Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

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Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby King Author » Sat Sep 18, 2010 8:55 am UTC

I was watching a naturalist program on television recently, and at one point the African tribespeople being documented performed a ceremony to affect the weather. You and I know that the weather can't be thus controlled by human will alone. The host pointed out as much to the television audience. Expectedly, he didn't inform the tribespeople of the same. At first thought, I figured this was because he was merely observing, not participating -- he didn't want to bias the experiment with his own influence, so to speak.

Thinking on it more, however, I wondered -- is it right not to inform the ignorant of basic laws of physics for the sake of preserving their ignorance? Naturally, if one informed such an ignorant person or peoples and they rejected ones words, or accepted them but decided to continue on with their ineffectual ceremonies, they would be well within their rights. But to not even inform them at all, for fear of spoiling their culture? Or in reality, spoiling their ignorance?

It then struck me that what at first seemed like respectful non-meddling and non-interference was, perhaps, actually racism. It's not that the naturalist doesn't want to interfere for the tribespeoples sake -- he doesn't want to interfere for his sake, so that he can observe a group of people isolated from our modern knowledge, both for his own interest and enjoyment.

Let me now pre-emptively dismiss a foreseeable counter-point; "Who's to say what beliefs are right and wrong? Maybe the tribespeoples belief system is correct. Would you want some foreigner telling you that your religious beliefs are incorrect?" This is an irrelevant point because the issue at hand is not the underlying beliefs, but the reality of the world -- it's not a matter of chiding an "ignorant savage" for praying or believing in ancestor spirits, but for believing in the much-less-debatable concept of control of weather by ceremony. We know for a fact (insofar as humans can know anything) that weather functions according to certain natural laws, not the wishes of humans. This isn't comparable to telling a Christian "Jesus wasn't really a god, you know," this is comparable to telling a Christian believer in divine-healing, "praying won't cure that snakebite, you have to get antivenom or you'll die."

Though the incident in question was a weather ceremony, imagine if the issue was a child, sick with chicken pox. In this hypothetical scenario, the tribespeople believe that burying a lock of the child's hair under a magical tree will cure him. The naturalist so happens to have a chicken pox vaccine handy. Does he explain the nature of disease to the tribespeople, spoiling their pristine ignorance, for the sake of the child's life, or does he remain silent and watch the child die to uphold a principle of non-interference?

At the end of the day, withholding information that we've discovered about how the world works from undeveloped peoples doesn't seem like philosophy; it seems like self-styled "civilized" white people gawking at endearingly crude black people like animals for their own amusement, rather than treating them like fellow human beings and speaking to them as equals.

Thoughts?
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Re: Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby benneh » Sat Sep 18, 2010 9:29 am UTC

King Author wrote:This isn't comparable to telling a Christian "Jesus wasn't really a god, you know," this is comparable to telling a Christian believer in divine-healing, "praying won't cure that snakebite, you have to get antivenom or you'll die."

And what do you think the response will be in the latter situation? Probably not much different from the former; divine healing is a part of the latter person's religious beliefs in the same way that Jesus is a part of the former's. I don't know anything about this tribe's beliefs, but it wouldn't surprise me to learn that this ceremony had a religious aspect to it as well as a I-would-quite-like-it-to-rain-now aspect.
But either way, I don't see what difference it makes - if you tell someone that their beliefs are wrong, that may well cause offense, whether those beliefs are religious or not. Whether or not it's worth it in the name of saving the lives of their diseased children is the question at hand, and I don't think religion comes into it.

And there is, of course, a practical aspect to consider: once you open the floodgates, what's to stop everyone from charging in, attempting to convert the tribespeople to their own religion/cult/pyramid scheme/etc. under the banner of "you started it by teaching them about meteorology, now I'm teaching them about Xenu and the lizard people"?

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Re: Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby SlashThred » Sat Sep 18, 2010 10:51 am UTC

benneh wrote:
King Author wrote:This isn't comparable to telling a Christian "Jesus wasn't really a god, you know," this is comparable to telling a Christian believer in divine-healing, "praying won't cure that snakebite, you have to get antivenom or you'll die."

And what do you think the response will be in the latter situation? Probably not much different from the former; divine healing is a part of the latter person's religious beliefs in the same way that Jesus is a part of the former's. I don't know anything about this tribe's beliefs, but it wouldn't surprise me to learn that this ceremony had a religious aspect to it as well as a I-would-quite-like-it-to-rain-now aspect.
But either way, I don't see what difference it makes - if you tell someone that their beliefs are wrong, that may well cause offense, whether those beliefs are religious or not. Whether or not it's worth it in the name of saving the lives of their diseased children is the question at hand, and I don't think religion comes into it.

If you can prove, without a doubt, that giving a child a vaccine cures him of chicken pox, while the child who doesn't get it dies, then they'll believe you. I don't see how this would be a logistical issue. Things should only be taught as truth if they can be irrefutably proven, otherwise they're just an idea/belief.
And there is, of course, a practical aspect to consider: once you open the floodgates, what's to stop everyone from charging in, attempting to convert the tribespeople to their own religion/cult/pyramid scheme/etc. under the banner of "you started it by teaching them about meteorology, now I'm teaching them about Xenu and the lizard people"?

Why does it matter if other people come in and teach them about Xenu and the lizard people? Because it will ruin their culture? Because Xenu is a lie? For all we know, Xenu is the truth, and so SHOULD be taught. We shouldn't exclude people from the world on the grounds that they aren't mature enough to join it and make the right decisions.

I'm just playing devils advocate here. I'm so-so about the whole situation, but here is another way to look at it. Are they happy living their life as it is now? If so, we shouldn't interfere with it. If they want to learn about our culture, they'll just ask, and we should give the asker the answer, but if they like life, there is no real reason to interfere.

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Re: Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby benneh » Sat Sep 18, 2010 11:45 am UTC

SlashThred wrote:If you can prove, without a doubt, that giving a child a vaccine cures him of chicken pox, while the child who doesn't get it dies, then they'll believe you. I don't see how this would be a logistical issue. Things should only be taught as truth if they can be irrefutably proven, otherwise they're just an idea/belief.

While I want to agree with this idea in principle, there's just no way to put this into practice. Never, in the history of anything, has any idea ever been accepted by everyone as irrefutably proven. There are even people in the 'civilised' world who refuse to vaccinate their children for fear of giving them autism.

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Re: Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby Sharlos » Sat Sep 18, 2010 2:05 pm UTC

I think it's also worth mentioning it's possible to have a culture that includes dancing for rain even if everyone in that culture doesn't think it actually works. Culture can be more about backgrounds and traditions and habits than about facts and beliefs.

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Re: Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby Vaniver » Sat Sep 18, 2010 2:38 pm UTC

King Author wrote:The naturalist so happens to have a chicken pox vaccine handy.
Well, once the child has the disease a vaccine is useless.

I am a strong believer in moving people from traditional cultures to Enlightened culture. I also believe that, historically, people who have believed in that have been generally unable to distinguish between the aspects of their own culture that were traditional and that were Enlightened. While Christianity may be a better religion than animism, the difference between the two is not the difference between tradition and Light.

So, telling them that they can test their ritual, and that some things work when tested and others don't, is bringing them closer to rationality. Telling them that their ritual doesn't work, but you have technology that does, just creates cargo cults.


It's also worthwhile to look at how this affects identity in a mixed cultural setting, not just when cultures brush up against each other. It's great to celebrate Chinese and Indian and Mexican cultures (through their food)- it's racist to expect your friends to prefer and participate in their race's culture (by preparing or preferring that food).
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Re: Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby The_Mexican » Sat Sep 18, 2010 2:43 pm UTC

King Author wrote:This isn't comparable to telling a Christian "Jesus wasn't really a god, you know," this is comparable to telling a Christian believer in divine-healing, "praying won't cure that snakebite, you have to get antivenom or you'll die."


Both those examples are beliefs of Christians and both of them can be disproved with science (not possible to walk on water, ect). That doesn't mean we should force "the truth" upon them.

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Re: Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby Paranoid__Android » Sat Sep 18, 2010 3:55 pm UTC

The_Mexican wrote: can be disproved with science (not possible to walk on water, ect)


That's because he's God, he can do whatever he likes.
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Re: Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby Charlie! » Sat Sep 18, 2010 5:46 pm UTC

Since some epistemology seems to be important here:

Science is not in the business of either proving or disproving anything absolutely. It is more like the application of statistics to our observations. When the evidence is weak this becomes important, since it's not reasonable to say that Jesus' divinity is "proven false," but it is reasonable to say that what we've observed about the world makes it less likely.

I think Vaniver makes some good points, although with some unusual capitals :P It may not be racist to preserve cultures without science, but it's often silly romanticism and pretty damn patronizing.
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Re: Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby Dark Avorian » Sat Sep 18, 2010 10:24 pm UTC

This isn't comparable to telling a Christian "Jesus wasn't really a god, you know," this is comparable to telling a Christian believer in divine-healing, "praying won't cure that snakebite, you have to get antivenom or you'll die."


Wrong. This and the chicken-pox example cited later are far more severe! FAR MORE SEVERE!!! It's not as if someone will die because you told them not to do the rain dance.

But if they are dying then yes, I would disabuse them quite harshly and do anything i could to get them to accept a cure (not vaccination)

While Christianity may be a better religion than animism, the difference between the two is not the difference between tradition and Light.


What? How is christianity any better than animism at all? They are different beliefs entirely and in my view at least, christianity (and all truly organized god worshipping religions are far easier to abuse and twist.)

It then struck me that what at first seemed like respectful non-meddling and non-interference was, perhaps, actually racism. It's not that the naturalist doesn't want to interfere for the tribespeoples sake -- he doesn't want to interfere for his sake, so that he can observe a group of people isolated from our modern knowledge, both for his own interest and enjoyment.


Those are not mutually exclusive. At all.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Personally I do think the situation you are describing is somewhat patronizing, but I don't think it's "racist" FOR the reasons you brought up. I think the objectification of these people as some sort of special "exotic"/"ethnic"/"tribal"/"primitive" group for our own entertainment is racist. There may also be a racist implication that they are not capable of understanding the more complex things in the world.



ALSO: Why do we all assume that the incredibly stressful multi-tasking environment we live in today is a Good ThingTM?
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Re: Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby Vaniver » Sat Sep 18, 2010 10:36 pm UTC

What? How is christianity any better than animism at all? They are different beliefs entirely and in my view at least, christianity (and all truly organized god worshipping religions are far easier to abuse and twist.)
Different belief systems promote different virtues. Christianity, for example, emphasizes forgiveness to an extent most other religions do not.

There are tradeoffs between unorganized and organized religions: each have their horrors. I am not sure the horrors of organized religion are far worse.

ALSO: Why do we all assume that the incredibly stressful multi-tasking environment we live in today is a Good ThingTM?
Why assume when you could compare? I have.
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Re: Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby Dark Avorian » Sat Sep 18, 2010 10:54 pm UTC

Forgive me Vaniver, I didn't mean to imply that christianity/other organized religions were FAR FAR WORSE. I merely was stating that with organization it is easier to twist. I'm glad you brought up the redeeming qualities because they are it's shining virtue and the reason I have a deep respect for christianity as a faith.

I also didn't mean to imply that it's debatable whether living in a village without sanitation was better than living in a clean town/city. I meant that I see the rain dance as comparable to communion, why is it so bad that they do it? and what effect will teaching them about the causes of weather have on the quality of their life
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Re: Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby Paranoid__Android » Sat Sep 18, 2010 10:55 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:
ALSO: Why do we all assume that the incredibly stressful multi-tasking environment we live in today is a Good ThingTM?
Why assume when you could compare? I have.


What were your conclusions from your comparison?
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Re: Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby untilted » Sat Sep 18, 2010 11:20 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:I am a strong believer in moving people from traditional cultures to Enlightened culture.


sorry for picking just this one sentence from your post, but (there's always a but, isn't it?) it irks me as this formulation follows exactly the argument used to legitimize colonialism.

it assumes a linear progression of culture/civilization/humanity - from 'less developed' tribal cultures to the 'highest form of culture' - which is incidentally the enlightend, industrialized & scientific culture of the 'west' (usually europe & north america). 'we' (the developed nations) have to tell them (indigenous people) how to progress for their own good ... sometimes telling isn't sufficient, a good beating might be necessary (as already mentioned several times in this thread). even if it's not talking about the biological potential for development (like it's common in 'classic' racism) we're still practicing cultural racism.

to answer the question asked by the OP - to insist that they are 'noble savages' that need to be safed from 'our' lifestyle has a similar outcome like insisting that they are 'barbarians' that need to be taught the right way - in both cases you're practicing a racist ideology, insisting on a certain essential quality that determines 'their' - and in response to this: 'our' - behavior.
the only way to not fall into this trap is to see them as acting subjects - which also includes that 'they' might disagree with 'us' in every possible way.

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Re: Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby Vaniver » Sun Sep 19, 2010 12:28 am UTC

Paranoid__Android wrote:What were your conclusions from your comparison?
I am much, much more satisfied with my life now than if I would be were I living earlier; likewise, I expect I would be even more satisfied in the future, but obviously with less confidence.

untitled wrote:this formulation follows exactly the argument used to legitimize colonialism.
To put all of our cards on the table, I believe that colonialism was often a force for good (though I am most familiar with British colonialism, and will comment that their history was above average), and in many countries that took significant periods of time to conquer those with more time spent under colonial rule came out of it the best.

untitled wrote:it assumes a linear progression of culture/civilization/humanity - from 'less developed' tribal cultures to the 'highest form of culture' - which is incidentally the enlightend, industrialized & scientific culture of the 'west' (usually europe & north america)
Two points:

1. First, it does not assume a linear progression. But it does say that we can compare cultures by their aggregate results and their impacts on individuals living in those cultures. Generally, when comparing two cultures one will not be better on every metric- but unless they're very similar one is often better than the other on the whole. Enlightened cultures are superior to tribal cultures.
2. Notice that I specifically talked about Enlightened culture rather than Western culture, and highlighted that many fail to make that distinction. I don't think it makes sense to call Japan Western, as it is clearly not Occidental, and it seems rather odd to leave out 10% of the OECD's population just because it borders the Pacific rather than the Atlantic.

untitled wrote:'we' (the developed nations) have to tell them (indigenous people) how to progress for their own good ... sometimes telling isn't sufficient, a good beating might be necessary (as already mentioned several times in this thread).
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I am for the use of force to prevent slavery and human sacrifice. Are you implying that you are not?
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Re: Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby untilted » Sun Sep 19, 2010 8:37 am UTC

1. First, it does not assume a linear progression. But it does say that we can compare cultures by their aggregate results and their impacts on individuals living in those cultures. Generally, when comparing two cultures one will not be better on every metric- but unless they're very similar one is often better than the other on the whole. Enlightened cultures are superior to tribal cultures.

and how translates this to the 'right' to an intervention to progress 'others' for their own good - especially without consulting and consent of these 'others'? it follows the teleological concept of 'human progression'.

2. Notice that I specifically talked about Enlightened culture rather than Western culture, and highlighted that many fail to make that distinction. I don't think it makes sense to call Japan Western, as it is clearly not Occidental, and it seems rather odd to leave out 10% of the OECD's population just because it borders the Pacific rather than the Atlantic.

good point.

you should note that japan was the only non-'western' country, that had a modern colonialist project of their own - following similar principles when it came to justifying it (including their own racisms e.g. against koreans). not to forget that with the meiji restoration in 1868 somesort of 'self colonization' took place, when it was an explicit societal project to change the japanese society to follow closely european societies.

on the 'pro'-side, japan were able to engage in a self-managed modernization and industrialization, on the 'contra'-side, the specifics of said modernization cannot be understood without taking the 'western' colonial powers into the picture - regarding reason as well as execution. in this sense 'enlightment' is still a 'western' project.

vaniver wrote:I am for the use of force to prevent slavery and human sacrifice. Are you implying that you are not?

if you want to read it this way - yes, i'm implying that i'm not in support of a forceful 'emancipation' of people. emancipation is bound to fail if you see it as a top-down project and not as a bottom-up movement.

usually no one gives a shit what happens to people in other countries unless it gives a good reason to intervene. just a recent example: do you really think that the intervention of the US/NATO in afghanistan was actually successful when it came e.g. to women rights? i guess you remember that quite graphic cover of time magazine proclaiming "this would happen if we left" ... well, considering that it already happened while US/NATO troops are still in the country - no less than the last 9 years - should tell you either: a.) top-down emancipation is bound to fail or b.) the moralic imperative to prevent human suffering isn't *that* strong like we always want to believe, it's only applied for a certain period in a certain way as it suits our convenience.

at the same time - from a pragmatic point of view - interventions *can* do good (even if it's only in a very specific and limited way) ...

to quote a famous sentence of an austrian politician: everything is very complicated

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Re: Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby General_Norris » Sun Sep 19, 2010 11:18 am UTC

SlashThred wrote:Are they happy living their life as it is now? If so, we shouldn't interfere with it. If they want to learn about our culture, they'll just ask, and we should give the asker the answer, but if they like life, there is no real reason to interfere.

You're choosing for them if they are happy and if they want to know.

Also I would't expect a primitive society to ask me about those magical snake things that move faster than a bird if they have never seen them. I wouldn't expect them to ask them about gay rights or sexism either because they don't have the tools to understand it. I don't think they could even grasp someone living a century so they are not going to ask.

They can't choose what they want if you hide the information. And, being frank, most would rather live in an industrial society. It has happened before.

@Untilted

It's just simple morality. If you see a woman hitting a man to death, what right do you have to stop her? Or if you see a man eating radium without knowing it will kill him? The same principle applies.

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Re: Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby tKircher » Sun Sep 19, 2010 2:57 pm UTC

I'd say the correct path is just to introduce them to it. Show them how weather works (as much of it as we can figure, because even the modern world is still pretty ignorant of the myriad weather cycles), and let them figure it out. A couple generations down the road they might realize that their prayers and dances don't amount to any more than monkeys screaming at a banana to fall from the tree.

If not, that really is their problem. Part of culture is how it grows, and injecting your own culture into someone else's is generally rude for exactly that reason.

If, however, they ask you, then tell them.

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Re: Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby Woopate » Sun Sep 19, 2010 3:31 pm UTC

tKircher wrote:I'd say the correct path is just to introduce them to it. Show them how weather works (as much of it as we can figure, because even the modern world is still pretty ignorant of the myriad weather cycles), and let them figure it out. A couple generations down the road they might realize that their prayers and dances don't amount to any more than monkeys screaming at a banana to fall from the tree.

If not, that really is their problem. Part of culture is how it grows, and injecting your own culture into someone else's is generally rude for exactly that reason.

If, however, they ask you, then tell them.


I think this is the ticket. After their rain dance or whatnot, you go and tell them "Hey, if you are so interested in it raining, we could show you what we know of how rain works and where it comes from." Without ever mentioning that their idea probably won't work. If you told them straight up that it doesn't, they probably wouldn't believe you, as faith tends to trump science. Even if they did believe you, you'd be harming their culture, as opposed to it growing naturally as if they came to the realization of the ineffectiveness of the rain dance themselves.

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Re: Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby Vaniver » Sun Sep 19, 2010 7:06 pm UTC

untilted wrote:and how translates this to the 'right' to an intervention to progress 'others' for their own good - especially without consulting and consent of these 'others'? it follows the teleological concept of 'human progression'.
This is how:

Individuals have rights. Groups do not. A 'group right to self-determination' generally means abhorrent things when you actually look at it. Let us say 99 members of a village want to live in a society where stoning witches is mandated, and one member of a society does not want to be stoned for a fictitious crime.Which is more important, the idea that witches should be stoned on the person?

I do believe there are ideas worth dying for, and ideas worth killing for- but I think they are ideas associated with the Light, not with majority rule.

But a village is not the best example. A better example is when you have a despot oppressing their people- a village ostensibly picks its culture (though of course that's not really true), but it is hard to argue a people picks their despot. Replacing the Mughals with the British is much more than just changing the names- it benefits the people of the nation even though it required destroying the old wolf-pack. (Note, I don't expect American efforts at nation-building to go anywhere near as well because America is worse at it than the British were and the Americans are attempting to groom locals instead of effectively govern.)

untitled wrote:you should note that japan was the only non-'western' country, that had a modern colonialist project of their own - following similar principles when it came to justifying it (including their own racisms e.g. against koreans).
Erm, what distinctions are you drawing between colonialist and imperialist here? Just the justifications? Because empires are hardly limited to Western nations, and to Japan when you look at East Asia. The Chinese have had an extensive history of kingdoms attempting to become empires, or empires expanding territory, and often had paternalistic reasons for doing so.

untitled wrote:not to forget that with the meiji restoration in 1868 somesort of 'self colonization' took place, when it was an explicit societal project to change the japanese society to follow closely european societies.
Of course that shouldn't be forgotten- that's why Japan is part of the OECD and one of the Enlightened countries. The moral of the story: colonization is the difference between abundance and poverty.

untitled wrote:in this sense 'enlightment' is still a 'western' project.
So what? Enlightenment transcends boundaries of geography, language, and religion, and the West is just where it began to grow, not its source or its full realization.

untitled wrote:if you want to read it this way - yes, i'm implying that i'm not in support of a forceful 'emancipation' of people. emancipation is bound to fail if you see it as a top-down project and not as a bottom-up movement.
Doesn't this ignore a long history of successful top-down emancipation projects? I'm all for bottom-up projects- but particularly when a bottom-up project is successful in one area, I don't see why it is necessary to entirely duplicate its growth anew in another area. If slavery is morally wrong and an offense to human dignity, why wait for every country to form its own abolition society? Why not tell people that on this issue, there is a right answer and a wrong answer, and back that up with force if need be?

There were riots in African ports where the British banned slavery. Forgive me if I do not value the judgment of those people, whose traditions were wrong, and many of whom depended on those violent and destructive traditions for their livelihood.

untitled wrote:usually no one gives a shit what happens to people in other countries unless it gives a good reason to intervene.
Is this a complaint or a celebration? Because as far as I can tell, you have been arguing that not only should we not give a shit, we should celebrate their ability to choose whatever they want. If this is a complaint, how do you reconcile that with your opposition to the imposition of superior values on other people?

I agree that the desire, and more importantly the means, to fix other people's problems is limited. But I still celebrate the successful attempts to fix problems and spread the Light, even as I acknowledge that many attempts are wrong-headed or mistaken. We should learn from others' successes and failures, so we can repeat and expand upon the successes with only a minimal duplication of the failures. To just throw up our hands and quit, or to declare the problem morally off limits, is something I cannot accept.
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Re: Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby PAstrychef » Sun Sep 19, 2010 9:49 pm UTC

Vaniver-
You are assuming that the benefits of indoor plumbing and and understanding of meteorology are reasons enough to subsume a culture into one you prefer.
It's arguable that many of the sociological problems of modern Africa stem in part from the population increases after childhood vaccination became commonplace. Once there are too many people to support with current technologies you either create new ones or enter into a boom and bust cycle similar to that seen in any predator-prey relationship.
There is a certain sense of voyeurism in leaving tribal peoples alone to live the way they do. There is also nostalgia for the romanticized view of living in harmony with nature and all that jazz.
But really-is the internal life of a hygienic urban dweller necessarily happier than that of a tribal person? Or unhappier for that matter? If you ask the peoples of the Amazon basin, many of them like their ancient life style and would like to left alone to live in it. They don't stop those who want to leave and go to the city, they just would prefer that oil companies and cattle ranchers not burn down their home jungle.
If I wanted to gather a group of like minded people and re-create tribal society, with a modern knowledge-base, would that be problematic?
As for the idea the one religious explanation for the world is better than any other religious explanation for the world, that's just silly. Moral absolutism won't work because morals are tied to culture and cultures differ. Plenty of people would claim that lax standards on things like adultery have lead to a decadent, corrupt society where all sorts of evil doings are allowed or even encouraged, and that stoning a few women might turn things right around.
What makes a culture better than any other culture-does it agree with how you think the world should go? Much of "culture" consists of things we don't think to ask questions about.
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Re: Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby Vaniver » Mon Sep 20, 2010 12:22 am UTC

PAstrychef wrote:You are assuming that the benefits of indoor plumbing and and understanding of meteorology are reasons enough to subsume a culture into one you prefer.
Indoor plumbing and meteorology, by themselves, wouldn't convince me. There is some tradeoff between comfort and individual freedom, and coercing people to live better is something I have strong reservations about.

My reservations about clearing away the brush and debris of ignorance and harmful traditions, however, are limited to practicality. People from any background can become integrated into an enlightened society and become valuable participants, often within a single generation. People from any background deserve the opportunity to pursue their dreams, and to have their dreams extend beyond a full belly and what their parents want for them. People from any background deserve the opportunity to live, despite physical defects or curable conditions.*

*Note the use of "deserve the opportunity" not "have the right"- I am opposed here to the practices of infanticide or other myriad cruelties of life on the brink, not committed to the necessity of supporting any individual or a methodology proposed to support them.

PAstrychef wrote:If I wanted to gather a group of like minded people and re-create tribal society, with a modern knowledge-base, would that be problematic?
Problematic in what sense? It wouldn't offend me- if you buy land and construct a society with voluntary participants,** I wouldn't see a reason to stop you. You might have trouble affording the necessary amount of land- turns out there are far more profitable uses for land than subsistence agriculture and hunting- and you might have problems finding enough skilled people to make a viable tribe, but those would be your problems, not society's.

That is to say: I have no problem with people choosing an option. I have problems with not presenting people the options, and problems with forcibly preventing people from selecting options. Preventing interaction with or uplifting of tribal societies seems to run afoul of those two.

As does, I should note, pushing tribes off of land they have legitimate claim to. We could go back and forth all day on what "legitimate" means, but consider this: would you accept the legitimacy process that the tribes use when there are territorial disputes between tribes?

**The issue of children is a sticky one; I tend to be more lenient than most when it comes to calling a situation child abuse.

PAstrychef wrote:What makes a culture better than any other culture-does it agree with how you think the world should go? Much of "culture" consists of things we don't think to ask questions about.
As hinted at before, how much it lets humans choose their own path, and thus thrive. There are some edge cases where you have tradeoffs between individualism and thriving, but generally speaking individualist values and virtues are superior to the competition.

Thus, I claim that religions that promote individualism more are superior to religions that promote individualism less. Religions that have healthier virtues are superior to religions that have unhealthier virtues. Obviously I have to pick some metric by which I judge things, but the freedom I have in picking that metric does not mean I should abandon judging altogether.
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Re: Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby GoC » Mon Sep 20, 2010 5:16 pm UTC

SlashThred wrote:If you can prove, without a doubt, that giving a child a vaccine cures him of chicken pox, while the child who doesn't get it dies, then they'll believe you. I don't see how this would be a logistical issue. Things should only be taught as truth if they can be irrefutably proven, otherwise they're just an idea/belief.

Proof is restricted to the world of mathematics. In real life you can't prove anything, only show it to be more probable than the alternative hypothesises or show that they either include the main one or being far far more complicated.

We shouldn't exclude people from the world on the grounds that they aren't mature enough to join it and make the right decisions.

A nice sentiment. In practice it doesn't work that well as a culture may not have the necessary "memes" to operate in the modern world.

untilted: Some cultures are more adapted for modern technology and ideals that promote prosperity (a strong desire for truth and justice and respect for human creativity for instance) than others. To put it simply: Yes, some cultures are "better" (more suited for the present day) or "better" ("more good" as in they match our own morals better) or "better" ("more good" as in they seem further along the direction morality seems to be tending over time) than others.

Woopate wrote:I think this is the ticket. After their rain dance or whatnot, you go and tell them "Hey, if you are so interested in it raining, we could show you what we know of how rain works and where it comes from." Without ever mentioning that their idea probably won't work. If you told them straight up that it doesn't, they probably wouldn't believe you, as faith tends to trump science. Even if they did believe you, you'd be harming their culture, as opposed to it growing naturally as if they came to the realization of the ineffectiveness of the rain dance themselves.

You'd have to give them an entire course on statistics and biases for this to be effective.

Vaniver wrote:would you accept the legitimacy process that the tribes use when there are territorial disputes between tribes?

Warfare?
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Re: Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby CorruptUser » Mon Sep 20, 2010 5:20 pm UTC

Anyone see the SABC series "Shaka"? There was a part when the British cure a Zulu girl of a disease after the medicine men declared she was going to die. The end result was that Shaka had the girl stabbed to death in front of everyone to show that he, not the British, was in control.

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Re: Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby Adavistic Puma » Tue Sep 21, 2010 7:32 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:That is to say: I have no problem with people choosing an option. I have problems with not presenting people the options, and problems with forcibly preventing people from selecting options. Preventing interaction with or uplifting of tribal societies seems to run afoul of those two.

As does, I should note, pushing tribes off of land they have legitimate claim to. We could go back and forth all day on what "legitimate" means, but consider this: would you accept the legitimacy process that the tribes use when there are territorial disputes between tribes?


Could you clarify that last point? It seems like you're saying, "Hey, these tribes have disagreements, so lets ignore all their legal processes and take both their territories!" Basically you are punishing (with the threat of cultural assimilation) two differentiated groups for not homogenizing -- just for the purpose of talking to them. I'm pretty sure that exact strategy is/has been used, and it seems pretty obviously opportunistic and unfair.
But maybe you had some other specific example in mind?

Vaniver wrote:
PAstrychef wrote:What makes a culture better than any other culture-does it agree with how you think the world should go? Much of "culture" consists of things we don't think to ask questions about.
As hinted at before, how much it lets humans choose their own path, and thus thrive. There are some edge cases where you have tradeoffs between individualism and thriving, but generally speaking individualist values and virtues are superior to the competition.


But it would be funny to assume that the only fair and just cultures are ones that can claim lineage to "The Enlightenment".
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Re: Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby Levelheaded » Tue Sep 21, 2010 3:06 pm UTC

Ga. governor turns to prayer to ease drought
http://www.usatoday.com/weather/news/2007-11-08-georgia-prayer_N.htm

I think the example of doing a 'rain dance' is especially insightful when it comes to comparing cultures. Here we can see that our 'enlightened' western culture engages in it's own form of rain dance during a drought. Now, while I understand that Georgia may not be representative of this board in general, it illustrates that different cultures aren't all that different because people aren't all that different.

I'm sure that even in the primitive tribe, there are some people who think a rain dance is a big waste of time, some people think it doesn't matter but can't hurt, and some people who truly believe that it's going to make a difference and bring rain or they aren't doing it right / hard enough.

Now, every culture is going to have behavior that is considered wrong or unacceptable by others. Inter-racial or gay marriage in America was unacceptable until very recently, and many people still feel it's unacceptable. Other people feel that way about pornography or abortion...still others feel that way about religious influence in government.

When it comes to behavior that's universally unacceptable - such as murder, rape, or (more recently) slavery, all people have a responsiblity to discourage and stop that behavior. Often, these unacceptable behaviors are a result of conditions that can be remedied (such as cannibalism due to lack of protein in New Guinea). In other cases, not much more is needed than a stable and just judicial system or governement (to stop things like vengence killings and their feedback loops). Women's rights are more tricky, but general education seems to be a big step in the right direction.

In general, education seems to be the trick and there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with it. Beyond certain 'unacceptables', educated societies seem pretty good at finding ways to retain the non-harmful parts of their culture but quickly give up the counterproductive parts. Most of what is kept is neutral and seems to be more tradiitional than anything else.

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Re: Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby King Author » Wed Sep 22, 2010 8:20 am UTC

For once, I'm happy enough with the debate generated by a topic I've created that I don't feel compelled to step in. Though I do have a few things to say.

SlashThred wrote:We shouldn't exclude people from the world on the grounds that they aren't mature enough to join it and make the right decisions.

I nominate this the Quote of the Thread.

Vaniver wrote:Well, once the child has the disease a vaccine is useless.

¬_¬

As long as I live and as many billions of times as it happens, I will never cease to be annoyed by people who can't handle a hypothetical. You knew damn well what I meant. At least I hope you did. I tend to presume dickery before presuming stupidity. But neither offers much solace to the vein in my temple.

Dark Avorian wrote:ALSO: Why do we all assume that the incredibly stressful multi-tasking environment we live in today is a Good ThingTM?

I haven't seen that assumption made in this topic. But surely, having a chicken-pox vaccine or an understanding of how weather works is superior to not knowing. It's coincidence that those cultures with the most scientific knowledge also choose to cram themselves in cubicles for eight hours a day -- knowledge doesn't necessitate all that trappings of modern civilization.

Vaniver wrote:Different belief systems promote different virtues. Christianity, for example, emphasizes forgiveness to an extent most other religions do not.

A puerile mistake -- the content of a religion's official doctrine is meaningless. Just because Christianity preaches forgiveness doesn't mean a Christian is any more likely to be forgiving than a Bushman or an atheist or a Buddhist or a Pastafarian. Furthermore, you're making a value judgement in presuming that forgiveness is a good thing in the first place.

I don't know what your Light religion is and I won't presume it's not true, but it's utterly blinding you.

Dark Avorian wrote:I also didn't mean to imply that it's debatable whether living in a village without sanitation was better than living in a clean town/city. I meant that I see the rain dance as comparable to communion, why is it so bad that they do it? and what effect will teaching them about the causes of weather have on the quality of their life

Just for clarification, I myself never intended to say that the rain dance was a bad thing. But if they actually think that it's effective when we know that it's not, the question of whether we should tell them that it's ineffective and explain basic meterology to them begs to be answered.

untitled wrote:it assumes a linear progression of culture/civilization/humanity - from 'less developed' tribal cultures to the 'highest form of culture' - which is incidentally the enlightend, industrialized & scientific culture of the 'west' (usually europe & north america). 'we' (the developed nations) have to tell them (indigenous people) how to progress for their own good ... sometimes telling isn't sufficient, a good beating might be necessary (as already mentioned several times in this thread). even if it's not talking about the biological potential for development (like it's common in 'classic' racism) we're still practicing cultural racism.

"Cultural racism" is a ridiculous term. Race is a cultural concept. Culturism or cultural elitism or something would be a far less colored turn of phrase.

untitled wrote:to answer the question asked by the OP - to insist that they are 'noble savages' that need to be safed from 'our' lifestyle has a similar outcome like insisting that they are 'barbarians' that need to be taught the right way - in both cases you're practicing a racist ideology, insisting on a certain essential quality that determines 'their' - and in response to this: 'our' - behavior.
the only way to not fall into this trap is to see them as acting subjects - which also includes that 'they' might disagree with 'us' in every possible way.

I believe that, though you didn't intend it, you mingled my words and Vanivers. It was Vaniver who said we should Enlighten the Unenlightened. In the original post, I merely posited that we should let them know, in our example, of how meterology works. I even went on to say that if they disagree or refuse to believe us, or believe us but ignore it, or whatever, then they're well within their rights.

The topic question isn't whether it's right to change "less developed" cultures, but specifically whether it's right to go out of our way to keep our lips sealed about science and logic while around them for fear of corrupting or spoiling them. I'm quite against "Enlightening" other cultures, as Vaniver put it. However, to treat a tribesperson like a delicate child who might throw a tantrum if you say the wrong thing and thus keep tight-lipped about the nature of weather when said tribesperson is explaining how their weather-affecting magic works is equally wrong. I believe we ought to treat "tribal" peoples (I can't find any generic term that satisfies me, hence the quotes) like fellow intelligent, rational human beings -- share our knowledge with them freely, and let them decide how to handle it.

It's not a black-and-white decision between "Enlightening" them with our "superior" culture and remaining completely silent.

untitled wrote:usually no one gives a shit what happens to people in other countries unless it gives a good reason to intervene.

Hate to quote snipe, but I just had to QFT this. Three words; female genital mutilation. Most don't know it, most wouldn't care if they did know, most wouldn't try to do anything about it even if they did care.

General Norris wrote:They can't choose what they want if you hide the information. And, being frank, most would rather live in an industrial society. It has happened before.

This is another good point that preserving native cultures is racist, not respectful -- we in the industrialized world, with toilet paper and free universal K-12 education and modern hospitals, don't want native peoples to be "corrupted" by our technology, in much the same way that we take seashells home from the beach when we vacation -- to preserve something that pleases our aesthetics. This is compounded by our view that technology is bad and things like "natural medicine" are good. I can promise you, any given tribesperson who suffers from agonizing migraine headaches would much prefer a bottle of Advil to whatever witchcrafty "natural medicine" their peoples typically use.

Woopate wrote:I think this is the ticket. After their rain dance or whatnot, you go and tell them "Hey, if you are so interested in it raining, we could show you what we know of how rain works and where it comes from." Without ever mentioning that their idea probably won't work. If you told them straight up that it doesn't, they probably wouldn't believe you, as faith tends to trump science. Even if they did believe you, you'd be harming their culture, as opposed to it growing naturally as if they came to the realization of the ineffectiveness of the rain dance themselves.

I agree with the gist of what you're saying, but why do you believe that telling someone that a demonstrably-false belief of theirs is false is "harming their culture?" You act as if these are delicate, unintelligent people who can't handle what our mighty brains can. If we say their rain dance is ineffective and they disbelieve us, that's their choice, but if we say their rain dance is ineffective and they stop doing rain dances, that's still their choice and thus their culture evolving by their will. It's only us imposing our culture on them if we physically force them to stop rain dancing.

I think you're making a fundamental error in presuming that tribal peoples are less capable of making their own decisions and choosing how to live their lives and what to believe than we are. I don't doubt that you're well-meaning, but that's still racism -- thinking someone is inferior due to inborn characteristics as opposed to their individual traits. Even tribespeople are individuals, they aren't less human than we are.

PAstrychef wrote:There is a certain sense of voyeurism in leaving tribal peoples alone to live the way they do. There is also nostalgia for the romanticized view of living in harmony with nature and all that jazz.

That's a good way of putting it -- voyeurism and romanticization.

Do you live in Pennsylvania, by the way?

GoC wrote:
Woopate wrote:I think this is the ticket. After their rain dance or whatnot, you go and tell them "Hey, if you are so interested in it raining, we could show you what we know of how rain works and where it comes from." Without ever mentioning that their idea probably won't work. If you told them straight up that it doesn't, they probably wouldn't believe you, as faith tends to trump science. Even if they did believe you, you'd be harming their culture, as opposed to it growing naturally as if they came to the realization of the ineffectiveness of the rain dance themselves.

You'd have to give them an entire course on statistics and biases for this to be effective.

Now really, that's just useless hyperbole. Did you absolutely refuse to believe one lick of meterology, such as the gradeschool-taught cycle of evaporation -> condensation -> precipitation until you completed an entire course on statistics and biases? Again, I must stress, these people are no less intelligent or human than you or me. Due to having a different cultural "infrastructure," if you will, than us, they may typically have different worldviews, but they're not monkeys; they're no less capable of understanding things than you or I.

CorruptUser wrote:Anyone see the SABC series "Shaka"? There was a part when the British cure a Zulu girl of a disease after the medicine men declared she was going to die. The end result was that Shaka had the girl stabbed to death in front of everyone to show that he, not the British, was in control.

Yes, well...that falls under the already-addressed banner of "even if we give them our knowledge, it's up to them what to do with it." Certainly, that's not a common response, and even if it were, it's not a reason to steer clear of scary black people with leaves on their heads.

Vaniver wrote:As does, I should note, pushing tribes off of land they have legitimate claim to. We could go back and forth all day on what "legitimate" means, but consider this: would you accept the legitimacy process that the tribes use when there are territorial disputes between tribes?

Sorry for the out-of-context quote, again, and I'm not interested in getting in on the Vaniver-vs-everybody-else debate, but I just wanted to chime in because I always like ruining rhetorical questions -- I would. And I'm just one person. There's 6.5 billions some humans, so unless I'm a massive statistical anomaly (which seems unlikely), I'd say that it's fair to assume that there's plenty of people who would be willing to accept the legitimacy of tribal law.

Not many of them would be from Imperial countries, of course, but sera sera.

Levelheaded wrote:Ga. governor turns to prayer to ease drought
http://www.usatoday.com/weather/news/20 ... ayer_N.htm

I think the example of doing a 'rain dance' is especially insightful when it comes to comparing cultures. Here we can see that our 'enlightened' western culture engages in it's own form of rain dance during a drought. Now, while I understand that Georgia may not be representative of this board in general, it illustrates that different cultures aren't all that different because people aren't all that different.

*snickers*
Although it's quite possible he didn't actually believe in what he was doing, and that he was just trying to appeal to his right-wing constituents. Still, amusing though. Indeed, as I keep saying, we aren't all that different.

Levelheaded wrote:I'm sure that even in the primitive tribe, there are some people who think a rain dance is a big waste of time, some people think it doesn't matter but can't hurt, and some people who truly believe that it's going to make a difference and bring rain or they aren't doing it right / hard enough.

Absolutely. Another big mistake that people in "civilized" countries often make (and a mistake that's being made by some people in this very thread) is seeing a group of tribal people as absolutely homogenous, and being unable to tease apart individual beliefs from cultural beliefs. An American cultural belief is that masculinity is a prized trait. Clearly that's not a belief that's universally held by all Americans. Just because a culture of black people wearing leaves and feathers says something doesn't mean the whole of the heart and mind of every individual believs it. I don't doubt for a second that even in that documentary that I was watching that every single person performing the rain dance was doing it with the belief that it'd actually work. For perhaps most of them, it was just a cultural obligation, a cultural ritual, without any powerful conviction that it'd actually work. But again, like you say, there are some who'd think it works. The point being, humans are individuals. Even if they're living in "uncivilized" cultures.
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Re: Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby Vaniver » Wed Sep 22, 2010 2:49 pm UTC

King Author wrote:As long as I live and as many billions of times as it happens, I will never cease to be annoyed by people who can't handle a hypothetical. You knew damn well what I meant. At least I hope you did. I tend to presume dickery before presuming stupidity. But neither offers much solace to the vein in my temple.
This is actually a rather valuable demonstration: we're from roughly the same culture and the belief that vaccines treat diseases instead of prevent them wasn't even sacred to you, and correction still has you enraged.

King Author wrote:A puerile mistake -- the content of a religion's official doctrine is meaningless. Just because Christianity preaches forgiveness doesn't mean a Christian is any more likely to be forgiving than a Bushman or an atheist or a Buddhist or a Pastafarian. Furthermore, you're making a value judgement in presuming that forgiveness is a good thing in the first place.

I don't know what your Light religion is and I won't presume it's not true, but it's utterly blinding you.
Official doctrine, normal practice, and normal beliefs all have an effect on the lives of worshipers. They are hardly absolute- religions are nothing if not hard to follow- but they're noticeable.

But you are right that I chose a poor example. Consider this instead: Christianity promotes individual virtue, whereas most pagan religions promoted social virtue. The king makes a sacrifice every year to make the crops grow- now, everyone who cares about crops and isn't willing to be insane needs to support the king in order to support the crops. In ancient Judaism, going to the temple and performing sacrifices was part of community life and sustained the priest caste (remember, they ate the sacrifices).

And so the Christian who puts money in the offering plate is supporting the society of priests and the upkeep of churches- but also the education of the ignorant, the feeding of the hungry, and the healing of the sick. Someone who burns an animal on an altar or kills their children to appease the gods (present in both Jewish and Greek myth, and I'm sure others) is not doing so out of individual virtue.

Most people who attend Christian services won't be virtuous- but there will be a force inculcating virtue in the society, and the way and the choice of virtues makes a difference.

King Author wrote:I'm quite against "Enlightening" other cultures, as Vaniver put it. However, to treat a tribesperson like a delicate child who might throw a tantrum if you say the wrong thing and thus keep tight-lipped about the nature of weather when said tribesperson is explaining how their weather-affecting magic works is equally wrong. I believe we ought to treat "tribal" peoples (I can't find any generic term that satisfies me, hence the quotes) like fellow intelligent, rational human beings -- share our knowledge with them freely, and let them decide how to handle it.
I think this underestimates the amount of investment needed to communicate with civilized society, and how much the benefits of civilized society come from living in such a way that you can contact and trade with billions of people.

People can trade with locals without extensive investment, sure- that's been happening since Cro-Magnon times. But how do you give a tribal access to Wikipedia? They don't have any of the three basic needs: a computer, an internet connection, or the ability to read. How do you give, say, a Amazon river basin tribal access to Amazon.com? They don't have a computer, internet connection, the ability to read, a credit card, money, or the transportation network to deliver the goods. (I don't think UPS ships upriver, but I wouldn't be surprised if they did.)

Civilized society and civilized knowledge are fundamentally different from tribal society and tribal knowledge. How would you explain banking or compound interest to a tribal? The idea is easy- you're planting a tree that plants more trees without further effort on your part- but the actual knowledge (should I open an account with Wachovia or Bank of America? What percentage of my income should I save?) is difficult. Modern society is run by math, and it's worth remembering that even in the most mathematically advanced parts of the world the number 0 wasn't invented until about ~7,500 years after agriculture.

How would you explain the degree of specialization that exists in modern society? The concept that almost everyone isn't a warrior would be foreign to a people depending on hunting and wary of neighboring tribes. To someone dependent on undeveloped nature, the work-life balance of today would be utterly foreign.


And then you get into cost issues. Currently, the only people who see a personal benefit from uplifting tribals are the ones who have proselytization urges, and they typically have religions like Christianity instead of my unusual capitals, as Charlie! puts it. The Peace Corps is the main government entity I'm familiar with that does this sort of work- but they generally work with agricultural villages, which have started on the path to civilization in a way tribals have not.

King Author wrote:Certainly, that's not a common response, and even if it were, it's not a reason to steer clear of scary black people with leaves on their heads.
Why are you certain that's not a common response? I think the petty despotism of tribal society and even national societies* is well-documented, horrible, and worth fighting against. There are few rulers in few times who would not be willing to sacrifice people to maintain their power.

*Enlightened nations tend to have less petty despotism, but it is still there and still worth fighting against.

King Author wrote:The point being, humans are individuals. Even if they're living in "uncivilized" cultures.
Indeed. Which is why I focus on how cultures limit or enhance the individuality of humans: a culture in which the witch doctor has the power to order a girl stabbed to death because she defied his diagnosis is a culture that limits individuality. A culture with high population density and internet connection so people can easily meet large numbers of like-minded people is a culture than enhances individuality. And you can also see the impact that government policies have- Beijing and New York City both have high population densities and internet access, but one is a lot more limiting.

And this should make it clear that it's not just ideas but also options. You could have a tribe of 100 people that is totally accepting of gays, because they don't have a reason not to be- but also which only has one gay guy. Or maybe two, but they aren't that compatible. Or three, and that's not a recipe for long-lasting happiness. When you have a city of 100,000 and there are 1,000 gay guys, the options are qualitatively different despite the proportion being the same. Romance is the thing that's easy to see and emotionally grabbing, but this is even more true for economics- the number of specialists a market of 100 will support is far, far lower than the number of specialists a market of 8,000,000 will support. New York City has all sorts of ridiculously specialized laborers and companies- you couldn't have a doll hospital that does fulltime doll repair with a market of 100.
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Re: Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby Zamfir » Wed Sep 22, 2010 4:41 pm UTC

But there are loads of people who want to live in the countryside, don't care about an internet connection (let alone doll repairmen), and consider individualism as a mixed blessing at best. Are they wrong? Why should they not raise their kids to like the same things they like?

You sound a lot as if you think everyone should be like you.

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Re: Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby Dark567 » Wed Sep 22, 2010 5:43 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:But there are loads of people who want to live in the countryside, don't care about an internet connection (let alone doll repairmen), and consider individualism as a mixed blessing at best. Are they wrong? Why should they not raise their kids to like the same things they like?

You sound a lot as if you think everyone should be like you.


Isn't one of the central tenets of individualism the very idea that no two people necessarily should act the same way? Saying that everyone should follow individualism(not acting like anyone else) is acting like someone else(in this case Vaniver) really doesn't make sense to me. Any serious believer of individualism allows for people to live in the countryside and not care about internet. It also allows people to live in cities and have internet.
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Re: Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby morriswalters » Wed Sep 22, 2010 7:11 pm UTC

King Author wrote:At the end of the day, withholding information that we've discovered about how the world works from undeveloped peoples doesn't seem like philosophy; it seems like self-styled "civilized" white people gawking at endearingly crude black people like animals for their own amusement, rather than treating them like fellow human beings and speaking to them as equals.


We have used this belief to introduce primitive cultures to all kind of things, disease and prostitution to name two. The first people to encounter tribes have in the past been people who have not really cared about preserving anything. They were in a most cases interested in what they could steal, particularly "enlightened colonials" . Established groups who have survived have managed to preserve some parts of their culture, and if possible we should offer that when we can.

But you can't be a little bit pregnant. Once an advanced culture touches a less advanced culture the less advanced culture is doomed. The transfer of knowledge starts with the contact. There is no equality to be found in the relationship. Drop Ug the cave man in New York City and he might die of shock. He doesn't have the background to understand it. The Africans whom you witnessed I suspect have had access to modern technology and knowledge since the presence of crews filming didn't seem to incite the terror of primitives. Just my opinion.

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Re: Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby JayDee » Wed Sep 22, 2010 10:31 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:You sound a lot as if you think everyone should be like you.
Rather that everyone should have the choice to be so. The question is whether we should be denying members of various cultures the chance to join ours, or to adapt features of our society to their own. The choice is a very important part of it.
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Re: Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby Vaniver » Thu Sep 23, 2010 4:37 am UTC

Zamfir wrote:But there are loads of people who want to live in the countryside, don't care about an internet connection (let alone doll repairmen), and consider individualism as a mixed blessing at best. Are they wrong? Why should they not raise their kids to like the same things they like?

You sound a lot as if you think everyone should be like you.
Emphasis mine. As pointed out by Dark567, I emphatically do not expect or want other people to be just like me. My expectation and want is that other people have as least as much freedom as I've had (hopefully more), and I certainly have the freedom to turn out differently.

And so we get to the bolded section. What does it mean to raise kids to like something? If it's food or music or something you can probably get them to at least tolerate it through acclimation. But the methods people attempt to raise people to be sexually attracted to girls, or to go into a particular profession, or to think that staying in the group is better than leaving the group can often be horrific, and I would like to try and minimize the horrors there as much as possible.

I'm not saying kids have a right to be loved, respected, or even accepted by their parents. I'm saying kids have a right to run away and stay alive. That doesn't mean you have to raise them in the city but it means they need to be no more than a bus ticket away. It may be reprehensible to me that someone would disown their children, but it's not "wrong" in a moral sense.* I do think it's wrong if someone murders their children or if a culture hangs people that they don't want.

My impression is you wanted to emphasize the freedom aspect of it- and that's an aspect that should be emphasized. But it's worth remembering that when we talk about preserving cultures like this, we're not talking about whether or not fundamentalists are bad. We're talking about whether or not female genital mutilation is bad. That's so much not a meme I want to preserve that I actively want to eradicate that meme.

*I mean by this that they are within their moral rights to disown their children, not that it's an activity I approve of.
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Re: Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby King Author » Thu Sep 23, 2010 10:06 am UTC

Dark567 wrote:
Zamfir wrote:But there are loads of people who want to live in the countryside, don't care about an internet connection (let alone doll repairmen), and consider individualism as a mixed blessing at best. Are they wrong? Why should they not raise their kids to like the same things they like?

You sound a lot as if you think everyone should be like you.


Isn't one of the central tenets of individualism the very idea that no two people necessarily should act the same way? Saying that everyone should follow individualism(not acting like anyone else) is acting like someone else(in this case Vaniver) really doesn't make sense to me. Any serious believer of individualism allows for people to live in the countryside and not care about internet. It also allows people to live in cities and have internet.

The central tenet of individualism is that the individual is the most important social entity, and that all social laws ought to favor the individual first. By contrast, the central tenet of collectivism is that the group is the most important social entity, and that all social laws ought to favor the group first. "Everyone should live how they want to" is relativism, possibly moral relativism depending on what we're talking about. In the West, individualism and moral relativism go hand-in-hand, but they're not one in the same. Thus, individualism isn't the One, Best philosophical outlook, it's not the philosophy that affords the most freedom where all others afford lesser degrees of freedom, it's just a philosophical outlook, and the freedoms it emphasizes aren't the most or best.

morriswalters wrote:
King Author wrote:At the end of the day, withholding information that we've discovered about how the world works from undeveloped peoples doesn't seem like philosophy; it seems like self-styled "civilized" white people gawking at endearingly crude black people like animals for their own amusement, rather than treating them like fellow human beings and speaking to them as equals.


We have used this belief to introduce primitive cultures to all kind of things, disease and prostitution to name two. The first people to encounter tribes have in the past been people who have not really cared about preserving anything. They were in a most cases interested in what they could steal, particularly "enlightened colonials" . Established groups who have survived have managed to preserve some parts of their culture, and if possible we should offer that when we can.

I thought I made it clear with my example of explaining the basics of weather that what I was decrying as racism is withholding neutral or potentially beneficial knowledge for the sake of not spoiling the pristine ignorance of a tribal peoples. I can't see why you felt the subject of exploiting native cultures needed to be brought up, nor can I see the point you're trying to make. That stealing and intentionally sickening native peoples is bad? I agree. That withholding information like meterology is equivalent to said stealing, etc.? I don't see how.

morriswalters wrote:But you can't be a little bit pregnant. Once an advanced culture touches a less advanced culture the less advanced culture is doomed. The transfer of knowledge starts with the contact. There is no equality to be found in the relationship. Drop Ug the cave man in New York City and he might die of shock. He doesn't have the background to understand it. The Africans whom you witnessed I suspect have had access to modern technology and knowledge since the presence of crews filming didn't seem to incite the terror of primitives. Just my opinion.

Just your opinion indeed. And racist, as well. I stress again that a tribal person isn't a different species, or an animal, or any less modern or human than you or I. The notion of brain-melting shock is film industry nonsense -- maybe it makes for an interesting plot point, but there's absolutely evidence, in all of our understanding of psychology (I'm a psych student, by the way), that someone suddenly exposed to much-more advanced technology than they're used to will go into a coma because of the inability of their tiny, primitive minds to comprehend things. Of interest: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meet_the_Natives:_USA

You also have a long way to go before demonstrating that a less-industrialized culture is "doomed" when it contacts a more-industrialized culture.

The greater problem is that you're assuming that peoples from less-industrialized nations are, in fact, less mature, less developed or less advanced than those from most-industrialized nations. Knowledge is knowledge and lack of knowledge is lack of knowledge -- humans don't have an Intelligence stat that increases linearly; you can know a lot about one thing and nothing about another.

Take the Meet the Natives example. You could watch that documentary and think to yourself, "Aww, it's cute how they don't understand even the most basic thing like telephones and vacuum cleaners." But it's a terrible mistake to assume that that lack of knowledge is equivalent to lack of intelligence. Take, for instance, one of the many documentaries of past and present where Westerners (usually Brits or Americans) go live among tribal peoples. Just as they fumble with what we consider basic and rudimentary, when we're transported to their culture and their way of life, due to our lack of knowledge, we fumble with what they consider basic and rudimentary. Just as we think it's funny that they jump back with a start when a vacuum cleaner is turned on, they think it's funny when we try to make a stone arrowhead and just keep shattering rock after rock. But since you're from this culture and not that one, you wouldn't think that the lack of knowledge makes the Westerner stupid or is indicative of his inability to understand things. So why do you think the lack of knowledge a tribesperson has is indicative of their mental inferiority?

Do you see the point I'm trying to make? There aren't better and worse or more and less advanced cultures, just different cultures. Intelligence and knowledge are two different things, and neither is measured on a linear scale.
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Re: Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby morriswalters » Thu Sep 23, 2010 4:24 pm UTC

Perhaps I misunderstand your point. But I find it hard to understand why you think protecting native cultures is about withholding knowledge. Just because someone doesn't want knowledge doesn't mean they don't have access to it. It just means they don't want it. To often we assume because something is bad in our moral pantheon that would should eliminate it wherever we find it without taking into account the circumstances which created it. Take your tribesman performing the Rain Dance. You assume they are ignorant, not I. I assume they are performing for the camera. Meteorology can't help them, it can tell them it will rain but it can't make it rain. They have to plant, they may believe that it will influence the outcome or it may just do it to try and preserve their culture.

I would like you to name a native culture that remained intact and unchanged after meeting the Europeans. Just one. We agree more than we disagree. I believe that we start from different assumptions. I assume we dump knowledge willy nilly on them and you think we withhold it.

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Re: Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby Dark567 » Thu Sep 23, 2010 5:23 pm UTC

King Author wrote:The central tenet of individualism is that the individual is the most important social entity, and that all social laws ought to favor the individual first. By contrast, the central tenet of collectivism is that the group is the most important social entity, and that all social laws ought to favor the group first. "Everyone should live how they want to" is relativism, possibly moral relativism depending on what we're talking about. In the West, individualism and moral relativism go hand-in-hand, but they're not one in the same. Thus, individualism isn't the One, Best philosophical outlook, it's not the philosophy that affords the most freedom where all others afford lesser degrees of freedom, it's just a philosophical outlook, and the freedoms it emphasizes aren't the most or best.

Individualism and moral relativism, don't go hand in hand. They are independent of one another. You can believe individualism and believe in moral relativism or you can believe in collectivism and believe moral objectivism(or vice versa). I didn't claim individualism was the One, Best philosophical outlook, I was just saying that the way Zamfir portrayed it was slightly inaccurate, the discussion took place assuming individualism, it was not a discussion about the merits or demerits of it.


King Author wrote:
Do you see the point I'm trying to make? There aren't better and worse or more and less advanced cultures, just different cultures. Intelligence and knowledge are two different things, and neither is measured on a linear scale.


Cultural relativism is a borderline defunct theory(in philosophical circles calling someones theory "well that just boils down to cultural relativism" is considered an informal rebuttal). The vast majority of philosophers believe it to be completely incorrect, and believe that certain cultures can be objectively better than others, or objectively more advanced. Granted just because a lot of people think its wrong doesn't make it so, but there are pretty strong arguments to the contrary and people who hold those views certainly aren't outside of the mainstream. Although cultural relativism still holds weight in some anthropological circles it has been losing ground to universalism.
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Re: Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby Adavistic Puma » Fri Sep 24, 2010 8:25 am UTC

The reasons for those early interactions between savages and Enlightened Ones at best tend to have nothing to do with the interests of the indigenous populations.
(Rather for whatever of land, labour, or resources is most exploitable.)

Generally by the time you are talking of preserving aspects of a traditional culture, it is because said culture has already been so completely disrupted / decimated
/displaced by the activities of the dominating one, that people are usually just trying to bring back some of the context of an old way of life. Or they feel the need to differentiate themselves from the ones who fucked everything up.

Criticizing the content of those few ragged scraps of culture, without being sensitive to the larger issue -cultural genocide- is going to guarantee that your audience will see your good intentions as just another part of the colonial machine.

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Re: Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby King Author » Fri Sep 24, 2010 1:26 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:Perhaps I misunderstand your point. But I find it hard to understand why you think protecting native cultures is about withholding knowledge.

I don't. Apologies if I gave that impression. You see (and I keep meaning to put this in my sig since people don't typically assume so unless I tell them), I only say what I mean, and I only speak in specifics except where I explicitly say "in general." I'm speaking about this scenario (the documentary I was watching) specifically. Perhaps you were confused because the topic title sounds generic, but I thought explaining a very specific, real scenario that I witnessed was sufficient to let it be known that we're talking about something specific.

And to refresh your memory, the specific thing we're talking about is this scenario in which an anthropologist keeps his or her lips sealed about our knowledge for fear of spoiling the ignorance of tribal peoples.

morriswalters wrote:Just because someone doesn't want knowledge doesn't mean they don't have access to it. It just means they don't want it.

Actually, either one could be the case. In this case, the anthropologist made it clear that he wasn't going to tell the peoples he was studying what he knows about weather.

morriswalters wrote:To often we assume because something is bad in our moral pantheon that would should eliminate it wherever we find it without taking into account the circumstances which created it. Take your tribesman performing the Rain Dance. You assume they are ignorant, not I. I assume they are performing for the camera.

I make no such assumption. It's against my beliefs to make any assumptions whatsoever, save for social graces (i.e. I assume any given person I interact with doesn't want to see me naked, so I don't indulge in my nudist tendencies around other people) and emergency situations (i.e. if someone is bleeding and lying slumped in an alleyway, I'll assume they need assistance). As I indicated in the topic post, the anthropoligst explained that the peoples he was documenting were performing a ceremony to affect the weather, and that this, naturally, wouldn't work, but that they didn't know it and he wasn't going to tell them.

Presumably, you didn't even see this documentary - you're just going by my secondhand account - so making assumptions is all the more erroneous on your part, since you don't have access to things like tone of voice or body language.

morriswalters wrote:Meteorology can't help them, it can tell them it will rain but it can't make it rain. They have to plant, they may believe that it will influence the outcome or it may just do it to try and preserve their culture.

I never said anything to the contrary to this.

morriswalters wrote:I would like you to name a native culture that remained intact and unchanged after meeting the Europeans. Just one. We agree more than we disagree. I believe that we start from different assumptions. I assume we dump knowledge willy nilly on them and you think we withhold it.

If you say you're making assumptions, so be it. I'm not. I'm going by what I've seen. I realize my knowledge is infinitesimally small, but better to go based on solid, if limited, experience than make baseless assumptions.

Also, if we're speaking culturally, most tribal peoples I've ever seen or heard of have remained intact after meeting with Europeans. Obviously, once they see our incredibly sharp, durable knives, our comfortable, easy-to-wash clothing, our foodstuffs, etc. they may want more, but I'm not sure what you mean by a "culture remaining intact and unchanged after meeting with Europeans" (though not all anthropologists are European).

Perhaps we have a different base understanding of the word "culture." Coming from a psychological and sociological background, I think of culture not as a static entity to which adherents defer and submit their will, like religion, but a fluid entity grown from the individual will of adherents which changes on a day-to-day basis, like the stock market. Ooh, stock market. That's a really good metaphor for culture.

"Natural" might be a buzzword right now, but there is that fallacy to consider, and furthermore, change is not inherently bad. Our culture changes on a moment-to-moment basis -- tribal cultures change on a moment-to-moment basis -- tribal cultures can change each other, when two or more meet or join together or clash. Like most other posters in this topic, you're making the fatal flaw of considering tribal peoples to be inherently different froum you or me; some "other," some alien species. Cultural specifics aside, you and me and Joe Bushman are all the same. What applies to one applies to all. It's not White Man standing over Monkey.

Saying "name me one tribal culture that wasn't impacted by meeting Westerners" is like saying "name me one city street that wasn't impacted by immigrants moving in." Everything impacts everything -- no man is an island, as the saying goes, and neither is any culture -- but impact isn't inherently or even necessarily bad.

Dark567 wrote:Individualism and moral relativism, don't go hand in hand. They are independent of one another. You can believe individualism and believe in moral relativism or you can believe in collectivism and believe moral objectivism(or vice versa).

I think you misunderstood me. I said that individualism and moral relativism often go hand-in-hand. By that I meant, where you see one, you often see the other. Western cultures, for instance, are mostly individualistic and mostly morally relative. Eastern cultures are mostly collectivist and mostly morally absoltist. Of course it's possible for other combinations, it's just not commonly seen.

Dark567 wrote:I didn't claim individualism was the One, Best philosophical outlook, I was just saying that the way Zamfir portrayed it was slightly inaccurate, the discussion took place assuming individualism, it was not a discussion about the merits or demerits of it.

I still think you're confusing moral relativism and individualism. Or you're using some folk definition of one of the two. In psych textbooks, individualism is defined as a doctrine that holds the individual as the most important social entity. Zamfir implied that an individualist wouldn't want to let people raise their children however they wanted. You thought you were correcting him by pointing out that individualism would actually be the philosophy that says to let people raise their kids how they want. But I'm telling you, that's not individualism ("the individual comes first"), that's relativism ("one man's good is another man's evil").

Dark567 wrote:Cultural relativism is a borderline defunct theory(in philosophical circles calling someones theory "well that just boils down to cultural relativism" is considered an informal rebuttal). The vast majority of philosophers believe it to be completely incorrect, and believe that certain cultures can be objectively better than others, or objectively more advanced. Granted just because a lot of people think its wrong doesn't make it so, but there are pretty strong arguments to the contrary and people who hold those views certainly aren't outside of the mainstream. Although cultural relativism still holds weight in some anthropological circles it has been losing ground to universalism.

Yowza. You've just won the "Citation Needed" award of the topic. Do you even remotely know what you're talking about, or are you just talking out of your ass? Because in psychologial circles (psychologists being people who, you know, actually have real jobs, as opposed to self-styled "philosophers," who are only good at writing books and teaching philosophy) cultural relativism is the letter of the day.

I myself don't take sides in philosophical pissing matches. If you've chosen objectivism, that's fine, but know that you're completely wrong about objectivism being "right." Heh, I guess it makes sense that you'd think of your own stance of objectivism to be right. But talk to any psychologist -- cultural relativism is widely accepted, and cultural absolitism is widely rejected. It's possible, of course, that relativism is incorrect and absolutism is correct, but regardless of what's right, relativism is the much, much, much more commonly-accepted stance, especially in the West.

I mean, not to get off topic, but you're speaking nonsense patently. For some cultures to be objectively "better" than others, you'd have to define "better;" that is, you'd have to be coming from a place of moral absolitism. If you can prove to me scientifically, beyond reasonable doubt, that a certain set of morals is "right," by all means, start another topic and try, but I'm being facetious; I don't think you actually can. Not just you, but anybody.

Adavistic Puma wrote:The reasons for those early interactions between savages and Enlightened Ones at best tend to have nothing to do with the interests of the indigenous populations.
(Rather for whatever of land, labour, or resources is most exploitable.)

Generally by the time you are talking of preserving aspects of a traditional culture, it is because said culture has already been so completely disrupted / decimated
/displaced by the activities of the dominating one, that people are usually just trying to bring back some of the context of an old way of life. Or they feel the need to differentiate themselves from the ones who fucked everything up.

Criticizing the content of those few ragged scraps of culture, without being sensitive to the larger issue -cultural genocide- is going to guarantee that your audience will see your good intentions as just another part of the colonial machine.

But keep in mind, like I said, rain dances can be demonstrated scientifically to be ineffective -- we're not just talking different strokes for different folks here; they're wrong. However, as I also said, it's within their right to perform ineffective rituals for whatever purposes they want. My issue is that the anthropologist stopped himself commenting on the effectiveness of the ceremony because he didn't want to intrude with his big, scary, white man's knowledge all over the delicate black man's adorable ignorance -- it's patronizing, and comes from a place of racism, not benevolent respect.

Forcibly trying to change the tribal peoples' culture and simply giving them information and letting them decide what they want to do with it are two very different things.

And you're speaking incredibly flippantly. Cultural genocide is when a dominant group forcibly prevents a minority group from practicing their cultural ways (such as the Chinese government forbidding their rural peoples from practicing folk religions). To use the term so lightly as to apply it in the context of simply telling someone that their ritual doesn't physically affect the world...that's an insult to instances of actual cultural genocide.
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Re: Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby Dark567 » Fri Sep 24, 2010 4:01 pm UTC

King Author wrote:I think you misunderstood me. I said that individualism and moral relativism often go hand-in-hand. By that I meant, where you see one, you often see the other. Western cultures, for instance, are mostly individualistic and mostly morally relative. Eastern cultures are mostly collectivist and mostly morally absoltist. Of course it's possible for other combinations, it's just not commonly seen.

I would say individualistic, but not morally relative. They tend to be mostly morally objectivist(when I say that I mean this, not the Objectivism by that crazy author, just in case anyone was confused). Most people are not okay with certain ideas that other cultures practice, such as slavery or female circumcision. Most people(westerners) think those acts are objectively wrong and not just a difference of culture.

King Author wrote:
Dark567 wrote:I didn't claim individualism was the One, Best philosophical outlook, I was just saying that the way Zamfir portrayed it was slightly inaccurate, the discussion took place assuming individualism, it was not a discussion about the merits or demerits of it.

I still think you're confusing moral relativism and individualism. Or you're using some folk definition of one of the two. In psych textbooks, individualism is defined as a doctrine that holds the individual as the most important social entity. Zamfir implied that an individualist wouldn't want to let people raise their children however they wanted. You thought you were correcting him by pointing out that individualism would actually be the philosophy that says to let people raise their kids how they want. But I'm telling you, that's not individualism ("the individual comes first"), that's relativism ("one man's good is another man's evil").

When I was talking about individualism, I was talking about Political Individualism "In political philosophy, the individualist theory of government holds that the state should protect the liberty of individuals to act as they wish as long as they do not infringe upon the liberties of others." This is independent of moral theory. Its very possible that psychology refers to a different definition of individualism.


King Author wrote:
Dark567 wrote:Cultural relativism is a borderline defunct theory(in philosophical circles calling someones theory "well that just boils down to cultural relativism" is considered an informal rebuttal). The vast majority of philosophers believe it to be completely incorrect, and believe that certain cultures can be objectively better than others, or objectively more advanced. Granted just because a lot of people think its wrong doesn't make it so, but there are pretty strong arguments to the contrary and people who hold those views certainly aren't outside of the mainstream. Although cultural relativism still holds weight in some anthropological circles it has been losing ground to universalism.

Yowza. You've just won the "Citation Needed" award of the topic. Do you even remotely know what you're talking about, or are you just talking out of your ass? Because in psychologial circles (psychologists being people who, you know, actually have real jobs, as opposed to self-styled "philosophers," who are only good at writing books and teaching philosophy) cultural relativism is the letter of the day.

Do I know what I am talking about when it comes to philosophy? Yes. Psychology? No. My knowledge of psychology is limited, and my knowledge on current (pyschological)trends on the relativism vs. objectivism debate is basically non-existent.

Of philosophers though relativism doesn't hold much weight, unfortunately these polls only show broader categories, but moral relativism falls into the "anti-realism" category to the first question(27%) and "other" in the second question(32%). In both situations relativism probably isn't the most prominent theory within either, as certain types of error theory and emotivism probably edge it out.
Survey of Academic Philosophers wrote:Meta-ethics: moral realism or moral anti-realism?
Accept or lean toward: moral realism 525 / 931 (56.3%)
Accept or lean toward: moral anti-realism 258 / 931 (27.7%)
Other 148 / 931 (15.8%)

Normative ethics: deontology, consequentialism, or virtue ethics?
Other 301 / 931 (32.3%)
Accept or lean toward: deontology 241 / 931 (25.8%)
Accept or lean toward: consequentialism 220 / 931 (23.6%)
Accept or lean toward: virtue ethics 169 / 931 (18.1%)

http://philpapers.org/surveys/results.pl


King Author wrote:I myself don't take sides in philosophical pissing matches. If you've chosen objectivism, that's fine, but know that you're completely wrong about objectivism being "right." Heh, I guess it makes sense that you'd think of your own stance of objectivism to be right. But talk to any psychologist -- cultural relativism is widely accepted, and cultural absolitism is widely rejected. It's possible, of course, that relativism is incorrect and absolutism is correct, but regardless of what's right, relativism is the much, much, much more commonly-accepted stance, especially in the West.

I mean, not to get off topic, but you're speaking nonsense patently. For some cultures to be objectively "better" than others, you'd have to define "better;" that is, you'd have to be coming from a place of moral absolitism. If you can prove to me scientifically, beyond reasonable doubt, that a certain set of morals is "right," by all means, start another topic and try, but I'm being facetious; I don't think you actually can. Not just you, but anybody.

First off, I didn't claim objectivism is "right", just that it is what most philosophers believe and a much more robust theory than you are giving credit for. Most philosophers do in fact define "better", in some form or another(Utilitarians, for example, define it to be what maximizes human well-being while reducing suffering). The philosophers are also not arguing for cultural absolutism, they are arguing for cultural objectivism, absolutism is just one specific form of objectivism. But really I am not arguing for objectivism, you miss understood me, I am not an objectivist. I am actually a hard core nihilist. I don't believe I can prove to you one culture is better than other either or that one culture is better than another. I was just piggy backing off of the general disdain and the fact the cultural relativism is basically the only theory philosophers believe they have proven wrong. Every other theory is possible to be scientifically wrong yes, but in its traditional (strongest)form, cultural relativism fails to be logically consistent, it contradicts itself, usually resulting in nihilism.

An anecdotal aside:
Spoiler:
My senior year of college I took a low level graduate course in ethics(my third ethics course), throughout the course the professor
was very diligent in presenting all sides of every theory without bias, and refused to answer what he personally thought of the different theories. On the last day of class, a student asks if he would humble us by answering which theory he thought was the best, the professor replied with(and I am paraphrasing): "Well I haven't completely thrown my hat into anyone theory, maybe pluralism". The student, unsatisfied then asks,"Well are there any theories that you think are definitely wrong?" Without hesitation, the response: "Cultural Moral Relativism... or any kind of relativism really."
The student replies:"Well, duh, thats not even a legitimate theory."
Last edited by Dark567 on Fri Sep 24, 2010 6:37 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Preserving Native Cultures: Respectful or Racism?

Postby morriswalters » Fri Sep 24, 2010 6:25 pm UTC

King Author wrote:Presumably, you didn't even see this documentary - you're just going by my secondhand account - so making assumptions is all the more erroneous on your part, since you don't have access to things like tone of voice or body language.


In that case post the name of said documentary.

I'll return to your original post. A naturalist would be studying flora and fauna. An Anthropologist studies societies. He would be foolish to try to increase the knowledge of his study group. Anthropologists document working cultures. How ever without seeing the documentary, I can infer some things purely by it's existence. He knew their language or had a translator. He got to where they were by some mechanism. They could recognize that he was not of their culture. He had video cameras and the associated equipment.

Somebody is in contact with this tribe besides this Anthropologist.
They live in the boundaries of some country and are in some fashion under governance.
If he got in then they could leave if they wished to.
They were familiar enough with Cameras and technology to not have any fear.

King Author wrote:Thinking on it more, however, I wondered -- is it right not to inform the ignorant of basic laws of physics for the sake of preserving their ignorance? Naturally, if one informed such an ignorant person or peoples and they rejected ones words, or accepted them but decided to continue on with their ineffectual ceremonies, they would be well within their rights. But to not even inform them at all, for fear of spoiling their culture? Or in reality, spoiling their ignorance?


Since you don't make assumptions perhaps you could provide this basis for believing this to be true based on a viewing of a documentary.

King Author wrote:It then struck me that what at first seemed like respectful non-meddling and non-interference was, perhaps, actually racism. It's not that the naturalist doesn't want to interfere for the tribespeoples sake -- he doesn't want to interfere for his sake, so that he can observe a group of people isolated from our modern knowledge, both for his own interest and enjoyment.


This is a restatement of the job description of an Anthropologist. So by your defintion all Anthropologists are racist.

King Author wrote:Let me now pre-emptively dismiss a foreseeable counter-point; "Who's to say what beliefs are right and wrong? Maybe the tribespeoples belief system is correct. Would you want some foreigner telling you that your religious beliefs are incorrect?" This is an irrelevant point because the issue at hand is not the underlying beliefs, but the reality of the world -- it's not a matter of chiding an "ignorant savage" for praying or believing in ancestor spirits, but for believing in the much-less-debatable concept of control of weather by ceremony. We know for a fact (insofar as humans can know anything) that weather functions according to certain natural laws, not the wishes of humans. This isn't comparable to telling a Christian "Jesus wasn't really a god, you know," this is comparable to telling a Christian believer in divine-healing, "praying won't cure that snakebite, you have to get antivenom or you'll die."


Weathermen can't control the weather any more than those tribesmen can. So explain to me the utility of teaching them meteorology. I'm pretty sure that they can see cause and effect. If they do the dance and it doesn't rain I'm pretty sure they know it didn't work. So tell me the harm.

King Author wrote:Though the incident in question was a weather ceremony, imagine if the issue was a child, sick with chicken pox. In this hypothetical scenario, the tribespeople believe that burying a lock of the child's hair under a magical tree will cure him. The naturalist so happens to have a chicken pox vaccine handy. Does he explain the nature of disease to the tribespeople, spoiling their pristine ignorance, for the sake of the child's life, or does he remain silent and watch the child die to uphold a principle of non-interference?


A Lawyer might say this assumes facts not in evidence. What basis do you have for postulating this scenario. As a hypothetical it assumes that they don't already know of vaccines or that they have not already been vaccinated for those diseases.

King Author wrote:At the end of the day, withholding information that we've discovered about how the world works from undeveloped peoples doesn't seem like philosophy; it seems like self-styled "civilized" white people gawking at endearingly crude black people like animals for their own amusement, rather than treating them like fellow human beings and speaking to them as equals.


Number one, all primitives aren't black, a statement which is in itself interpretable as racist. Again you think that everybody is an Anthropologist. They are not. There are Doctors, missionaries, and Aid Agencies who have as a mission this very concept. And they have penetrated pretty far, subject to the limitations of logistics. In terms of educating people when they are not interested I offer you an example. Lastly I would say this. To understand some data you must have context. The smartest person in the world couldn't be taught what he doesn't have the background to understand. Introduce quantum physics to Benjamin Franklin and he could not understand it the way a modern Physicist can. There's to much he doesn't have. The same for tribesmen. Toodles! :lol:


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