Cultural Relativism and the South

When I was a freshman in college, I took an intro to Antrhopology course and in the course of it we were taught the traditional postmodernist line that we should respect the customs and morés of cultures. This made me boil with rage and seethe with anger. At that time, I was in the middle of the worst bullying of my life and had come from a culture where corporal punishment was common and often severe and in the class we watched documentaries where we saw scenes of sadistic traditions of abuse including the east African practice of gar where, as a rite of passage, thirteen year olds had knives dragged into their forehead and the catch was if they cried during the process they would not be given the rights of a full man. The professor was suggesting as a normative position that any cruelty is fine as long as the culture approves it.

I had been, within the prior nine months pissed on and had rocks thrown at me among a litany of other horrors I had been through and seen in my sadistic, homophobic, racist, culture. It is one thing to say something like that in Berkley or Cambridge, Massachusests where they haven’t seen Dickensian human suffering, but this was Charleston, South Carolina. Why didn’t this woman (my professor) head up to USC and spy on an SAE pledging where dopamine-high jocks gleefully dominate and hurt their subordinates for the purposes of schadenfreude? My brain was steaming with cuss words at her suggestion that my view that a thirteen-year-old in Africa must be abused because his elders have the notion that the teachings of their fake religion says it’s okay is rightly the PC line.

Silently, I sardonically and hyperbolically whispered something to the effect of “Raise the Union Jack and call up Livingstone, Rhodes, Nelson, and the Maxim Gun. Have the CofE run boarding schools and ensure they swear their allegiance to her majesty, the queen, in the most eloquent, erudite, and articulate English.” It was not simply my belief in objective morality to prevent harm and promote welfare being offended that concerned me but the sanctimonious nature with which the complete lack of empathy was regarded. It was that to have empathy was seen as wrong and lacking empathy was noble. That, of course, because empathy for the victims of things like having a knife dragged through an adolscent’s forehead would be cultural imperialism. The natural and approriate feelings of humanity and mercy would then constitute the etiology of cultural genocide.

While the anthropology professor may rationalize people within a culture support their own oppression. At the time, being in a culture sadistically oppressing me, I can say that is not always true. Another relativist professor I was aware of at my school was teaching that conservative Islamic morés should be accepted within feminism. By that logic, women who were content with their domestic status prior to second-wave feminism could be called feminists. It was also weird to see such vegan sentiments being used to justify the most cruel and inhuman acts. It was the left committing suicide by having that all right-wing and regressive views are alright as long as they’re in another culture.

Coming from the Deep South made me much less tolerant of such regressiveness. When it comes to issues like anti-vaxxers or GMOs, for example, where many take appraoches of respect and requiring consent with regards to the anti-science people, I take the approach of ruthless pragmatism and have no qualms with vaccinating children against the wills of the parents or making farmers grow GMO crops to increase yeilds to bring down food prices. I’m not a Rawlsian and don’t believe in a thin-good to accomodate interest groups when their values are contrary to science or decency. To put it one way, I will not sacrifice human life at the altar of Rawlsian consent.

If a private school is teaching creationism or explicitly the values of Ayn Rand, I am not against intervention. On an interpersonal level, if a high school clique platonically rejects a special needs student, I would not always protect their lacking consent and would sometimes override it and force the special needs person on them. Although given my intense sadophobia and seething disdain for and scathing terror of law enforcement, I would mostly accomplish these through incentives and disincentives and, if needed, through means like freezing accounts or using social workers. The local Fountainhead Montisori would have their bank accounts rendered inaccessable until they stopped teaching Ayn Rand. The liberal and relativist idea of a thin-good and agnosticism or metaphorical atheism as to what is scientifically and morally true ultimately undermines liberalism.

In that example, Ayn Rand’s philosophy is sociopathic and inhuman. The Rawlsian position is that it is no one’s place to claim to know moral truth but we know some moral truth and we know enough to know any philosophy that says altruism is evil and one’s own ego should be worshipped as a god by one’s own self is so bad it would lead to real harm if a large portion of people believed in it. Society should not need the consent of the parents to force values of empathy down their children’s throats. No, their kids should be taught compassion, be vaccinated against diseases, be taught evolution, be forced to play with disabled kids, and more. I believe in rights the way Jeremy Bentham did, as a useful fiction to advance the cause of human welfare. I don’t accept rights are inherrent and disagree with the liberal idea that consent is the foremost moral. The foremost morals are human welfare, eudemonia, happiness, and fraternity. The idea that parents have a “right” to let their children die of measles is based on 17th century deontologies I regard as fake.

It is the idea that love and science objectively exist and our aim is to maximize human welfare and minimize human destitution in a Aristotle-infused Millian utilitarianism. Ayn Rand and anti-vaxxers increase human suffering and decrease human fraternity and the agnosticism of the Rawlsian thin-good or the metaphorical veganism of relativism foster a culture of more suffering and less love. It is a sentiment more easily begotten in a region where moral progress often came by the federal government forcing it down our throats. Reconstuction and integration were very much a form of cultural imperialism but one that was, of course, good. I am not against it, per se. Lots of relativist arguments would have supported the “massive resistance” movements or regarded the Red Shirts as heroic resistance fighters. There is a lot to be said in favor of objectivity and thick-goodness trumping consent.

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