Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Cultural supremacism vs the individual

We like to think that, in these modern enlightened times, we've gotten rid of backward ideas like racism and cultural supremacism. One would think that globalization would have shown us the error of considering any culture as vital - that the homogenization of the planet, the breaking down of ritualism and social inequality, is a great thing. But unfortunately, all the major collectivist belief systems still support cultural supremacy in some form or other.

The leftists probably practice the most crass and aggressive form of cultural supremacy. According to leftist dogma, ALL cultures must be maintained, protected and promoted, regardless of how popular or how useful they are to the individual and regardless of the cost (just like the environment must be maintained at all costs).

There is no sense in liberal ideology that culture is bad in any way, even when it contradicts other liberal principles. In the liberal perspective, the individual is a subset of the culture, and not vice-versa - culture is something that you belong to, instead of something you choose. The worth of the individual trapped into a minority culture is only proportional to how much he seeks to protect "his culture".

This is, therefore, a very different perspective than the individualist one. In our perspective, culture is simply a term we use to designate an arbitrary proportion of behaviours and products. These behaviours and products are the product of individual choice. So the idea of "protecting culture" makes no sense apart from protecting the freedom of the individuals that participate in it, from the individualist perspective.

Liberal cultural supremacy, on the other hand, seeks to repress the freedom of the individual to express himself. Instead of helping others benefit from the homogenization of culture brought about by globalization, liberals make globalization one of their prime targets, precisely because they promote cultural supremacism. The overall effect of this is both to keep people in poverty and to keep them enslaved to their culture.

The right-wing also exerts cultural supremacism, but unlike the liberals, they claim it only for themselves. So it's a more passive kind of cultural supremacism. They claim that their own culture must be preserved, through measures such as forced patriotism, closing down on immigration, forced integration, protectionism - and in the case of minority cultures (like here in Quebec), language laws and a language police, and things of that nature. However, if you are a liberal and are repulsed by these measures, remember that this is what you advocate other cultures do. What you're saying is that what's not good enough for you, is fine for other races or countries. That's racism just as well.

Cultural supremacism is not limited to politics, as many religions practice it as well. Judaism promotes the superiority and integrity of Jewish culture, and Islam promotes Arab culture, both to the point of dictating what a person can eat and wear. Even Buddhism promotes cultural supremacy, in the form of anti-globalization, anti-consumeurism cultural communities. Even the Buddhists are hip enough to understand that consumeurism and globalization are the enemies of traditional culture and its enslavement process - just not wise enough to join the right side.

Cultural supremacism is also morally bankrupt. For one, it stands against moral responsibility, in that it denies individual choice - justifying action by "it's what we do, it's our culture". It is a tool used to motivate evil action, that various tyrants have used in the past and will no doubt continue to use in the future... it promotes a fatalistic, desperate attitude towards life, because it puts important parts of man's life beyond his rational choice. It is used by people all over the political spectrum to validate incredibly evil events such as genocide, ritual murder and sacrifice. Its final result is moral relativism, and a total abandonment of reality and common sense.

MERRY CHRISTMAS everyone (don't let anyone tell you otherwise !), and I'll see you on the other side of the holidays.


BlackSun said...

Francois, you are right as usual about the fallacy of preserving culture regardless of how primitive or repressive. I have one minor point to argue, and that is what you said about the environment.

I know you were only using it as an example. But I think an important distinction need to be made between environmentalism, which is essentially anti-humanism, and the much more important idea of preserving natural capital.

Natural Capitalism as espoused by Amory Lovins et al advocates placing a value on the services provided by the environment, on which we all depend. What is the value of having continuously available water and air purification such as that provided by nature? Or what is the value of continued access to raw material stocks that may be finite? His estimate is that Natural Capital is worth around $30 trillion a year. Aside from monetary value, if natural capital is depleted, life ceases to function. So the value is pretty high. Therefore, while promoting individualism, we must provide protection for natural capital, as well as for future generations of individuals who will need it to live.

Preserving natural capital also becomes an economic balancing act of weighing the costs of present consumption versus future viability. This is a highly different imperative than traditional environmentalism that is simply ideologically against human domination of the planet.

Francois Tremblay said...

You shouldn't overstate the case. Natural capital is only worth about 15% of the capital in a developed country. Most of it (80-85%, if I remember correctly) is human expertise. So yes, water and forests are essential and vital, but we have to look beyond that also.

Personally I think it's better to err into the pro-man, anti-nature side, than the opposite.

Niels said...

> Therefore, while promoting individualism, we must provide protection for natural capital, as well as for future generations of individuals who will need it to live. <

How do you propose doing that?