Appropriation or Appreciation

Intercultural understanding has never been human’s best trait so far. If anything, it’s one of the worst. It sparks controversies, hatred and even in some “rare” cases war.

So I wasn’t all that surprised when Coldplay’s release of Hymn for the weekend music video has sort of sparked mixed reactions. The video, set in some sort of Indian rural places and towns, plays with some Indian culture, with a mix of Beyonce’s cleavage in a sari and Chris’s journey through some Indian iconic rituals. All and all, many will understand that the video was supposed to celebrate India’s culture more than anything else.

But of course, some people will act against it. Some saying that the video is a horrible appropriation of Indian culture, some got even more specific, by despising Beyonce’s wardrobe that is seen more as mocking the Indian culture more than anything else. All this, of course, happen in the culture of social media, where people react before they can even think.


For me, anything that tries to represent a culture is great as long as the intention is positive. And in Coldplay’s case, I think it is safe to say that they have quite a positive, if not, only positive intention.

The problem that we increasingly see is to misunderstood appreciation with appropriation. But it is only natural because our primal instinct always reminds us to defend our own social (and group) identity.

“The tendency to aggression is an innate, independent, instinctual disposition in man… it constitutes the powerful obstacle to culture.” – Sigmund Freud

Our animalistic tendency, more often than not, will act upon differences before even thinking of accepting other’s presence. Let alone allowing other to play around with our sense of self. So it is only understandable that some acted defensively against somebody’s (outside of their closest social sphere) attempt to appreciate their sense of identity using their own way.

But of course, in an era of instant access and instant “democracy” like nowadays, we should start to learn to not just speak quickly (which we have sort of excel at).Instead, we should now also think of being better at responding rather than reacting.

It is a classic case of an African American being able to say the N-word but not others. And that mentality (I think) needs to get slowly replaced. Because if we are going to have a more social society, (what with all the social media and shit) we should be able to be more (you know) social. Intergroup differences, cultural values and cultural sentimentality have to be better understood.

Because if we are going to (again) act over sensitively towards anything done by a third-party that even remotely related to our culture, then the distance between groups are always going to be there. With wars and all the shits that are going around in the world right now, I think we need to get rid of that distance as soon as we can.

We can’t condemn people for trying to understand our culture, because the experience of culture is always unique and different, even for people who live with it. Because if we’re going to be overly strict with the culture, then the possibility having a multicultural society, or even meeting other cultural group are diminishing. However, I feel like I should remind you that there are things that just not appropriate (like the Washington Redskins).

Culture is very liquid, and it always changes over time. It never has a state of certainty. Of course, we have rituals that are always there, but even its meaning gets appreciated differently by different generations. For what I understand, culture is guidance to our ways of living, of our sense of self and origin. So when other people want to share their understanding of us, why discourage them?

“If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.” – JFK



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