The Shotgun Blog
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
All Cultures Are Not Equal
Years ago, I remember meeting a PhD-holding friend's PhD-holding sister (who, incidentally, now is a professor at a university in western Canada). At one point in the conversation I let slip that I believed some cultures were better than others. "Higher culture?" she sniffed indignantly. She then turned around and abruptly walked away from me. At that point, I was only beginning to be aware of political correctness and the cult of multiculturalism. In the years that followed, I have watched multiculturalism infect universities and the culture at large. Now, finally, after nearly 3,000 people were killed by Islamist Fascists on September 11, 2001, and a few dozen were killed in the recent London transit bombings, commentators and some political leaders are finally beginning to reject multi-culti. The great thinker Michael Barone writes in a column from yesterday, Cultures Aren't Equal, that:
Multiculturalism is based on the lie that all cultures are morally equal. In practice, that soon degenerates to: All cultures are morally equal, except ours, which is worse. But all cultures are not equal in respecting representative government, guaranteed liberties and the rule of law. And those things arose not simultaneously and in all cultures, but in certain specific times and places -- mostly in Britain and America, but also in various parts of Europe.
I could not have said it better, so I won't even try.
Posted by Matthew Vadum on August 9, 2005 | Permalink
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But democracy arose first in Greece - so under such logic they should be considered the most bestest culture in the world? Stupid post.
Posted by: Ralph | 2005-08-09 9:10:01 PM
Of course, it is more than ethnocentric hubris to state that the Hesperophile cultures of the West are superior in the vital areas of individual equality and recognition taken together with social tolerance and individual liberty. We call it pluralist democracy and it is a rare flower among the many toxic formulae of the rest of the world.
Robert Conquest, who coined the term Hesperophobe, should be given credit for the now radical concept that our system, which has given us Western democracy, should be rated higher than all other existing social structures.
If some form of first-world guilt or political correctness or multiculturalism is being used to refute this, then that really just points to the vacuity of alternate philosophies since the only way critics have to diminish our system is to accuse it of too much success.
The basis for the extreme form of politically correct cultural relativism is simple Marxist polemics, holding that the West is decadent and in need of cleansing by a cadre of genius-ideologues .
Those utopian orchids flourish, if at all, in the economic hothouse maintained by the successful market economy of our Western democracies. In effect Marxist multiculturalism is a dilettante by-product of our dominant culture. Its contrarian nature and ivory tower cultivation demonstrates this.
Posted by: Barry Stagg | 2005-08-09 9:15:15 PM
Ralph and Barry: You both make arguments that are silly or pointless in varying degrees.
Ralph: that is not logic. That is a fallacious argument.
Barry: your prose is so flowery that it is difficult to understand what you are trying to say. Evidently you can think. Perhaps you should learn how to write.
Posted by: Matthew Vadum | 2005-08-09 9:41:51 PM
Unfortunately, some people believe that since cultures are not equal, their culture is superior to all others and nothing in it should change. It will do the cons no good to flee from one error, only to fall into another.
Also, there seems to be far too many people populating conservative message boards that can string big words together in a grammatically correct way while saying absolutely nothing. Too much politics, eh?
Posted by: TwoExtremes | 2005-08-09 10:52:57 PM
I thought this was supposed to be a conservative blog. Evidently I was wrong.
Posted by: Matthew Vadum | 2005-08-10 8:10:23 AM
"I thought this was supposed to be a conservative blog. Evidently I was wrong."
Evidently so - I take it you were looking for an echo chamber. You write a stupid post you will get called on it, if you are looking for simple reinforcment of dumb ideas perhaps you should exclusively park your hummer at the Free Republic.
Posted by: Paul D | 2005-08-10 8:49:20 AM
As Charles Murray discovered while writing his book "Human Accomplishments" the West's superior culture arose not randomly but as a direct result of Christendom. A perfect example is Western Art and its development of perspective. It does not appear in Oriental, Indo-Aryan or African works of art. It is unique to the work of the European masters. Since the Protestant reformation the fact is that dead white men dominate the fields of science, literature, art, music and philosophy.
In science alone the legacy is astounding. The steam engine, internal combustion engine, telegragh, telephone, light bulb, motion pictures, x-rays, car, airplane, fax machine, computer, jet engine, splitting of the atom, insulin, the polio vaccine...the list is endless. Anyone with eyes to see and a brain that functions cannot deny the superiority of Western culture.
Posted by: DJ | 2005-08-10 10:07:35 AM
Paul D: I would say your post is both unimaginative and not indicative of intelligence. All you bother to do therein is bitch and moan about my post without providing anything in the way of argument. Name-calling is not argument.
I wasn't looking for an echo chamber: I was hoping for an informed discussion. Usually I get it here, but not with this post. If I wanted a simple reinforcement of dumb ideas, I would head over to a Daily Kos-like discussion site.
As for Western civilization, we don't mutilate women's genitals, we don't execute gays for being gay, we don't flog people for drinking alcohol, we don't punish people for deviant religious thought, we don't burn widows on their husbands' funeral pyres, we don't stone women for adultery, and so on and so on and so on. We are not, for lack of a better term, third-world barbarians. This is, needless to say, a good thing.
Posted by: Matthew Vadum | 2005-08-10 12:45:26 PM
I don't understand the view that Vadum's post was "stupid". Even if you think it was, discuss your reasons why.
I'm a recent university grad and I know that stating in a university class or on a paper that a culture that respects individual rights is better than one that doesn't can get you called a racist or worst. Following these accusations with the question "then why do people from every culture on Earth dream of moving to Western cultures, with no money or knowledge of the language?" usually stumps them.
DJ, you claim that Christianity is to credit for our culture's sucess. I would disagree, as history is ripe with Christianity attempting to stifle/ignore/refute scientific knowledge and deny individual rights. I would argue that secularism, the seperation of church and state played a much larger role than any one religion. The Christian notion of an individual free will could be given some credit.
Posted by: Charlotte | 2005-08-10 2:35:27 PM
Politically-correct cultural relativism is a variation on simple Marxist polemics, holding that the West is decadent and in need of cleansing by a cadre of genius-ideologues.
Discuss if you wish.
Posted by: Barry Stagg | 2005-08-10 3:31:25 PM
Yes, political correctness is neo-Marxist in origin and nature. So what?
Posted by: Matthew Vadum | 2005-08-10 4:13:44 PM
"I wasn't looking for an echo chamber: I was hoping for an informed discussion."
I pretty much agreed with you Matthew and tried to push your analysis further, but you either didn't comprehend what I was saying or were uninterested in that discussion.
Some of the comments here are just as ignorant as some of the ones at the Daily Kos so don't get snarky.
Posted by: TwoExtremes | 2005-08-10 5:37:35 PM
You've touched on the essence of it. Murray's argument is this,
"It was a theology (Christendom)that empowered the individual acting as an individual as no other philosophy or religion had *ever* done before. The potentially revolutionary message was realized more completely in one part of Christendom, the Catholic West, than in the Orthodox East. The crucial difference was that Roman Catholicism developed a philosophical and artistic humanism typified, and to a great degree engendered, by Thomas Aquinas (1226-1274). Aquinas made the case, eventually adopted by the Church, that human intelligence is a gift from God, and that to apply human intelligence to understanding the world is not an affront to God but is pleasing to him."
Posted by: DJ | 2005-08-10 5:51:24 PM
The essence of the idea of multiculturalism, from a Western leftist perspective, is its anti-Westernism. A 'so what' attitude toward that is unwise. It ignores the basis for much contrarian thinking in our culture.
Marxist ideology was harnessed to the power of the USSR as a belligerent and powerful international vehicle for the overthrow of our system of pluralist democracy. But even before glasnost and disintegration of the Soviet bloc, it was apparent to the Western Marxists that they could not win out in the West. Once the Soviets fell apart the certainty of defeat sunk in.
Now the idea of cultural relativism substitutes for the grandiose pipedream of a world commune. It is an intellectual conceit, nothing more.
Posted by: Barry Stagg | 2005-08-10 7:37:05 PM
Barry: much clearer. Thank you. My abrupt "so what?" comment was more of a reaction to what seemed to be your decision to pedantically provide a definition of political correctness at that point than a comment on the idea of PC itself. I consider the neo-Marxist underpinnings of PC to be a given, hence my curtness in the above comment. PC is indeed a collection of silly but dangerous utopian ideas that have filled the void left when the USSR collapsed.
TwoExtremes: I do get snarky from time to time. Sorry.
Posted by: Matthew Vadum | 2005-08-10 8:44:09 PM
Western civilization hasn't played itself out yet... democracy (that you love so) contains the seed of it's own destruction, invariably the assumption that each person has equal political power leads to each person having equal of everything else, since political power trumps all other forms of power... and so your praised democracy begets socialism (the American founding fathers had nothing but contempt for democracy, and advocated the rule of law over the rule of the majority).
We're already in the depths of socialism, the only question is how much to take, and how much to leave as an 'incentive' to work harder. Letting you keep some of your income is a more efficient incentive than hiring someone with a whip to beat you, and allowing you to beleive you are free is more efficient than hiring gaurds to keep you in your gulag. Socialist slavery is more efficient than chattel slavery.
I agree that all cultures aren't equal, but I leave that to God and natural selection to decide (I call it cultural neo-darwinism).
I have a theory about the jihadists: the muslim world was on the edge of reform a decade or two ago and then it complete regressed, my theory is that they (as an unconscious collective) saw the weakness that western society begat, and had second thoughts about submitting (reforming), and so instead this is the final test to see if they should become like us, or if we should become like them (if their culture is superior or ours).
Posted by: random | 2005-08-10 9:35:31 PM
The issue isn't with the so-called superiority of Western culture.
The issue is whether or not cultures of people are free to live as they choose, without another culture trying to impose its values and structures onto it.
The occupation of Iraq is our modern-day Crusade, plain and simple. Americans may be in disbelief about the root causes of 9-11, but it comes as a suprise to no one in the UK that there are people willing to lay down their lives in acts of fanatical violence in order to send a political message that we would otherwise choose not to hear.
Our culture isn't superior. We only think it is.
And our folly is in trying to force something onto a people who clearly don't want it and need the time and space to self-determine, free of imperial influence and corruption.
This is all I have to say.
Posted by: edward said | 2005-08-10 11:52:18 PM
edward said said:
"And our folly is in trying to force something onto a people who clearly don't want it and need the time and space to self-determine, free of imperial influence and corruption."
Which people are you referring to? The Bathists who clearly resent being kicked out of power? The assorted religious fanatics who want to grind the people of Iraq under the heels of their ideology? Or the millions Iraqis who freely voted for their own government?
Posted by: Travis | 2005-08-11 7:41:00 AM
Anyone who would argue that Western culture has not been superior would be exposing his or her ignorance of world history. This is a no-brainer.
But how long will Western culture remain dominant? Our elites (and complacent voters who allow them) have been hammering away at the foundations of our culture: freedom, democracy, capitalism, individual responsibility, inalienable individual rights, the work ethic, family, and yes, Christianity. Even those whose only source of information is the five minutes of morning news offered by Marcy Ian on "Canada AM", realize that Western culture has been caught up in a culture war. On the one side you have a very loose coalition of conservatives, "red state voters", libertarians, capitalists, Christians, traditionalists, and patriots. These groups aren't winning (although they have more influence in the US now than they've had in a while) because they spend more time fighting each other. Pat Buchanan/Ross Perot versus the GOP, for example. There are others. Constant feuding between libertarians and conservatives, even between libertarians and Randians or between paleoconservatives and neoconservatives. Remember Reform/Alliance versus the Progressive Conservatives, which dragged on for years and, in some respects in still dragging on? Conservatives versus Christian conservatives - so-cons are seen as an embarrassment amongst mainstream conservatives. Mainstream conservatives who do not declare in writing that they are 100% pro-life without exemptions will never receive the support of organized pro-life groups. It goes on and on.
Left-wing groups, on the other hand, are much better organized hence have much more influence over culture and policy. The feminists help the gay groups who help the unions that help socialist and liberal politicians. The environmentalists are allies. So are the anti-Christians and the "pro-choice" lobbyists. Visible minority groups are on board. So are the university professors and rich and snobby media types and authors. The state of the left-wing coalition is strong. They are winning the culture ware because they support each other and overlook their differences. Theirs is a big tent.
Posted by: Michael Dabioch | 2005-08-11 9:13:28 AM
According to Murray per capita acomplishment in the West declined between 1850 and 1950. In the arts, at least, Murray believes that "loss of faith in both the purpose of life and the efficacy of the individual retarded greatness, especially in the post-Freudian age." Freud was vehemently opposed to the Roman Catholic Church and the Frankfurt School was vehemently opposed to Western Christian culture.
Mr. Said has it reversed. The Crusades were a Christian action to defend the Islamic onslaught on the predominantly Christian nations of the eastern Roman Empire. The current engagement in Iraq is strictly Imperialist. Empire building breeds and promotes cultural, social, and moral liberalism. Empire became accepted as the defining characteristic of conservatism. Anglophilic Imperial Conservatism murdered not merely the bulk of Irish, Scottish, and Welsh Paleoconservatism - in the midst of practicing genocide of Celtic languages and folk cultures - but it buried virtually all English Paleoconservatism in the process.
Yankee neoconservatism/Imperialism, descended from the Puritan vision of religious tolerance, espoused by Puritan John Locke, was birthed at gunpoint during the US Civil War. It allied with the cultural and social Left against Paleoconservatives, particularly against Southern Nationalism and its predominantly Celtic culture. Neoconservatives, as is evident by GWB's nomination of gay supporting John Roberts to the US Supreme Court, are still allied with leftist. It is a traitor to Conservatism.
Mr. Dabioch is incorrect. There is not even a loose alliance between Paleos, Traditionalists, So-Cons and Neoconservatism. The Neocons are the flip side of the Leftist coin. For the American Imperium to succeed it must diminish Western culture and raise up the blacks, browns and yellows using the relativism of the Left.
Posted by: DJ | 2005-08-11 11:08:08 AM
Wha? Since when are "the blacks, browns and yellows" not part of our culture?
Copy and paste the url and read the latest headline from Drudge.
Posted by: ReadIt | 2005-08-11 4:13:56 PM
I agree with you that Christianity as a religion valued the individual more than other religions, but I still maintain that the seperation of church and state are very important. The rule of law (not of men) is a huge factor in the greatness of Western culture and religion law should not be permitted (like Sharia and Aboriginal law are somewhat accepted in Canada now). Religious freedoms must be strongly protected, as long as the religious views or actions aren't harming anyone else. The CPC would be doing a lot better if it wasn't seen as having MPs attempting to put Christian morality into law.
I consider my own intelligence as personally-cultivated intelligence, and not as a gift from God (btw is a mentally-challenged person's lack of intelligence a 'gift from God in your view?)
I think Western Culture is superior because individuals have much more of a feeling of control and freedom over how to be happy and succeed in their own lives. It is not the government's, the tribe's, God's or a priest's decision. Hard work, Ability and the facts of reality play a much larger role in the free world than blind faith.
Posted by: Charlotte | 2005-08-11 4:51:09 PM
Vadum, buddy. Keep on rocking. I agree with you 100%. I left more detailed comments on Diabochial's blog.
Posted by: underemployed buddha | 2005-08-11 4:53:14 PM
DJ: Do spin a few more discs.
In any event, it was the Anglo-Saxon-Jutes, then the Scandinavian-French-Normans, that did in the Celts, not "Anglophilic Imperial Conservatism", whatever that may be. With earlier help from SPQR.
Posted by: Mark Collins | 2005-08-11 7:08:46 PM
Matthew, it's telling that your PhD-bearing nemesis didn't stay to discuss her difference of opinion with you. Universities are supposed to encourage debate and the unrestricted exchange of ideas, because that is how knowledge is advanced. But perhaps, having been confronted with the obvious, she simply thought it best to remain silent, and be thought a fool, than to open her mouth, and remove all doubt.
Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2005-08-12 12:11:53 PM
Charlotte, Separation of Church and State was important as a stimulus to religious growth. Religion in the US is far more vital than in Europe, where the monopolistic state religions are in decline. Competition is good for religion. However, much of the rule of law you praise was established by enlightened monarchs, before democracy, such as Frederick the Great of Prussia. FtG established universal religious toleration, freedom of the press, individual protections under the law (i.e. abolishing torture),and wrote the first German law code.
"He was an absolute ruler, but he lived under the principle that he was the "first servant of the state." He consequently did not rule by his own personal whims, but always under the guidance of what was most beneficial for Prussia, and he expected his people to possess the same devotion." That's why the notion of the supremacy of the individual fails. You cannot build a moral society on reason alone. Abortion on demand is a good example. Western tradition, religious or otherwise stood against unfettered access to abortion, because of the desire to provide some protection for the foetus. However, that notion will always be contrary to a woman's right to decide. The contradiction is irreconcilable just by using reason. Some notion of morality must be introduced or society will ultimately decline into chaos.
Cosmology and the big bang theory has made St. Thomas's notion a slam dunk. Science, physics, traces the radiation emitted from the bang to within microseconds of it origin. However, between then and absolute zero, (the point when time began), there is no explanation for what initiated the bang. It was a miracle. Some force set the whole process of a growing universe in motion. It was a giving, a gift. Since humankind is a direct result of that gift, then it makes perfect sense that human intelligence is a gift from God. The revolutionary notion is not the gift, however, it is allowing the application of the gift, that sets Christianity apart. Quantifying the gift is not an issue. In my experience the disabled are not unhappy that your gift may be better than their gift. They just wish the opportunity to apply it. Historically, it is atheists, who reject natural law for the fallacy of reason, invoking eugenics and the belief that some lives are not worth living, that threaten the disabled. It is arrogant, IMO, to reject the thousands of years of western thought regarding theology and tradition to rely wholly on an individual's ability.
Mr. C. Actually the Celts where never done in. 80% of Briton's trace their genetic origin to the ancient Celts, even today. The point was that the 'English' did not have to destroy the language, culture and religions of those people. The UK could have opted for a federation of independent states like the ancient Greeks. However, they chose to destroy their conservative values under the auspice of tolerance. The British Empire used the Leftist notion of white man's burden, spreading the rule of law, democracy and indivdual rights to the world's noble savages. In order to accomplish that goal, they had to raise the cultures of the non-West to equivalence. It's the Jared Diamond theory, Guns, Germs and Steel. These noble savages would have invented the airplane et al, if only they had lived in Europe. it's nonsense and propaganda, totally ruling out intellect and theology.
Ditto for Lincoln. He utilized the Abolitionist (leftists)notions of equality to destroy Southern Nationalism. All that was not Anglo in the South must be African in origin. African culture is the equal of European culture if only it was set free. It was not African or Anglo but Celtic or Amerindian. States Rights could have been accomodated in a Greek like federation, however, that was the antithesis of Empire and material gain. Lincoln cared nothing for the slaves.
GWB preaches the same garbly gook. Like savage Islam, the westerners too were heathens until we got freedom. The expectation is that western values can be spread at the end of a gun and justified using the Left's notions of equality and tolerance. This Neocon's call conservatism. It's not.
Posted by: DJ | 2005-08-12 4:03:40 PM
DJ: I suspect realpolitik is at work when it comes to Dubya's description of Islam as a religion of peace. I figure he doesn't want to alienate the few Muslim allies the U.S. has. Hence the distinction between so-called mainstream Islam and the Wahhabi extremists.
Posted by: Matthew Vadum | 2005-08-12 4:15:32 PM
Personally, I believe that we should bring our troops home from Iraq and put them on the Mexican Border. Too many lives have been lost and the money spent on war could fund additional health care programs within the United States.
In response to your other comment, I'm going to share something with you that John Wicks lead singer of UK band The Records once told me. Essentially, he reminded me that education is all relative and a college degree doesn't always guarantee success. Basically, he said that it takes hard work and constant effort to meet your personal goals. -David
Posted by: David Duran | 2005-08-25 7:23:15 PM
"At one point in the conversation I let slip that I believed some cultures were better than others. 'Higher culture?' she sniffed indignantly. She then turned around and abruptly walked away from me."
Maybe she just didn't like you.
Posted by: Kyle | 2005-12-10 10:28:35 PM
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