And have you ever read that most beloved classic of Arab literature, The Thousand and One Nights? — or even any one of those nights, for that matter? For if you answered “yes” to either of those questions, then your claim that Dr. Seuss’ depictions demonstrate the evils of white privilege or cultural supremacy are either flat-out lies or deeply indoctrinated psychological delusions.

For my part, I have seen many, many Chinese people, and taught many of them in my university classes. For that matter, I live every day of my life utterly surrounded by Koreans, who share with the Chinese the particular traits most commonly cited by offended white Westerners as “tropes” of anti-Asian racism, namely (relative to Caucasian features) slanted eyes and yellow skin. In fact, neither of these are stereotypes or slurs. They are simple facts. And the exoticism of Arab traditions, including the use of slaves and servants for show and pleasure-on-demand, is well-represented in Arab art and literature. Such features are understandably the ones most likely to be noticed, highlighted, and adapted for their own purposes by Western writers and artists, especially in times and places where the presence of such exotic people is relatively rare, precisely because these features are obvious marks of difference, strangeness, or “foreignness.” And so what?

I moved to Korea in 2007. It took me a few years of acclimatization to get used to the way white people are commonly singled out here, treated as novelty items, almost as toys in some ways — or alternatively resented and feared as dangerous, untrustworthy, and even unclean. Eventually, however, I learned to accept this outsider treatment, to ignore most of it, to accommodate myself to it with less resistance and thicker skin, and finally to appreciate, without discomfort, the various benefits of living and working here, especially the chance to teach many sincere and thoughtful young people craving meaning and substance in their education and in their lives, and therefore peculiarly open to an outsider who, they learn, represents the promise of “novelty” of a more profound sort — an alternative way of living and thinking, and a wider perspective on themselves and their life options. White privilege certainly is not the norm in East Asia, to put it mildly. And that, in the end, is just fine with this member of a tiny and socially disadvantaged visible minority. Does it often lead to insults and annoyances on a societal scale? Yes. Can I overcome the moments of frustration and indignation well enough to survive and make the most of my opportunities here? I certainly can, and do. Might my daily acts of forbearance and overcoming gradually help to normalize and, as it were, fully humanize the white race in the eyes of the East Asians among whom I live and work? Absolutely, on the micro level; and possibly, given time, even on a more general level.

More to the point, what is this thing called “white privilege,” for which Dr. Seuss, Agatha Christie, Roald Dahl, and the rest of the English authors who dared to be born before Frankfurt School Marxism filtered down to the children’s reading room at your public library are being tried and punished by the kangaroo court of socialist self-righteousness? Does the term “white privilege” describe anything at all, other than a psychological distortion of the envy and frustration of some people — mostly highly educated white progressives — who just cannot conceive of any reason for the remarkable wealth and success of the West, unless it be some form of unfair advantage or centuries-long conspiracy of cultural domination. It is quite amusing, when you step back and look at it, that progressives, so quick to smear all criticisms of their neo-Marxist agenda as “conspiracy theories,” have themselves managed to build an entire ideological interpretation of history, geopolitics, and even human sexuality, which is in effect nothing but an elaborate and supremely untenable conspiracy theory, namely the pseudo-theoretical nonsense of “systemic oppression” and all its quasi-theoretical (or rather quasi-theological) cognates.

Dr. Seuss treating an Arab in a turban as a “bad animal” may strike our ultra-modern, culturally relativistic sensibilities as an unfortunate stereotype. His depiction of East Asians having slanted eyes may feel uncomfortably passé (though no one can quite explain why). And yet when people from the more reserved, collectivist, and hierarchical Eastern cultures meet North Americans or Western Europeans today, and pigeonhole them as amoral, selfish, or sluttish people who are all on drugs, greedy, lazy, violent, and sleeping with everything that moves, this too is an unfortunate cliché — though perhaps, like most other stereotypes, rooted in a certain amount of observable fact, as observed without the nuance afforded by wide and intimate experience.

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