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Cultural Ownership

November 28, 2015 Leave a comment Go to comments

I guess I should feel a little bit sorry for New Zealand’s Human Rights Commissioner, Susan Devoy (actually, she is our Race Relations Commissioner which automatically makes her one of our committee of human rights commissioners too – at least that’s the way I interpret the structure of that particular bureaucracy). Why? Because the main function of that role seems to be to bumble from one absurd utterance of total banality to another. At least that’s the approach Devoy seems to be taking.

As I have said in the past, she was undoubtedly a great squash player but I can’t see that she excels at much else. Of course, her appointment was unquestionably political and had nothing to do with her ability to do the job. And that’s not surprising either because she was appointed by Judith Collins, one of the most cynical, devious, and just plain unpleasant politicians we have the misfortune to have here in New Zealand.

Anyway enough with the personal attacks. What is my issue this time? Well, it’s coming up to the “silly season” again so what should we all expect? Of course, an utterly worthless discussion on what words should be used to describe what used to be known as “Christmas”.

I do have to say that the particular issue Devoy tackled was blown a bit out of proportion because, as far as I can tell, it was initially only intended to apply to support the Auckland Regional Migrants Services policy of avoiding using the word Christmas. Still, we know that the issue is bigger than that so I think it’s fair to extend it to all of society.

As regular readers will know, I am an atheist and don’t generally feel the need to support events and customs based on religious myths. On the other hand, I do realise that history, mythology, and religious culture are important parts of our society and I have no problem with recognising that.

Christmas is the most important celebration of the year and the fact that few people spend much time considering its “original” meaning is basically irrelevant. Whether people call it Christmas, summer solstice (in the southern hemisphere), or just something generic like “holidays” doesn’t really matter. I think people should make that choice on their own though, and policies with the intention of “avoiding offence” by trying to hide perfectly valid parts of our society here are totally misplaced.

I am in the unfortunate (according to some interpretations) position of being a member of all the “dominant” cultural groups. I am white, a male, an adult, and a citizen of a stable western democracy, so my culture is automatically given no special status and must always be repressed in relation to others.

At least in the past the fact that I was an atheist meant I was in a minority group regarding religion but now that the “no religion” group in this country is bigger than the Christian group means I’m in the majority on that as well! But for many years now Christmas has been more a western cultural celebration than a religious one so I do feel a certain amount of ownership towards it.

So instead of making life more boring by trying to dilute all of our interesting cultural events I think we should do the opposite: have more of them. And as the country becomes more culturally diverse let’s assimilate more events (which we are already doing) from different countries, religions, and cultures: Asian, Hindu, LGBT, etc.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t keep all the traditional stuff as well. And while we are on the subject of ownership of cultural events: can a white, middle-aged, male, western, atheist own one too?

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