Just as foods are suitable to various races and climates, so also such come into context, relative to cultural appropriation as well. Many people over time become ingrained in various religions systems – some more limited than others, which even when becoming more agnostic and even atheistic over time, shape the dominating psyche of the people or regions as a result of its influence upon the social structure. An example is in how in the east, ahimsa or non-violence predominated, that meant one did not forcefully go looking for trouble or attack another, but defended themselves only, as need be, to keep all communities and individuals safe, where threats to their own safety and dharma was involved.
The west (European world) has had quite a different psyche relative to this – even going back to Greco-Roman times when the west was more materialistic, and travellers to India noted that unlike Greece and Rome, India had no slaves, but only servant classes, who were free citizens and enjoyed benefits of freedom as others. Naturally however, these facets are ignored when the European tries to project their own culture upon the caste-system in India, and turn the poor Brahmin priests into what was wealthy kshatriyas and also try and see the whole Indian caste-system as something heathen and inferior, to deflect from their own culture and when such was taken out of cultural context of the Hindu world – but was true of the Islamic and European that indulged in slavery and the slave-trading for over a millennia.
This aspect alone shows how in the past 2,000+ years, the western world, shaped by the Greco-Roman influences, especially through Roman Catholicism and the Roman Empire, generated a superiority and self-righteous attitude and psyche among its people, often extending to all inferior (lower socioeconomic demographic) classes that sought to emulate them, like the bourgeoisie to the actual aristocrats, as a classic example! The age of the Colonialists from the Spanish to the British also drove a culture of Christian superiority that was dominated by the feeling of them doing the work of the One True God – the lands that they occupied, being ruled by inferior classes of people from the Americas to India, that didn’t subscribe to the One God, One Book, One Way mentality of the Colonialists.
As a result of this impending psyche, many Europeans that come into contact with what to them, opposed to their ‘vanilla doctrine’ religion and monochrome (‘conservative‘) culture is “exotic”, as being able to be token Hindus or Indians by defending native traditions in the heir that they feel they are more spiritually and emotionally connected and advanced or elevated, as even to deeper cultural and racial issues, than the swarthy Hindus, Native Americans and others, and also understand better, their plights, pains and suffering! This “spiritual fast-tracking”, as we often seen with yoga, jumping straight to asana and dismissing the preliminaries as yamas and niyamas and their own subcategories is a good example of this complex – it mirrors the Christian doctrine where one doesn’t bother about the rites, rituals and tenets of the Old Testament of the Jews to whom it belongs, but we can invent a newer, faster way;- accept Jesus, ignore philosophical debate and even actions and even logic itself, and where (blind) belief alone is enough to absolve us from all transgressions or even ignorance in the text itself! Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing at all wrong in defending a native tradition, as long as we don’t use “we” and autonomously include ourselves into another’s culture, simply to try and deny we’re culturally appropriating!
As an example, I defend native traditions, Jews, Polynesians etc., but I’d never be their representative or speaker, as I’m not – just as I’m not black and wouldn’t seek to be seen as an authority on their traditions, as I have my own. I’d NEVER pose as a Jewish Rabbi, for example and likewise, not as a Christian Orthodox Priest or equivalent. Likewise, I wouldn’t try and pretend to be a Celtic Druid as that’s also not my culture or blood! But, I can sympathize with them, agree and find common ground.Yet, the self-righteous European wishes to even superseded the Hindu Brahmin or native American Shaman when they emulate them, throwing all caution as per cultural sensitivities we have grown up with, into the wind, superimposing that same Christocentric Colonialist self-righteous superiority-complex and attitude of the “superior” opposed to the “inferior” – whether they see it or not. Often it is, sadly, an unconscious trait they’re unaware of, but it’s seen quite transparently from others outside. When they do violate these cultural norms within certain cultures – they try and defend themselves by projecting – yet, heaven forbid for example, if any native person were to come to their house and not eat properly with a knife and a folk, quoting the maxim “When in Rome!”. It’s very much a one-way street, a one rule for them and another for everybody else – what is truly subliminal racism”.
Can you imagine here, for example, if a Chinese Christian person were to go to America and start telling Christians how to be good Christians, stating they alone knew about it and the American Christians knew nothing, even though it had been a part of their culture for several centuries and some regions, almost two millennia? All hell would break loose! Yet, this kind of colonialist attitude is what Europeans today project onto native people and their cultures when adopting them – often out of a pop-culture influence or other materialistic / social zeal for personal ego-development.
The issue with Europeans is they do not have a tradition of metaphysics, karma (which is replaced with “fate” as per their reckoning), samsara, reverence for nature and natural energies, ecology, vegetarianism, atman or the impersonal Godhead as native traditions do, as they’ve lost these centuries ago. All they have today has been appropriated from other groups and faiths or cultures aloof from their own in all respects and regards and have been franchised and proselytised as they have done with Christianity; not a true digestion and assimilation of foreign concepts in their original forms, but distorted and used in a self-righteous manner of self-entitlement of egotism. For example, despite the attempted correlations between say, the Maori Io, the Hindu Brahman as impersonal concepts to the western “God”, such completely fail, but the European uses such to try and carry his past burden of samskaras rather than accepting that one cannot simply fast-track one’s karmas as in Christianity and superimpose the doctrine of automatic “saviour-hood” in Jesus’ name and you’re done – in eastern and native traditions, it is about cause and effect of past lives to even be born in a native lineage, which then alone allows one to actually understand the context and traditions as a member from inside, not from without, looking in!
In closing, just as I myself cannot represent and understand the true suffering of Black Americans and their ancestors, but can sympathise with them and agree (the difference between Europeans and us however, is both groups have traditions aloof from the limited and limitations of Abrahamic doctrines and have both been dominated by Christianised Eurocentric history of our own traditions) – so also, Europeans need to start looking at their own cultures and not trying to continuously appropriate from others in a fragmented or deconstructive manner, as they have done already with their own faith of Christianity that was appropriated from the Middle-East and then used to attack and destroy their own religions and cultures – and didn’t stop there, but spread this insidious belief and psyche across continents where they conquered, in the name of God!