Downward Dog

Yoga and Cultural Appropriation

“Cultural appropriation of the Other assuages feelings of deprivation and lack that assault the psyches of radical white youth who choose to be disloyal to western civilization.” - bell hooks

Often social media is great because it allows one to glimpse into not only the ideas and opinions of others, but the sources they consume, the media that affects them, the stories and banalities that occupy their attention long enough for a re-post with a one-sentence, hyperbolic hashtag. Occasionally it allows one to trace the web of how Tweetledum and Tweetledee form their opinions and emotional sentiments—that’s how I came across this gem of a blog post on yoga, social justice and cultural approbation—written by one Moonlitmoth.

Now Moonlitmoth looks to be a Gen Xer, and as a child of probable beats or hippies, secular granolas or liberal yuppies—one cannot safely assume that this moniker is a pseudonym. This “yoga and social justice” blogger is the stereotypical Western woman today, vaguely spiritual while consuming the modes of uplift and transcendence from other cultures while shaming herself for appropriating those very practices, and ultimately left both hollow and self-righteous. “White people, who like me, were not aware (aka. blinded by our privilege) to some glaringly obvious problems in my work. My analysis often failed to meaningfully address colonization and my participation in that oppressive system as a culturally appropriating, white yoga teacher.”

There are some real issues at work here, some deep seated problems with our modern womenfolk:

  1. Her lack of historical context: Ignorance.
  2. Her sense of internalizing the shaming she received for “appropriating” some aspect of another’s culture and being white: Shame.
  3. The hole that has been left in our culture by secularism and a thorough American vilifying of our own great spiritual traditions–namely ecumenical Christianity: Spiritual Void.

First, the lack of historical context, women in general tend to form their opinions more on sentiment than rational critique, but this traditional biased assumption is not theirs alone. Our public school system has been devised for one very specific reason, which can be summed up nicely by a George Carlin quote:

“They want OBEDIENT WORKERS. OBEDIENT WORKERS. People who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork, and just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shittier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, the reduced benefits, the end of overtime, and the vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it.”

On this we are defiantly aligned with the radical leftist critique of the education system. But while Paulo Freire, the widely read Brazilian revolutionary Marxist pedagogue, identifies and rejects the ethos of modern education for: “Their vision of the new man or woman is individualistic; because of their identification with the oppressor, they have no consciousness of themselves as persons or as members of an oppressed class.” For our purposes we would replace the Marxist humanistic terminology of “oppressed class” with that of “race.” And this brings us back to Moonlitmoth and her identification of herself as White solely as a negative—as a culturally appropriating, colonizing, privileged White woman. As the process of modern education in its leftist guise attempts to isolate individuals for better control, whites have internalized their own vilification as the oppressor but not with relish but rather with shame. What has happened is that the traditional role of the bourgeoisie as the enemy of the class struggle, has been slowly and methodically applied to the “white race” as the enemy of humanity, and even more so to the white male in particular—or as Susan Sontag puts it, “the white race is the cancer of human history; it is the white race and it alone.”

One of the things that radicalized me into White nationalism was the experience of shaming that I received in a university course on diversity—taught by a Black female professor who would ignorantly spew shibboleths that she could not backup.

While the process of individuation and White shaming has Moonlitmoth isolated from her own history, community, and tradition, she begins adopting and appropriating the customs, ideas, and cultural practices of others—and she internalizes their post hoc rage against the success of her ancestors. She identifies with the Other on feminist grounds, thereby joining and swelling their ranks against the real enemy: the dreadful White male. That is essentially the target of these attacks, what bell hooks refers to as: “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.”

The real problem with this is not the obvious feeling of phoniness that accompanies when Whites “go native” as the anthropologists say, the real problem is her lack of understanding of why she feels so hollow, rather than hallow, even after appropriating these spiritual practices.

Moonlitmoth recounts how she was shamed for her online blog by East Indians for appropriating their cultural practice of yoga and that this experience made her feel shameful. She has the vague feeling that the Lululemon-sponsored, glorified stretching class that she was engaged in was a poor commercialized western attempt to appropriate the spiritual practice of another people, and that this desire to consume the exotic Other grew out of the oppressive framework of colonialism. This is what hooks calls Eating the Other.

While Moonlitmoth “taught anti-oppression workshops in yoga studios across north America,” anyone with even a tenuous grasp of history knows yoga grew out of the caste system of Ancient India as a spiritual practice for the Brahman elites, i.e. out of an “oppressive paradigm.” Therefore, she begins by completely contradicting her own premises. True yoga as a spiritual practice was never meant to be performed by the masses, because (as all traditionalist schools teach) spiritual ascension is only reachable by the select few who are inclined towards it. This is what Evola found in the esoteric core of Buddhism, which is assumed to be the egalitarian overcoming of Hindu oppressiveness—the same weak dialectic which is made for European paganism and Christianity. While there is a core unity in all the doctrines of “oneness”—the Hindu Atman, Judeo-Christian monotheism, Catholic universalism, Pagan tolerance, and Buddhist detachment—all function in reality as de facto caste systems.

Furthermore, it is probable that White people invented the practice of yoga to begin with, which means that it’s not really a form of colonial appropriation, but reclaiming a lost aspect of ancient Indo-European spiritual practice. Yes, Whites invented yoga, because it derives from a Vedic-Hindu practice, and Ancient India was conquered by invading Aryans from the north who enslaved the native brown-skinned Dravidians and imposed the caste system upon them. Through miscegenation over the course of many centuries this European blood became diffused with that of the other mixes:

“For maternally inherited mtDNA, each caste is most similar to Asians. However, 20%–30% of Indian mtDNA haplotypes belong to West Eurasian haplogroups, and the frequency of these haplotypes is proportional to caste rank, the highest frequency of West Eurasian haplotypes being found in the upper castes. In contrast, for paternally inherited Y-chromosome variation each caste is more similar to Europeans than to Asians. Moreover, the affinity to Europeans is proportionate to caste rank, the upper castes being most similar to Europeans, particularly East Europeans. These findings are consistent with greater West Eurasian male admixture with castes of higher rank.” [Source: Bamshad, Michael et al. “Genetic Evidence on the Origins of Indian Caste Populations.” Genome Research 11.6 (2001)]

That is why even today there is a higher amount of Caucasian blood in the Brahman caste. Ergo, Yoga as an ancient practice of the Brahmans was a White invention. This is not appropriation; it is a rediscovery of our Indo-European heritage.

Moonlitmoth again: “It took me a long time to admit this to myself and make the necessary changes this realization entails, but what I know in my heart, my mind and my gut is that what we are doing in western yoga is an entitled, willfully ignorant act of theft.”

The ignorance here is White people not knowing their own history and internalizing a sense of shame for borrowing something from another culture. All cultures borrow–should Whites shame Asians or Blacks for appropriating our technology, our religions, our languages and our cultures? When Christian Filipinos worship a White Christ, are they not committing the same cultural appropriation? Where is the shaming there?

The third theme at work here is perhaps the most important, but all three parts of this unholy triptych function to give us our Moonlitmoths, our New Agers, our vegan-yoga-mat-carrying-miscegenating-radical-feminist-cry-baby-White-women; ignorant, ashamed, and lacking spiritual sustenance–easily bullied by minorities who collectively cast their lot against her, they want her to ‘check her privilege’ and they want to give her the comeuppance of an exaggerated historical grievance. This spiritual void has many guises with which people in the modern world try to compensate. The sexual revolution was one such method. In a world without spiritual transcendence one such solution became eternal imminence—the fall into gross materialism. We’ve seen the phenomenon of White women proving their membership in this hollowed world through militant miscegenation and through the adoption of non-White children as Hollywood PC fashion accessories. And also through promiscuity – as discernment is the first step towards bigotry after all. And finally, through the modern selfishness of the consumerist ‘Sex in the City’ career gal. But this other aspect, not always disentangled from the modern ethos of: open society = open legs, is the one that attempts spiritual ascension, which like its sexual counterpart, results in experimentation with the exotic and unfamiliar - often confusing these elements for mysticism and depth. While the godfather of the New Age, Mexican-American Carlos Castaneda, has been revealed to be more sham-man than shaman, the acolytes of the vague open spiritualism of modernity seem not to have woken up to the facts. And the facts are that when we are taught to hate ourselves, when we are shamed to a facile state of tolerance, and when we dismiss and ridicule our own traditions as Eurocentric, misogynist, patriarchal, hierarchical, colonial, intolerant, oppressive, and all the other code-words for anti-white, we allow ourselves to be hollowed out. While the legacy of the radical 60s is still with us, we could do well to remind ourselves that the problem with having “an open mind”—a euphemism for having liberal, tolerant, and progressive values—is that people insist on putting things inside.