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United Nations: The Cultural Appropriation Cops

Remember when the United Nations was intent on reducing international conflict through negotiation and understanding? Me neither.

Lest anyone get such a misguided perception, according to CBC News – a Canadian news organization -,w delegates from 189 countries recently met in Geneva to discuss establishing international laws against cultural appropriation. The meeting of a committee within the UN agency, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), seems to believe this is important and, I suspect, will somehow claim it is Israel’s fault. This is somewhat of a break from UN tradition where, since its inception, it has failed to ever produce anything “intellectual.”

Not to digress, but the UN has three primary goals:

  1. Blame Israel
  2. Siphon money from the United States
  3. Blame Israel

But don’t get the idea that the committee is just now jumping on the cultural appropriation bandwagon. No, they have been working on three draft documents for 16 years. It’s been said that Rome was not built in a day, nor, apparently, are international cultural appropriation laws. So far, it’s taken the UN a mere 5,840 days (and counting) to produce, well, nothing.

Speaking of Rome, put that rigatoni down, you’re not Italian.

Sixteen years! To put that in perspective, it took NASA only 11 years from its inception to land a manned spaceship on the moon. The Allies defeated the Axis powers in just six years. The Beatles changed music and popular culture forever in only seven years. Way to go UN!

Suppose international laws against cultural appropriation actually materialize. Then what? Perhaps an exchange like the one below could become real:

Two United Nations officials arrive at a burrito cart somewhere in the United States.

Hector Ruiz (UN Official): We are looking for the purveyor of this establishment. Is that you?

Greg Schmidt (burrito cart owner): Ah, yes, that’s me. What can I get you, gentlemen?

Earl Thomas (UN Official): We are looking at your menu here. It looks like all you sell is Mexican food.

Schmidt: Yep, that’s correct. That’s why I call it Greg’s Burritos. Didn’t want to get too fancy with the name. I mean, it’s just a food cart.

Ruiz: But you sell more than burritos. The name is a bit misleading, isn’t it?

Schmidt: Well, we make burritos, but some other stuff too. If you want a taco or an enchilada, we can take care of you. What can I get you, gentlemen?

Thomas: Your license says your name is Schmidt. That’s not a real Mexican name. What makes you think you can sell Mexican food?

Schmidt: Uh, I’m a bit confused. Who did you say you are again?

Ruiz: We’re from the United Nations, World Intellectual Property Organization, WIPO for short. Cultural Appropriation Division.

Schmidt: Wait, did you say WIPO? You’re kidding, right? What exactly do you want with me? I just make burritos.

Ruiz: We believe you are in violation of UN code 78-1607, cultural appropriation of Hispanic heritage.

Schmidt: Are you telling me the UN thinks I can’t make burritos? It’s my livelihood. It’s my career. I dumped all of my savings into buying this food cart. I used to sell annuities, but it wasn’t very interesting. I like this better. Who is the UN to tell me I can’t make a living? I don’t even know what cultural appropriation is. I’m pretty sure I don’t care.

Thomas: If you’d stuck to selling annuities, we wouldn’t be here. Cultural appropriation is taking or using elements of one culture, such as intellectual property, cultural knowledge or expressions without permission. And we think you might be up to your ears in it, pal.

Schmidt: Permission? Who am I supposed to ask? Is there some kind of official burrito commission or something? This is America, you know, the melting pot. Whatever happened to that?

Thomas: Don’t be ridiculous. The melting pot is so 20th Century. Where have you been?

Schmidt: Who’s being ridiculous? You’re harassing me because I make food that people want to eat. How ridiculous is that?

Ruiz: We’d like to sample some of your fare.

Schmidt: Well, sure, but I’m not happy about this. Try this burrito.

Ruiz: Hey, this is pretty good. Is that thyme?

Schmidt: About 11:30.

Ruiz: No, thyme. You know, the spice.

Schmidt: Yes, you’re right. I add a little to the refried beans. It changes it up a little, doesn’t it? I got the recipe from a neighbor, a Mexican guy. His grandma used to put it in her refried beans.

Ruiz: You bastard! You culturally appropriated a recipe from a Mexican neighbor’s grandma for your own personal gain. What kind of vermin are you? Earl, can you believe this guy?

Schmidt: The guy gave me the recipe. I gave him my recipe for sauerkraut that I got from my grandma. Her family came from Stuttgart. Besides, my neighbor’s grandma isn’t even alive anymore.

Thomas: Profiting off a dead Mexican grandma. You are sick, man. That’s really perverse.

Schmidt: This doesn’t make any sense. Can you guys leave now? You’re affecting my business.

Thomas: We’re with the UN, we’re not supposed to make sense. (Thomas sneezes.)

Ruiz: Gesundheit!

Schmidt: Hey, wait a minute. Didn’t you just culturally appropriate that phrase? That’s a German word. You aren’t, as far as I can tell, German. Did you even ask me?

Ruiz: Well, what are you going to do about it, call the cops?

Schmidt: I can’t call the UN, you’re already here. Why don’t you go bother Taco Bell, they make a Mexican pizza. That’s two cultures in one. There’s a real problem for you.

Thomas: We hope you kept your annuities license. You’ll be out of this burrito stand and back to pushing paper behind a desk by Wednesday. You don’t mess with the UN.

Schmidt: Go away, just go away.

We are headed down a wobbly path. They tell us diversity is a wonderful thing, just don’t actually touch any of it, unless you want the UN cops to show up at your door claiming you are not (fill in your choice of ethnicity here) enough. Be prepared to eat, drink, dress and celebrate accordingly.

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Curtice Mang

Curtice Mang is the author of two books, The Constitution - I'm Not Kidding and Other tales of Liberal Folly and The Smell of Politics: The Good, The Bad and The Odorous. He is a regular contributor of commentary and political satire to multiple websites. He lives in Phoenix with his wife.

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