Wednesday, April 20, 2016
The Joyless Left
It was a silly thing, a bit of viral fluff that briefly lit up Facebook this week.
Two young women, both professional musicians, are busking in a train after a show as a way of drumming up interest. It's a German train, filled with German commuters traveling from Frankfurt, but they're singing in English, because, well, that's how Europe rolls.
They bop along to Prince's "Kiss," and then...at random, a passenger joins in. He nails it, and the car erupts in applause.
Was it planned? Perhaps, because he's a Maltese semi-pro musician, although tracking his online reaction to the event and pictures of them talking afterwards have a natural, "wow cool great to meet you fellow musician feeling."
It's the sort of light, joyful found-reality that has significant potential virality, and it worked.
It was shared, then shared, then shared again, finally being picked up by a culture-aggregator, whose followers shared it over 50,000,000 times in a matter of days.
It was the kind of thing you try to show to your kids, and they say, yeah, Dad, saw it.
But it was fun.
And then I wondered, through the lenses of the Left, how I would be obligated to see such a thing. Should I be enjoying it? Is it really "fun?" Or are there Significant Issues To Be Considered?
The video certainly manifests White Privilege. People singing on a train? No cops harassing them? Man. Serious privilege at play, both racial and class-based.
And Cultural Appropriation? It's not just that they're German and singing in English. They're using the styles and inflections of African American Vernacular English, up to and including their rap/scat. Which, beyond being a little bit much, is also clearly, clearly cultural appropriation.
In fact, there are so many levels of wrongness at play here that we're certainly in encounter with an Intersectional moment, as confluences of unearned power and colonialist coopting of the semiotics of disenfranchised peoples create an oppressive nodality, one that could only be counteracted by parachuting in a team of trained facilitators to engage in the swift application of a Privilege Walk or some similar consciousness-raising exercise.
It's just so hard to enjoy anything anymore.