A thought on cultural appropriation

I was thinking of this today, as I did my “bridgeblogging” and some translation from Spanish. So went to look up the exact quote. It’s from Revolutionary Letter #31 by Diane Di Prima.

better we should all have homemade flutes
and practice excruciatingly upon them, one hundred years
till we learn to
make our own music

(In contrast to children in Bengal spending their lives in factories not singing because singing is for export, for Folkways records.)

I do try to “practice excruciatingly” – thus my blogs and poetry. I understand what Di Prima is saying – it is the “Are my hands clean?” of Sweet Honey in the Rock’s song – and the answer is no. I wonder if Di Prima listens to Folkways records. It is a poem worth thinking about, even if you don’t live by it, as I am not.

I hope that my blogging, reading and writing, have a net benefit for everyone. As a translator I do worry about this and issues of “cultural capital” and I don’t really have an answer. Oh, the guilty socialist intellectuals who don’t know what to do! I’m not complaining, but there it is. I wonder if it is that I believe not in Art (which di Prima’s poem is against) but in Information. Well, against it when it’s set against the value of human life. “not all the works of Mozart worth one human life”. Instead we believe we are saving lives by our techno info hippie art – but whose? Whose lives or whose privilege?

I believe in what I do! But I remain suspicious of it and of the structures that support it.

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