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EDITORIAL: "Cancel Culture" outrage is insulting to survivors of colonialism


In last week's edition, we focused on the Town of Inuvik adopting the Recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

While in many ways a gesture of goodwill, the importance of the Town stepping up and making the recommendations a policy plank cannot be understated. When you factor in the regions' sad history in Canada's genocide on Indigenous cultures it is — as Mayor Natasha Kulikowksi put it best — an important first step.

It's also the polar opposite to the ridiculous rhetoric that has been flooding the internet over a series of business decisions which are being projected onto activists.

I'm referring to "cancel culture" — a popular buzz phrase to describe any occurrence where a controversial icon from the past few centuries of colonialism is no longer considered compatible with modern audiences and is removed or adapted to fit current standards.

The latest attacks on culture, so the theory goes, are the removal of six Dr. Seuss books from print, Warner Bros' decision to not produce any more Pepé Le Pew cartoons and Disney's issuing a content warning for classic Muppet Show episodes.

Complaints about these "culture wars" have become the latest rallying cry for politicians still reeling from the defeat of Donald Trump, which I suppose is to be expected, but has also become a popular editorial subject in newspapers across Canada and the United States, which is disappointing.

Because the whole thing is a complete crock.

For starters, activists have nothing to do with what's happening — these are private businesses making decisions on what to do with their intellectual properties. Their assessment of the market is that today's parents aren't interested in showing their children books filled with 1930s stereotypes, or a horny skunk who doesn't understand what consent means endlessly harassing girls.

Even when the team formerly known as the Edmonton Eskimos decided to change its name, it was because of sponsors threatening to pull out — not the concerns of activists.

Secondly, the idea these icons and stories are being erased is complete nonsense. You can find all sorts of so-called forbidden texts on the internet and anyone who really wants to read old Dr. Seuss books or old Looney Tunes is perfectly able to do so as well.

Let's compare that to Indigenous cultures who have survived colonialism. Here in the Beaufort Delta, the Gwich'in Tribal Council and the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation are both racing to preserve what's left of their languages, myths, legends, stories, sports and traditional religious practices, all of which are near dying out because of an inter-generational, nationwide effort to "cancel" their cultures, but they're not alone. Their plight can be seen almost anywhere on the planet.

Similarly, there are many people living in North America whose ancestors were brought here through the slave trade. With no effective records, many of these folks will never know what their heritage is.

In either case, these are people who can't just Google what their great-great-grandparents were up to like those of us with European descent can. It's gone.

So before you go on a rant about how terrible not being able to find a movie from your youth in a discount bin is, consider how insulting that is to people who have actually lost their culture and can never get it back.

About the Author: Eric Bowling

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