Magazine | October 16, 2017, Issue

Take a Small Knee

Now that we’ve all agreed to politicize sports, we have to ask ourselves: What else must be ruined by petty, divisive politics? This civil society isn’t going to spoil itself, you know. It takes work. We can all pitch in! Let’s see what else requires decent, conscientious people to take a knee in protest.

Board games. It goes without saying that Monopoly should be shunned for its ruthless exploitation of the proletariat, who are dehumanized into playing pieces such as a hat, or a shoe. The game of Life locks its players into heteronormative conformity, with the successful path defined as marriage and career. Sorry is permitted if retitled “I Apologize for Unconsciously Manifesting My Privilege,” but all non-minority players must agree at the outset not to play.

Checkers is okay if the term “King me!” — so monarchical, smh — is replaced by “Please elect me the thought-leader for the study group,” but chess cannot escape its feudal, warlike origins and may be played only if everyone agrees that the king may behave like the queen if it identifies as such.

Verdict: Take a small knee.

Spelling bees. It is unacceptable to use the term “bee” in a light-hearted fashion when honeybee colonies around the globe are dying off because of GMOs and pesticides and climate change. The competition should be changed to Word-Deconstruction Performance, in which the student is given a word, is asked to spell it the way he thinks it should be spelled, and then describes the oppressive structure it supports. Example:

“The word is ‘parliamentarianism.’”

“Parliamentarianism. Uh . . . par, l, a, m, i, n, t, r, ism. Meaning: a system that provides a fictional sense of participation in representative government, masking the influence of corporate control.”

Verdict: full knee.

Bowling. If the study of intersectionality teaches us anything, it’s how various forms of oppression are connected. You cannot discuss race without discussing gender without discussing class without discussing an economic system that invents such fraudulent concepts as the rental of shoes — and then performs a ritualized disinfection spraying, as if the shoes had been contaminated by someone not like you.

Bowling trains the citizen to think only in terms of his own lane. True intersectional bowling would let you throw your ball across several lanes diagonally without being penalized — but no, the System is set up with literal gutters that prevent you from thinking outside your “lane,” or particular form of oppression.

Verdict: both knees.

Video-game football. You’d think this would be obvious: If the video game starts with the national anthem or “God Bless America,” or the digital referee ever says “There’s a flag down on the play” without saying “And that’s a yellow piece of cloth signifying an infraction, not the red-and-white-striped rectangular object that symbolizes aggression and oppression,” then you take the knee.

In a perfect and just world, the game-controller’s motion-detecting sensors will detect whether you have kneeled and this information will be sent to your online profile; in multiplayer games, other gamers will see whether you’ve kneeled, how many times, and for how long, and thus determine whether you have demonstrated sufficient awareness.

Whether to kneel will be left up to the player, but he might be surprised to get a message that says You have unlocked the white-supremacist level 1 badge and find his account disabled.

Why stop with competitive events, though? We can politicize anything.

Pizza. How can we ruin pizza? (Besides order it in New York, of course.) Well, it’s obviously cultural appropriation if it’s made by anyone who isn’t Italian, and it’s disrespectful to Italian culture if it has pineapples, which the Italians didn’t have. I’m sorry but who gave you permission to add them? Hitler? Did Hitler say it was okay?

Also, pineapples were grown by capitalist oligopolies that displaced native Polynesian cultures and paid slave wages, so they’re problematic to begin with. It’s worse if you add Canadian bacon, which otherizes the bacon by singling out its national origin, implying that American bacon is the only true bacon and all other bacons must be qualified. You might as well eat it wearing a Klan sheet.

Verdict: Take a partial knee.

Sleeping. You might think that sleeping is not political, but since the contemporary term for being socially aware is “woke,” being asleep is literally the opposite of being attuned to the social issues of the day. You should probably take a knee before getting into bed, although not to pray; religion has long been used as a means of oppression.

Sleep if you must, but set your phone to make a sound if there’s a Twitter notification about Trump. Train yourself to be socially active in your dreams, so that instead of a dream about giving a speech naked, it’s about a naked speech before a Body-Positivity Seminar. If you have a dream about falling, you should be saved by a group of parachutists who have the diversity found on the cover of a college-admissions brochure. And dream that everyone’s loans are forgiven.

In short, strive to make everything political, and berate those who do not conform to your new standards. You may lose most of your “friends,” but there are millions of strangers on the Internet eager to approve of your newfound activism. Until you balk when something you really like is suddenly bad, in which case you’re Hitler.

By the way, they spell it “Hitler,” but it’s pronounced “Robespierre.”

– Mr. Lileks blogs at www.lileks.com.

James Lileks — James Lileks writes the Athwart column for National Review magazine and is a frequent contributor to the National Review website. He is a prominent voice on Ricochet podcasts.

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