Hi there. Different countries has different cultures. But what does that really mean? Well, from a Human Rights perspective, each country belong to the citizens of that country. And each culture belong to the members of that culture. It is not the other way around!
People are not property. They do not belong to their families or religions or nation-states or cultures or whatever. They don’t belong to them in that sense.
Lets say that a person wants to consider himself private property of his lover or his religion or his culture or whatever. Of course we should respect that. He is free to consider himself that way, now and for as long as he wants to. But when and if he want to change the nature of his relationship, or end it, he has that right too. We have no right to lock him into some kind of bondage. Freedom is absolute.
How we view culture can be categorized in several different ways. The perhaps most common distinction is between universalism and relativism. I’m not so fond of this distinction: In my experience, most views on culture have universialist AND relativist elements to them. So I’m going to make another distinction here. One between what I call Cultural Skepticism, Cultural Apologism, and Cultural Chauvinism.
Like all other categorizations, this is of course an oversimplification. And you can’t always squeeze a persons views on culture into one of these three categories. But I still think that the distinction is useful.
is the idea that we are all human and we all have culture. Our humanity is universal, and our cultures are relative. Being human is something we are, while having culture is something that we have. We don’t need to be slaves to our cultures, and we can’t expect anyone else to be slaves to any culture either. “They” don’t belong to their cultural history or whatever any more than “we” do. And this distinction into “us” and “them” is pure fiction anyway. We may categorize the world that way, bu it doesn’t really work that way. All human beings are real, an their levels of independence from each other is quite variable.
Cultures are fluid. They are always changing and being renegotiated, no matter how eternal and unchanging they may pretend to be. We need to be careful with cultures. We need to think carefully about what elements of them we embrace or accept or distance ourselves from.
This is true for all humans. And it’s true for all cultures: The cultures that each of us grow up in, come in contact with later, or only see from a distance. Cultures are not monoliths. They are complex, and with the various parts of the cultures we need to think about on who’s terms this is being defined. And at who’s expense.
There’s a lot of great things in cultures, but there’s a lot of really problematic stuff as well. And we need to help each other to improve our cultures. To get rid of the destructive stuff, and to improve the good stuff. Over to…
Cultural apologism an cultural chauvinism
These two are quite similar to each other, if you view them from the point of view that I have just described. Both of them treat cultures as if they were monolithic wholes. People get divided into different kinds of creatures. “The Muslim” or “The Arab” or “The Hindu” or “The Asian” or whatever is sen as something entirely different from “The Westerner” or just “us”. We don’t reall like to think of “us” and “them”, we like to think of “normal people” and “those other people” who are not us, but we don’t want to call “us” “us” because then it’s so obvious that the division is into us and them. Lots of 1984 bullshit going on there.
So, anyway, the basic idea with cultural apologism and cultural chauvinism is that we divide people into us and them, where them are not like us – and they don’t have rights like us! Not like human beings who are allowed to be individuals with their own personal needs and viewpoints and desires and so on. They are treated as being property of some culture or subculture or religion or whatever. We would never accept that one of us get treated like that. White people are individuals. Of course we are! But so are people who aren’t white… and we should accept that. We should see that. We should see our fellow human beings as the fellow human beings they are, not as some part of some borg collective of some kind.
The difference between apologism and chauvinism is that the first consider itself to be open-minded and tolerant and all those kinds of nice things, while the chauvinists are more open with the division into us and them- and want to protect “us” from “them”.
For example, both the apologist and the chauvinist may say that it is in “The Muslims” nature (or culture or whatever euphemism they want to use at the moment) to beat “his” women and bash gay people. Maybe even murder them. And of course bash or murder atheists.
By taking such a position, the apologists and chauvinists deny Muslim women, gay Muslims, secular Muslims and ex-Muslims not only their rights to life, dignity and liberty, but also their equal right to their own Islamic cultural heritage. They have at least as much right to that heritage s the people who oppress them in the name of Islam. However, the apologists and the chauvinists will go about it a little bit differently from each other. It’s in the fine print.
The apologist will “respect Muslims”, or rather “respect Islam”, by respecting oppression against women, gay people secularists et cetera in the name of Islam. They will accept this, as long as the victims are not white. Oh, excuse me. Of course I meant, “as long as the victims are not persons who have an Muslim cultural background”. Of course, that’s pretty much the same thing in many cases, but that’s very convenient for what’s actually racism… but a rather polite racism.
This politeness may seem nice. But how reasonable is it? If we accept the premise, if we accept that certain people have a right to be beaten, to be raped or to be murdered. Or that certain people have a right to commit such crimes. Why would we respect those certain people? Why would we want them to be citizens in our country? Why would we want to have anything to do with them at all?
Well, that is the conclusion that the chauvinists are ending up with. And they are on the rise now. Racism… I don’t think it ever really left Europe. It seems to be on the rise now, with right-wing fascists getting into parliaments here and there. That is really awful. But they are simply answering the questions that people have been asking.
We have been asking the wrong questions. We have had this culture of culture apologism, where we reserve human rights and dignity and individuality and so on to white people and Europeans and western people, whatever you want to call it. Christians, secular post-Christians, whatever you want to use as your excuse.
Racism went underground for a while, took this polite little form where it was supposedly respectful. And now it’s throwing of that facade, and rearing its ugly head more openly again. This apologism and this chauvinism, they are so much the same thing in many ways. But yes, there are big practical political differences between them.
For starters, chauvinists want to close the borders and throw people out of the country. Apologists and the skeptics do not. There’s also a big difference in who and what you can criticize, while still sticking to one of these three view-points.
As a cultural skeptic, you cannot treat a culture as a monolith. You can neither accept nor condemn any culture as a whole. Including your own culture. You can accept good things in a culture, embrace them too. And you can condemn bad things. You should keep looking and analyzing and thinking about things. However, you can’t use that very simple and convenient method of simply comparing another culture to your own and decide that the other culture is better the more like your own culture it is and worse the less like your own culture it is. You have to try to be, well, not objective, I don’t think that’s possible, but AS objective as possible. You have to look into how things actually affect people. Look to science and people’s experiences. Not just to stereotypes, norms about how things are supposed to be. Or some shit like that.
It’s a bit hard, but it’s well worth it. If we actually want to make this world a better place, we can’t just run around like… whatever.
As a cultural apologist, you cannot criticize anything done in the name of culture or religion. Unless that culture is western culture, or the religion is a western brand of Christian religion. However, when it comes to all other continents and all other religions, you can criticize anyone who criticize them or what to change them or leave them. Not only western people who criticize bad things in non-western cultures, but you can also criticize anyone who want to change their own situation.
And with criticize, I do mean condemn. Sadly, I have of about several cases of women who have fled from Iran to Sweden and then been accused of so-called “Islamophobia” whenthey criticize the theocratic government of Iran.
By the way, that kind of phenomenon is one of the main reasons why I think that categorism against Muslims should be called antimuslimism, not islamophobia. It must be about protectingthe human rights of people who happens to be Muslims. Not about protectingthe religion of Islam, for example against Muslims who don’t obey the religious authorities.
Anyway. As a cultural apologetic: When a white woman demands freedom from oppression imposed on her in the name of Christianity, you can applaud her. But when a brown woman demands the same right, the same freedom from oppression imposed on her in the name of Christianity or Islam, you can pretty much call her a racial… eh, a CULTURAL traitor. Race-traitor, culture-traitor, whatever.
You can dictate that individual freedom is only for western people, and you can condemn her for “trying to be western”.
As a chauvinist, on the other hand, you can’t use that particular excuse to condemn this woman. You can still condemn her, of course, but you will have to condemn her for not trying enough to be western, not being western enough, not condemning her own heritage, not letting go of her own heritage. Never mind that you cling on to your own cultural heritage and encourage others including her to cling to that particular heritage. Never mind that western history is just as full of oppression and bullshit as all other histories of the world.
Oh, and you can also condemn anyone who isn’t a neo-fascist nationalist. Just remember to update your vocabulary a little bit. You can keep calling white people “race traitor”, just remember to not use the word race. Because these days it’s all about culture. So call it “cultural marxism” instead.
By the way, real cultural marxism is a rather interesting school of study. Not one of my favorites, it’s not something I’m into, but it’s not all that problematic. You have to distinguish between cultural marxism as an actual academic discipline and cultural marxism as a generic slur that doesn’t mean anything beyond “oh, you’re not a nazi so therefore you are a bad person”.
That definition of cultural marxism is total bullshit, but it’s getting rather wide-spread these days.
All in all, I found it darkly amusing how the neo-fascists and other cultural chauvinists refuse to see how much they owe to the cultural apologists. Instead they believe, or pretend to believe, that they are some bold counter-movement against the very activists and academics who paved the way for them by making people believe that “culture” is something that other people have. Something that make them different, something that make them not deserve the same rights that we have, and something that make them not accountable for their actions. In other words, something that make them inferior and worthy of scorn.
We need to solve this problem by abandoning cultural chauvinism and apologetism in favor of cultural skepticism or similar.
One final word. Please understand that the three perspectives I have been talking about are not different kinds of people, but merely different ways of viewing culture. I do think that people with these views mean well, most of the time. The apologists want to safeguard against colonialism, and the chauvinists want to save our civilization from a perceived threat. However, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Well, that’s all I have to say for today.
Live Long and Prosper