Cultural Appropriation & Satanism – Part 1
It is difficult to understand the issue of cultural appropriation in the Western world without understanding colonization. Let us use the example of yoga, because it is so prevalent. When India first lost its freedom under British rule, Yoga was banned. During the 18th century, this was directly connected to Hatha Yoga almost disappearing and countless lineages being destroyed, never to return again. Left-hand path traditions were almost completely wiped out, and to this day only exist in remote parts of India, closely guarded and protected. Imagine that you are told your culture is terrible and disgusting, only to have those same people steal it and reshape it, just a century later. That is what happened in India. Extensive research on colonization in a variety of cases, including India, clearly shows that it causes serious psychological, emotional, and economic harm to the subordinated peoples. It is not just a joke, and it has nothing to do with political correctness or people being “snowflakes.”
Types of Cultural Appropriation
In viewing social media, we may have come to the conclusion that there is only one type of cultural appropriation, and that it is bad. Yet, research psychologists who have studied the topic have identified four types: Cultural Exchange, Transculturation, Cultural Dominance, and Cultural Exploitation. These are listed below in a way that is arguably less bad to worst. The severity of the appropriation is typically determined by power, namely the balance or lack thereof, between cultures.
1) Cultural Exchange: This occurs between cultures that have basically equivalent levels of power, meaning one is not somehow dominating the other. The exchange is fluid, free, inspired, and welcomed by both. This may happen with rituals, technologies, art, or fashion, symbolism, just to name a few. Think of the relationship between Italy and France in the fashion industry.
2) Transculturation: The key characteristic of this type is that it almost requires capitalism to happen, and most certainly modern globalism/globalization. In this case, cultural symbols are a mish mash of the symbols and elements of multiple cultures, presented in such a way that it is sometimes tricky to tell who exactly is being appropriated. Sometimes transculturation is well intended, natural, and happens without any awareness of a power differential, and sometimes it is a calculated effort by a business entity to shamelessly make more money. An amoral form of transculturation is visible among teens in Alaska. They are so far from the birth places of subculture/counterculture, so elements stream into their state delayed and often mixed together.
3) Cultural Exploitation: In this case, the dominant culture steals symbols and elements from a subordinated culture without fear of reprisal and often without even thinking about it because of an ingrained and implicit form of entitlement. This one is very common in America today, but we are collectively getting better as a society. Katy Perry is a great example of a prolific cultural appropriator via cultural exploitation, although she finally admitted it and apologized in 2017. The most obvious and prolific exploitation in America on a society level is against Black Americans by White Americas. Someone at this point may ask, “But what about when a Black American rapper takes elements from country music to create a style or song?” The answer is simple: Power dynamics. Black Americans simply cannot culturally exploit White Americans because they are not the dominant class.
4) Cultural Dominance: This occurs when the balance of power is unequal and the dominant culture forces their symbols and practices onto a subordinated culture, sometimes with physical force. This one is pretty straight forward, and no longer common in America due to technological advance, globalization, and post-World War(s) human rights progress. Think here of Native American children in the 19th century being forced to change their names, cut their hair off, and worship Jesus in white-run schools. However, we still do hear about Black American children being sent home from schools for having their own ethnic and well-kept hairstyles, and Black women being told they cannot have afros in their places of work. These are also forms of cultural dominance.
Non-theistic Satanism is unique and special because it was born in rebellion, rebellion against the ruling classes and rebellion against those who would see scientific and social progress halted. Often, these two groups throughout history were the same people. In a way, the origins of TST mirror the centuries-long origins of Satanism as an epithet: The struggle transformed into the genuine way ahead. In this way, Satanists have a special responsibility to recognize the struggles of those who do not have the resources to declare themselves Satanists, whether these resources are physical, educational, or cultural.
Another thing that makes modern, non-theistic Satanism unique is that it is wholly American in spirit, even if the epithet originated in Europe centuries ago. The act of rebellion against Christianity through the appropriation of their own symbols for use against them is only something that can be justly done by those hurt by Christianity. Additionally, the idea would not even occur to people without a certain level of freedom existing within the society. In many places, it is unthinkable and remarkably dangerous. While millions can certainly say they have been hurt by Christianity and the colonialism that followed, many of them do not have the freedom or relative safety to rebel.
But, is every community in America equally free? The hard data says they are not. Black people are 2.5-3.6 times more likely to be shot by police than white people, according to recent studies. Entire groups of people have life spans that more resemble the life span averages of developing countries, rather than a so-called first-world country. These factors almost always have to do with not falling into the cishet, neurotypical, white person category. The only exceptions to this are perhaps dangerous careers.
So, what does this mean? It means we cannot burst into vulnerable communities, religious or not, and proselytize in any way. This would in fact qualify as the second form of cultural appropriation as discussed above, cultural dominance. But most Satanists agree with this part, at least the level-headed ones. The more controversial part is that this also means Satanists should not wantonly borrow aspects of these cultures, which qualifies as the final type we discussed, cultural exploitation.
I’m going to withhold giving concrete examples at this time because chances are I’ve already pissed people off. I would invite anyone currently feeling pissed at this post, to deeply reflect on why. It’s probably not me. You’ve probably successfully identified a way in which you are appropriating or perhaps even exploiting a culture, and you’re mad at me for telling you. I empathize. I’ve been there. Everyone is fallible and there is always time to do better…Unless you get yeeted by a bus tomorrow. Satan’s speed, frendos.
PS. Part 2 is coming soon and will be about the question of diversity in TST and the frequent criticism that we aren’t doing enough. But the basics had to be established, first.