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  1. #11

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    I dont believe its complicated at all, diversity and disparity are good things and I mean that, and I mean that in a very real sense.

    Most of the people who I hear talking about that do not really mean it, its a keyword or trigger phrase they've picked up along the road some place, a word they keep using which does not mean what they think it means and in truth they favour a certain sort of uniform opinion, do not appreciate someone holding another, different one and especially do not appreciate people sharing those same opinions which differ so much to their own.

    However, in saying that, I do not think cultures are equivocal, not at all, I'm not sure about the equality of cultures either and wouldnt exchange my own for any other.

    I dont believe that for a culture to endure or serve other cultures need to be driven out of existence, which I think is hugely important, there are some cultures which think the threat of a good example, good alternative, good rival means there must be a perpetual struggle for supremacy and once established apparent ascendency or supremacy is never final, therefore greater and greater persecutions of a smaller and smaller minority subscribing to the different idea is mandated.

    In fact for some there is not much of substance besides the struggle, the "witch finding" and "scape goating" is about the whole of their culture and whether they have thought much about it or not they are defining themselves by their very opposite and opposition. Combine that with actual power and privilege, even if its only a very little, and you have a recipe for stagnation and then decline.

    I am a socialist in my thinking and behaviour but I'm also significantly libertarian too, I think everyone should be able to breath after their own fashion provided they dont interfer with anyone else by doing so, there's a huge difference between then persons who voluntarily enter a monastry and choose to abide by a somewhat punishing regime or regimen and say people choosing to erect a wall around their community and implement some canonical or religious law in addition to the law of the land, very possibly in antagonism to it.

    If I take an example from my faith tradition there's always a lot of talk about confession and whether or not a priest would choose to violate confession and report to the authorities anyone who confessed criminal actions as sins for forgiveness, to be honest I do not believe that people do and the religious I have spoken to about it have confirmed that when I have asked but during the troubles a lot of people thought the actions or plans of terrorists went unreported and after the child abuse scandals it seemed to support an argument that the canon law, the inviolability of confessional, had resulted in the authorities being uninformed (were they were not directly complicit, as in some situations in the ROI, that's a cultural rather than a strictly faith issue when that happens). The church has stated its a matter of conscience. Though I believe there is no real conflict, the secular law is not being under minded or subverted in any way and Benedict issued lots of communiques about the difference between religion and politics and law.

    I dont think that culture is something like highlander and there can be only one or something like that. There is truth for those that seek it but that's often different to the way of the world.

  2. #12
    captain steve williams Typh0n's Avatar
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    It's subjective, there is no objective (read: non-human) metric by which we can judge cultures.

    So to answer the question: we have to first define what is good and bad, what is superior and inferior, and before deciding which cultures are such, and we cant do the former without delving into value judgements. Yes, it is judgemental to judge cultures through the prism of our own, but those cultures (for instance, ones that practice honor killings or otherwise gravely violate human rights) are even more judgemental, the difference is they are judgemental towards their own members, not necessarily towards members of other cultures such as Europeans and North Americans.

    I think the real question this raises is, "should we intervene in 'barbaric' cultures or should we leave them be if they don't mess with us in the first place?". I don't have the answer, I think honor killngs and such are horrible, but that is judging it from the standpoint of my own culture. How do I dictate to such and such culture that they can't be like this or that because I say it's wrong, the result of that is for instance American imperialism and meddling in other countries to "set them on the right path of Democracy", which seems to create backlash against we who intervene more than it does tolerance in the places where we intervene.

    So while I don't have the answer, either to the OP question nor to the one I raised, I lean towards leaving 'barbaric' cultures alone so long as they do the same for my culture.
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  3. #13

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    On a second reading of the OP I'd have to say that there's a difference between culturally distinct, even cultural rivalry and totalitarianism, I'd say that all cultures are superior to totalitarianism.

  4. #14
    Senior Member Gunboat Diplomat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by labyrinthine View Post
    Respect for people and their living habits is important within a wide range of behaviors, but certain moral lines should not ever be crossed. For example, any culture that tortures or kills animals for celebration is sick and that should be changed (this is most of humanity btw). Cruelty as tradition? no fucking way
    You mean something like this:

    The Gadhimai Festival is a bloody sacrificial ritual where 200,000 animals died in 2 days


    In most Western countries halal/kosher methods of animal killing are allowed in the name of respect for other cultures. So do you think it should be changed?

  5. #15
    Senior Member Gunboat Diplomat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coriolis View Post
    This is a loaded question, because of the ambigious/undefined terms. To try to sort it out: all cultures are certainly not identical. A common error is to assume equivalency = identity: witness the many discussions here on gender/racial/religious/etc "equality". In those instances, we usually mean equality of opportunity, or perhaps equality under the law. So on what basis are you comparing cultures? They are not equivalent in: level of technological sophistication, openness to outsiders, or valuation of individual liberty, for example. They are equivalent the function they serve for those who live within them, much as human languages, while quite diverse, all serve the same function of supporting communication.
    Using this analogy, languages have different grammar structures. For example, Arabic applies different rules to feminine nouns than to masculine ones. English does not. So gender equality of the West and extreme gender inequality of the Saudi culture can be viewed as different, yet functionally equivalent grammar structures. Fair enough, Saudi culture works quite well in this configuration (one might even claim that it works better in some respects, e.g. reproduction). However, if gender equality does not provide any meaningful improvement over inequality, then why should we care about it? It becomes just another random trait, like trick or treating. If it is not my cup of tea, why should anyone be upset if I don't participate? I don't think this is what you meant, but it is the logical consequence of the functional equivalency idea.


    Then there is the notion of respect. Does respect require agreement, or at least appreciation? I cannot imagine a culture that doesn't contain at least something worth appreciating and agreeing with. Warriors are often taught to respect the enemy, at least a dangerous or skillful one. This contains an element of taking them seriously, seeing them for who they really are, so as better to defend against (or defeat) them. I cannot think of a culture that should not be taken seriously, or studied before we make judgments. You mention the inhumane actions of the Saudi religious police. Presumably you would like this aspect of the culture changed. Respect in this case means understanding why it is this way, and what are the concerns of those who might be resistant to change. Anyone hoping to change it will not get far if they forgo these steps.
    I agree, we should take seriously other cultures. But understanding motivation doesn't really take you far if the only thing it leads to, is admission of equivalence and respect. I don't want to force other cultures to play by our rules. I do respect their right to run their countries the way they see fit. But I don't have to respect those ways. Unexamined and indiscriminate respect for other cultures have real life ramifications. One example: in the UK, there is a FGM reported every hour. How many cases have been prosecuted? Zero. Why is that? Ineptitude of the police? No, it's the respect for other cultures.

  6. #16
    Senior Member Gunboat Diplomat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Survive & Stay Free View Post
    I dont think that culture is something like highlander and there can be only one or something like that. There is truth for those that seek it but that's often different to the way of the world.
    Sam Harris describes moral landscape as a system of peaks and valleys. There are many peaks and as a highlander you can choose one that appeals to you. You can choose a valley too, but the view is likely less interesting.

  7. #17
    Senior Member Gunboat Diplomat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Typh0n View Post
    It's subjective, there is no objective (read: non-human) metric by which we can judge cultures.

    So to answer the question: we have to first define what is good and bad, what is superior and inferior, and before deciding which cultures are such, and we cant do the former without delving into value judgements. Yes, it is judgemental to judge cultures through the prism of our own, but those cultures (for instance, ones that practice honor killings or otherwise gravely violate human rights) are even more judgemental, the difference is they are judgemental towards their own members, not necessarily towards members of other cultures such as Europeans and North Americans.

    I think the real question this raises is, "should we intervene in 'barbaric' cultures or should we leave them be if they don't mess with us in the first place?". I don't have the answer, I think honor killngs and such are horrible, but that is judging it from the standpoint of my own culture. How do I dictate to such and such culture that they can't be like this or that because I say it's wrong, the result of that is for instance American imperialism and meddling in other countries to "set them on the right path of Democracy", which seems to create backlash against we who intervene more than it does tolerance in the places where we intervene.

    So while I don't have the answer, either to the OP question nor to the one I raised, I lean towards leaving 'barbaric' cultures alone so long as they do the same for my culture.
    I agree about leaving other cultures alone. I don't want any white man's burden.

    I just think that if we are non-judgemental about honour killing and stoning, we are just saying that we have no values (doesn't mean that I am good at upholding any values - but as an INTJ I am judgemental by definition, so that is an easy part for me).

  8. #18
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    Our own culture is our context which we take for granted. And just as the work of children is play, so the work of grownups is to analyse, evaluate, and integrate into our daily lives our very own culture. Our work as grownups is to make our culture visible.

    It is interesting that the work of grownups is deeply resisted, we are deeply attached to our narcissism which is so ably exploited by our society.

  9. #19
    Sugar Hiccup OrangeAppled's Avatar
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    No, but it’s difficult to evaluate because inevitably you are evaluating with a cultural bias that informs your belief system (whatever it happens to be). I think it’s nearly impossible if not totally impossible to have any indisputable, objective criteria for this. Not saying you can’t make a decent argument, but it boils down to an assertion that the way you value things is fundamentally correct, as if it’s a fact about the nature of reality. Not saying there aren’t any “moral truths”, but have fun trying to “prove” it as something objective.

    That’s why spiritual concepts are used as a way to assert particular standards as universally correct by giving them an objective source, that there are truths about a kind of moral structure in reality and that it’s not simply stemming from cultural values and norms. Of course these differ too as it so often is informed by and informs culture.... So then you can consider what belief system (whether theist or not) is most accurate or best. And to do that you have to separate it from personal preferences and what you experience as normal and acceptable.

    Outside of morality, you still run into very different values. What if a culture doesn’t consider certain things to be “progress”, for example? There are some isolated tribes that don’t want contact because they don’t want the western way of life. What we consider civilized looks destructive to them. Innovation, power, individualism and exploration are major values that have driven western cultures. Other cultures prioritize other things. Is there a way to assert a value is inherently more important than another? Let’s say we take happiness...well, now we must define what that even is. Is that experienced by meeting fundamental needs that exist outside of culture and time or by living by the values of our culture that shaped our desires and expectations?
    Often a star was waiting for you to notice it. A wave rolled toward you out of the distant past, or as you walked under an open window, a violin yielded itself to your hearing. All this was mission. But could you accomplish it? (Rilke)

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  10. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gunboat Diplomat View Post
    Sam Harris describes moral landscape as a system of peaks and valleys. There are many peaks and as a highlander you can choose one that appeals to you. You can choose a valley too, but the view is likely less interesting.
    I was referencing the film Highlander, although there's a series of films dealing with the themes from the first one, in it there are immortals, who fight duels and the winners of each duel absorb the essence of the other, some of the immortals aimed to "live and let live" while others believed that "there could be only one", as in one survivor or "last man standing" outcome.

    I'll be honest that while the name Sam Harris is familiar for some reason, I dont recall reading him, the peaks and valleys idea sounds a little like the history is cyclical idea, with degeneration and regeneration, which I'm not 100% sure about as some of that is derivative from different sorts of seasonal and ecological mysticism and as befogging of things as the progressive idea of historicism and inevitable improvement from past to future.

    Some of it makes sense because I do think that "demography is destiny", as one generation matures, ages, declines and another rises, learning from and integrating the experience and learning of the previous one or doesnt, however, all those ideas, I think they are only any good if they lend themselves to a wider discussion about what is intrinsic, what are the perennial things, the greater approximation of mankind's essence rather than their present existence which is full of vogues, fashions, good intentions, bad intentions etc. etc.

    That's what I think of culture too, instead of arguing about which culture is superior or inferior or ought to prevail, that is the superficial level of discussion and needs to be superseded or transcended, most people dont bother though, for most people it seems the flags, symbols, signs and superficial trappings are what matters the most. Its how populism works and things like brexit and Trump happen.

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