“We now know that 24 hours without sleep, or a week of sleeping four or five hours a night induces an impairment equivalent to a blood alcohol level of .1 percent. We would never say, ‘This person is a great worker! He’s drunk all the time!’ yet we continue to celebrate people who sacrifice sleep for work.”—
“I totally remember what it felt like to be so full…Full of promise, full of dreams, full of shit. Mostly just full of yourself. So full you’re bursting. And then you get out into the world, and people empty you out, little by little, like air from a balloon…You try like hell to fill yourself up with fresh air, from you and from other people. But back then…it was so damn effortless to feel full, you know? All you had to do was breathe.”—Jonathan Tropper (via feellng)
A white girl wore a bindi at Coachella. And, then my social media feeds went berserk. Hashtagging the term “cultural appropriation” follows the outrage and seems to justify it at the same time. Except that it doesn’t.
Cultural appropriation is the adoption of a specific part of one culture by another cultural group. As I (an Indian) sit here, eating my sushi dinner (Japanese) and drinking tea (Chinese), wearing denim jeans (American), and overhearing Brahm’s Lullaby (German) from the baby’s room, I can’t help but think what’s the big deal?
The big deal with cultural appropriation is when the new adoption is void of the significance that it was supposed to have — it strips the religious, historical and cultural context of something and makes it mass-marketable. That’s pretty offensive. The truth is, I wouldn’t be on this side of the debate if we were talking about Native American headdresses, or tattoos of Polynesian tribal iconography, Chinese characters or Celtic bands.
Why shouldn’t the bindi warrant the same kind of response as the other cultural symbols I’ve listed, you ask? Because most South Asians won’t be able to tell you the religious significance of a bindi. Of my informal survey of 50 Hindu women, not one could accurately explain it’s history, religious or spiritual significance. I had to Google it myself, and I’ve been wearing one since before I could walk.
We can’t accuse non-Hindus of turning the bindi into a fashion accessory with little religious meaning because, well, we’ve already done that. We did it long before Vanessa Hudgens in Coachella 2014, long before Selena Gomez at the MTV Awards in 2013, and even before Gwen Stefani in the mid-90s.
Indian statesman Rajan Zed justifies the opposing view as he explains, “[The bindi] is an auspicious religious and spiritual symbol… It is not meant to be thrown around loosely for seductive effects or as a fashion accessory…” If us Indians had preserved the sanctity and holiness of the bindi, Zed’s argument for cultural appropriation would have been airtight. But, the reality is, we haven’t.
The 5,000 year old tradition of adorning my forehead with kumkum just doesn’t seem to align with the current bindi collection in my dresser — the 10-pack, crystal-encrusted, multi-colored stick-on bindis that have been designed to perfectly compliment my outfit. I didn’t happen to pick up these modern-day bindis at a hyper-hipster spot near my new home in California. No. This lot was brought from the motherland itself.
And, that’s just it. Culture evolves. Indians appreciated the beauty of a bindi and brought it into the world of fashion several decades ago. The single red dot that once was, transformed into a multitude of colors and shapes embellished with all the glitz and glamor that is inherent in Bollywood. I don’t recall an uproar when Indian actress Madhuri Dixit’s bindi was no longer a traditional one. Hindus accepted the evolution of this cultural symbol then. And, as the bindi makes it’s way to the foreheads of non-South Asians, we should accept — even celebrate — the continued evolution of this cultural symbol. Not only has it managed to transcend religion and class in a sea of one-billion brown faces, it will now adorn the faces of many more races. And that’s nothing short of amazing.
So, you won’t find this Hindu posting a flaming tweet accusing a white girl of #culturalappropriation. I will say that I’m glad you find this aspect of my culture beautiful. I do too.
Why a Bindi Is NOT an Example of Culture Appropriation
This is an excerpt from an older but brilliant article written in 2009 on the history and fallacy of management consulting.
Odering people around, which used to be just a way to get things done, was elevated to a science in October of 1910, when Louis Brandeis, a fifty-three-year-old lawyer from Boston, held a meeting at an apartment in New York with a bunch of experts who, at Brandeis’s urging, decided to call what they were experts at “scientific management.” Everyone there—including Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, best known today as the parents in “Cheaper by the Dozen”—had contracted “Tayloritis”: they were enthralled by an industrial engineer from Philadelphia named Frederick Winslow Taylor, who had been ordering people around, scientifically, for years. Speedy Taylor, as he was called, had invented a new way to make money. He would get himself hired by some business; spend a while watching people work, stopwatch and slide rule in hand; write a report telling them how to do their work faster; and then submit an astronomical bill for his services. He is the “Father of Scientific Management” (it says so on his tombstone), and, by any rational calculation, the grandfather of management consulting.
Casting pig iron, Iroquois smelter, Chicago
Whether he was also a shameless fraud is a matter of some debate, but not, it must be said, much: it’s difficult to stage a debate when the preponderance of evidence falls to one side. In “The Management Myth: Why the Experts Keep Getting It Wrong” (Norton; $27.95), Matthew Stewart points out what Taylor’s enemies and even some of his colleagues pointed out, nearly a century ago: Taylor fudged his data, lied to his clients, and inflated the record of his success. As it happens, Stewart did the same things during his seven years as a management consultant; fudging, lying, and inflating, he says, are the profession’s stock-in-trade. Stewart had just finished a D.Phil. at Oxford in philosophy when he took a job rigging spreadsheets to tell companies whose business he barely understood how to trim costs, and he feels sullied by it. This gives his acerbic account an edgy urgency, but you begin to wonder, given how he felt about it, why he stuck with it for so long (the money, the money). Anyway, now he’s blowing the whistle, telling entertaining and slightly shocking stories, like the one about how his boss taught his twenty-something trainees—Stewart reports that one in six graduating seniors at élite colleges is recruited to work in management-consulting firms—how to conduct a “two-handed regression”: “When a scatter plot failed to show the significant correlation between two variables that we all knew was there, he would place a pair of meaty hands over the offending clouds of data points and thereby reveal the straight line hiding from conventional mathematics.” Management consulting isn’t a science, Stewart says; it’s a party trick.
If you obsess over whether you are making the right decision, you are basically assuming that the universe will reward you for one thing and punish you for another.
The universe has no fixed agenda. Once you make any decision, it works around that decision. There is no right or wrong, only a series of possibilities that shift with each thought, feeling, and action that you experience.
If this sounds too mystical, refer again to the body. Every significant vital sign—body temperature, heart rate, oxygen consumption, hormone level, brain activity, and so on—alters the moment you decide to do anything… decisions are signals telling your body, mind, and environment to move in a certain direction.
”—Deepak Chopra, The Book of Secrets: Unlocking the Hidden Dimensions of Your Life ( (via tilthe)
i dont get how some people can just sit down and then just do an essay just write it and do it and then its done??? and then they continue on with their lives maybe drink a glass of juice and have a lil snack and their essay is done and they did it by just sitting there and doing it????
It’s not that I don’t love you. It’s the sound I heard when I was 9 and my father slammed the front door so hard behind him I swear to god it shook the whole house. For the next 3 years I watched my mother break her teeth on vodka bottles. I think she stopped breathing when he left. I think part of her died. I think he took her heart with him when he walked out. Her chest is empty, just a shattered mess or cracked ribs and depression pills.
It’s not that I don’t love you. It’s all the blood in the sink. It’s the night that I spent 12 hours in the emergency room waiting to see if my sister was going to be okay, after the boy she loved, told her he didn’t love her anymore. It’s the crying, and the fluorescent lights, and white sneakers and pale faces and shaky breaths and blood. So much blood.
It’s not that I don’t love you. It’s the time that I had to stay up for two days straight with my best friend while she cried and shrieked and threw up on my bedroom floor because her boyfriend fucked his ex. I swear to god she still has tear streaks stained onto her cheeks. I think when you love someone, it never really goes away.
It’s not that I don’t love you. It’s the six weeks we had a substitute in English because our teacher was getting divorced and couldn’t handle getting out of bed. When she came back she was smiling. But her hands shook so hard when she held her coffee, you could see that something was broken inside. And sometimes when things break, you can’t fix them. Nothing ever goes back to how it was. I got an A in English that year. I think her head was always spinning too hard to read any essays.
“I watched a girl in a sundress kiss another girl on a park bench, and just as the sunlight spilled perfectly onto both of their hair, I thought to myself: “How bravely beautiful it is, that sometimes, the sea wants the city, even when it has been told its entire life it was meant for the shore.”—Christopher Poindexter (via sailorp00n)